Digesting Femininities: an Examination of Body-Policing Attitudes in Popular Discourses on Food and Eating

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Jovanovski, Natalie (2014) Digesting Femininities: an Examination of Body-Policing Attitudes in Popular Discourses on Food and Eating. PhD thesis, Victoria University.


Feminist and psychological literature has long established a link between women’s often conflicted relationship with food and social discourses that reinforce harmful notions of the ideal female body and the need for bodily self-surveillance. However, new cultures around food and eating have emerged which purport to offer different ways to connect with food. One feature of these gendered discourses is their use of feminist terminology and ideas of empowerment and emancipation. This thesis sets out to explore popular cultural discourses on food and eating by examining recent, best-selling diet books and cookbooks written by women and the iconic feminist texts that have inadvertently helped shape them. The thesis will argue that together, these food and eating-related discourses reinforce and normalise body-policing gender norms and body-centric attitudes, despite their broader aims to challenge these ideas. By viewing these texts through a feminist post-structuralist lens, and employing methodological tools from critical discourse analysis, this thesis attempts to move beyond individualistic, body-centric approaches that dominate existing literature. It aims to fill a gap in this literature and in current debate by examining different cultural discourses for the ways body-surveillance messages are normalised and perpetuated. It advances the idea of ‘food femininities’ to describe the multiple means by which authors of diet books, cookbooks and iconic feminist texts instantiate and reproduce body-policing narratives. It concludes that these apparently new discourses on food and eating, like the discourses that preceded them, promote similarly harmful, self-objectifying attitudes in women.

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Item type Thesis (PhD thesis)
URI https://vuir.vu.edu.au/id/eprint/29724
Subjects Historical > FOR Classification > 1701 Psychology
Historical > FOR Classification > 2002 Cultural Studies
Historical > FOR Classification > 2203 Philosophy
Historical > Faculty/School/Research Centre/Department > College of Arts
Keywords body-centrism, body image, popular culture, feminism, feminist discourses, fashion, beauty, The Beauty Myth, Naomi Wolf, Susie Orbach, Fat is a Feminist Issue, weight, hedonism, hedonistic subject positions, male gaze
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