Post-feminist advertising laid bare: Young women’s talk about the sexually agentic woman of ‘midriff’ advertising

Title: Post-feminist advertising laid bare: Young women’s talk about the sexually agentic woman of ‘midriff’ advertising

Year: 2011

Journal / Publication: Feminism & Psychology

Volume: 21

Issue: 1

Pages: 74 – 99

Authors:

Malson, Helen

Halliwell, Emma

Tischner, Irmgard

Rúdólfsdóttir, Annadís

Abstract:

This paper presents a feminist Foucauldian analysis of women’s interpretations of images of women in post-feminist advertising. Building on Ros Gill’s analysis of post-feminist advertising images of women, and more specifically the figure of ‘the midriff ’, the paper presents an analysis of focus group discussions with seven young women who were asked to discuss ‘midriff’ advertising images. Whilst participants sometimes construed these images positively as ‘sexy’ and independent, midriff figures were more frequently constituted negatively as ‘bimbos’ and/or ‘slutty’ ‘sex objects’ whose seeming independence was achieved through or limited only to attracting men. In interpreting midriff figures negatively, participants, we suggest, constituted the midriff as other; as different and distant from themselves and ‘normal’ women. Where occasionally participants interpreted images more favourably, the midriff figure was, in contrast, constituted as ‘normal’ and ‘natural’ and as being about ‘what she likes, not what he likes’. Participants did not identify themselves or their arguments as feminist. Nevertheless, they articulated critiques of these images which often converged significantly with critical feminist analyses. Our analysis suggests, therefore, that young women read these images in complex ways. These complexities of interpretation, we argue, should be central in understanding the relationships between women, bodies and post-feminist images of women’s bodies.

Link: http://fap.sagepub.com/content/21/1/74.abstract

Keywords:

Advertising

Discourse

Midriff Figures

Post-Feminism

Reading

Women