*Emily Lau Kui Ling & Zuraidah Mohd. Don
Much is known about the Western female body. In a non-Western context, such as Malaysia, it remains relatively unexplored. This paper explores the representation of the female body in the Malaysian context. For this purpose, a corpus of slimming advertisements was collected over an eighteen-month period (July 2007 – December 2008) from The Star, one ofMalaysia’s leading English language daily newspapers. It examines both visual and textual material in selected slimming advertisements portraying the fat female body as unhealthy, ugly and repulsive. Using Kress and van Leeuwen’s (1996) visual social semiotics framework, the analysis demonstrates how producers of text position themselves as the authorial voice and engage their readers by several means, especially threats and warnings. The findings show some of the fat-phobic strategies used in the slimming advertisements and how they work to ‘scare’ women into the relentless pursuit of body slimming. At the same time, it shows how overweight women are marginalised and discriminated against. The slimming advertisements, in this light, can be seen as one of the carriers of a dominant ideology offeminine beauty. It defines what forms offeminine beauty are acceptable and desirable. Experiences that contradict with prevailing values of those given are either excluded or denied, thus reinforcing existing limited meanings offeminine beauty.
Keywords: Body, fat, female, slimming advertisement, visual social semiotics