Fat is your fault”. Gatekeepers to health, attributions of responsibility and the portrayal of gender in the Irish media representation of obesity”
A. De Brún; M. McCarthy; K. McKenzie; A. McGloin
Year of publication
We investigated the representation of obesity in the Irish media by conducting an inductive thematic analysis on newspaper articles (n=346) published in 2005, 2007 and 2009 sampled from six major publications. The study analysed the media's construction of gender in discussions of obesity and associated attributions of blame. Three dominant themes are discussed: the caricatured portrayal of gender, women as caregivers for others, and emotive parent-blaming for childhood obesity. Men were portrayed as a homogenous group; unaware and unconcerned about weight and health issues. Dieting and engaging in preventative health behaviours were portrayed as activities exclusively within the female domain and women were depicted as responsible for encouraging men to be healthy. Parents, specifically mothers, attracted much blame for childhood obesity and media messages aimed to shame and disgrace parents of obese children through use of emotive and evocative language. This portrayal was broadly consistent across media types and served to reinforce traditional gender roles by positioning women as primarily responsible for health. This analysis offers the first qualitative investigation into the Irish media discourse on obesity and indicates a rather traditional take on gender roles in diet and nutrition.