Fuh-fuh Focus on Me! – Reflections on Focus Groups #IdealAsianBody

One of our awesome interns, Uyen Hoang, shares about her experience researching for the #IdealAsianBody social media campaign, a joint venture with our friends at Thick Dumpling Skin.

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By Uyen Hoang

For the #IdealAsianBody campaign, Jasmine and I have been running focus groups with students at our respective colleges to dig a little deeper and unearth stories of people’s experiences with body image and eating disorders.  I had the opportunity to run a group with Southeast Asian students at UCLA (Thanks, SEA CLEAR!) and what was discussed was very intriguing.  Intriguing in a sense that it was also sad and sobering.  It’s amazing at how seemingly small statements that we carry throughout our lives echo larger community issues.

I think one of the moments that hit my heart the most was hearing how matter of fact the participants shared their stories of trying to fit an ideal because of different external pressures.  When did it become so matter of fact?  I can only imagine how many times they had to deal with the onslaught of criticisms about themselves from others, to the point that those opinions became objective, instead of subjective.  Was it for a protective layer of aloofness or was it because there wasn’t any more reason to feel anything?

As someone running a focus group and having to have some degree of composure, it’s tough.  It’s tough because, as a facilitator, you have to have a little detachment in order to make sure all of the activities and questions on the agenda are met, so that the procedure is somewhat standardized to use for research, next steps and whatnot.  But it’s tough because you want to give people all the space and time that they need to talk about such a personally challenging topic, but you can’t really.  Should I be giving everyone hugs as well??

Or maybe I’m just new to this process.  I am not sure.

Running focus groups have allowed me to dig deeper into beauty standards and ideals but there will never be enough time to really unpack and deconstruct the issue for individuals.  I hope that my participants understand that even though I am concentrated on the issue, the campaign and the group as a whole, I’m focusing on them as individuals as well.

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