Body positivity in Finnish EFL textbooks : A study of textbook series New Insights

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Title: Body positivity in Finnish EFL textbooks : A study of textbook series New Insights
Author: Heinonen, Sara
Other contributor: Helsingin yliopisto, Humanistinen tiedekunta
University of Helsinki, Faculty of Arts
Helsingfors universitet, Humanistiska fakulteten
Publisher: Helsingin yliopisto
Date: 2022
Language: eng
Thesis level: master's thesis
Degree program: Englannin kielen ja kirjallisuuden maisteriohjelma
Master's Programme in English Studies
Magisterprogrammet i engelska språket och litteraturen
Specialisation: ei opintosuuntaa
no specialization
ingen studieinriktning
Abstract: This thesis studies body positivity in a Finnish EFL textbook series. This goal is approached by finding out which aspects of body positivity, such as body size, skin colour, and gender, are represented in the visuals of the textbooks chosen for this study, and how the textual contents affect these representations. Based on the findings it is then concluded whether the textbooks promote a type of body standard or not and whether the findings correlate with the contents of the updated national core curriculum. The theoretical background for this thesis consists of indicating the importance of body image and representation as well as the goal of the body positivity movement. Due to the lack of previous studies on EFL textbooks focusing on body positivity, previous studies on body positivity on social media, and textbook studies on separate aspects of body positivity are introduced. An upper secondary school A-level EFL textbook series New Insights which has been developed according to the update of the national core curriculum (NCC) in 2019 has been chosen as the data for this study as it is the most current data available and has not been the focus of many studies yet. The data consist of the first two textbooks of the series, New Insights 1-2, and New Insights 3, as they are the only ones published at the time of this study. The material was collected manually from the online versions of the textbooks and consists of both the visual and textual contents of the textbooks. In addition to the textbooks, the NCC has been used to draw connections from its goals to the textbook contents. The method chosen to analyse the aspects of body positivity that are present in the visual and textual contents of the textbooks is qualitative and quantitative content analysis. Content analysis was chosen due to the data-driven and interpretative nature of the study as it attempts to find themes and underlying meaning in the contents that it set out to explore. The results of the study echo the results of previous textbook studies that have been conducted on similar subjects. The results show that the textbooks are not particularly body positive as most of the aspects studied have disproportioned representation among them; Light skin tones are represented far more than medium or dark skin tones. Mostly slim and athletic bodies are represented and very few larger bodies are present in the visuals. Other aspects, such as body hair or acne, have very little to no representation, and physical disabilities have little representation in the visuals but some more in the textual side. Mostly binary genders and heterosexuality are represented, although there are some mentions of e.g., non-binary pronouns and homosexuality. The textual contents provide more positive representation of some aspects, however, in other cases they enforce problematic stereotypes. Perhaps unwittingly, the Western beauty standard that body positivity tries to combat is promoted in the textbooks. The textbooks meet the goals of the NCC relevant to this study, although just barely in some cases, such as with gender equality.
Subject: Body positivity
EFL textbooks
NCC 2019
New Insights

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