'Confident, sexy and in control': practices of self-transformation and representations of 'authentic femininity' in Slimming World Magazine

MCSEVENY, Kerry and DOHERTY, Kathy (2016). 'Confident, sexy and in control': practices of self-transformation and representations of 'authentic femininity' in Slimming World Magazine. In: Memory, commemoration and communication : looking back, looking forward. International Association for Media and Communication Research Conference 2016., Leicester, 27-31 July 2016. (Unpublished)

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Abstract

This paper provides an analysis of the content and functions of Slimming World Magazine. Slimming World is a UK-based commercial weight loss organisation with a predominantly female membership, and the magazine represents a significant element of the organisational culture, providing a physical way of connecting with the Slimming World community and engaging with the Slimming World brand, either alongside, or in place of, attendance at weekly meetings, or participation on the organisation's website. The commercial weight loss approach is built on the idea that dieting efforts are more successful with the support of others, and the magazine is promoted by the organisation as one source of this support. ABC figures in 2015 showed that it was the UK's fastest-growing paid-for magazine by volume, with a combined print and digital circulation of almost half a million copies from July to December 2014 (www.slimmingworld.co.uk). Previous studies of commercial dieting have noted that weight loss organisations adopt the rhetoric of self-care and self-knowledge (Foucault's 'rapport à soi') in their organisational materials and communications, framing dieting as a process of skill cultivation (Hayes, 2007). By moving away from an emphasis on self-discipline (and the resulting 'docile bodies'), towards a focus on self-improvement, and through the appropriation of pseudo-feminist discourse (Stinson, 2001), the organisation positions the eating regime as empowering to its members. In this paper we explore the content of the magazine over a 12 month period using a discourse analytic approach, focussing on the role of dieting magazines as hupomnemata (Foucault, 1997; Hayes, 2007) - written resources implicated in this process of self-cultivation. The analysis considers how these magazines align with the wider organisational values of Slimming World, and how their content reflects and perpetuates wider societal discourse surrounding gender, weight and the body. Articles in the magazine cover a range of topics relating to dieting and appearance, including 'Slim-down Secrets' which offers tips on how to follow the eating regime, 'Love Food' with ideas for recipes, 'Look and Feel Great' which gives beauty, exercise and fashion advice, and 'Be Inspired', where each issue features a number of 'real life' members' stories of success in achieving their weight loss goals. In order to more fully understand how and why dieting is seductive, and to provide an insight into the popularity of this publication, we examine how each section of the magazine constructs dieting as a practice of freedom. In doing so, it positions its readers as self-determining, agentic individuals who have the capacity to transform their bodies and their lives.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (Paper)
Research Institute, Centre or Group: Cultural Communication and Computing Research Institute > Communication and Computing Research Centre
Depositing User: Kerry Mcseveny
Date Deposited: 05 Jan 2017 15:54
Last Modified: 14 Jun 2017 21:16
URI: http://shura.shu.ac.uk/id/eprint/14331

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