Healthist ideologies : the case of Lululemon Athletica
Stokes, Carlie Charlene
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Over the last three decades, ideas about health have been influenced by neoliberal politics. Robert Crawford coined the term healthism to refer to this dominant ideology that places much responsibility on the individual to achieve a level of health while avoiding ill-health. The moral obligation to live a health-promoting lifestyle has become increasingly pronounced in North America, thus activities, services, and products that promote a high level of health have gained considerable attention. In this social context, Lululemon Athletica, a yoga-inspired retail store that sells athletic apparel primarily to “active” women, has flourished. This thesis focuses on Lululemon Athletica as a site in which to examine health ideologies in contemporary North American capitalist culture and exposes the ways in which Lululemon has incorporated health ideologies as a vehicle to corporate success. This thesis is based on a discourse analysis of two primary texts produced by Lululemon Athletica: Lululemon’s website, www.lululemon.com, and a 150-page Lululemon Athletica memoirs book. Three themes emerged from the analysis: Lululemon incorporates 1) healthist ideologies, 2) yoga as a holistic health practice, and 3) lifestyle branding techniques into the company’s promotional materials and retail practices in order to develop a corporate identity that seems timely, relevant and profitable. My analysis affirms the potency of healthism in North American society and reveals that Lululemon’s strategic use of dominant healthist ideologies has helped the retailer to capture a large market and gain considerable corporate success. This project ultimately provides awareness of the dominant, yet largely taken-for-granted health ideologies that currently circulate in North American society.