Pregnant in Heels: A Critical Analysis of the Ideal, Maternal Body in Celebrity Magazines

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Willmott, Angela
Maternal Bodies , Libidinal Economy , Bio-Power , Celebrity
Over the past several years, the physical appearance of pregnant and new mothers has been evolving within Western society. In particular, celebrity mothers who are templates for contemporary ideals within society (Tyler 2011) experience heightened levels of surveillance and normalizing practices. The shifting ideal, maternal form illustrates how the bodies of women continue to be subjected to discipline and control within society. Furthermore, the flourishing of consumer culture within some neoliberal societies pressures women to consume in order to fully realize their maternal identity. Increased articulation of individual identity through consumption, coupled with increasingly specific appearance standards, narrow the scope of what idealized motherhood embodies. In order to best investigate the issue of the shifting, ideal maternal form, various issues of tabloid magazines will be analyzed. Relying on social constructionism in conjunction with Foucault’s theories of the disciplining of docile bodies and biopower, along with Lyotard’s desire-based, libidinal economy, the literature on the public presentation of maternal bodies will be analyzed with focus on newly developed, rigorous appearance and fitness standards for mothers. Additionally, how these disciplinary practices function within neoliberal climates that champion desire-based consumption, freedom, liberty, individualism and self-subjectification will also be investigated. A cultural analysis of thirty-seven tabloid publications from 2012 to 2013 will be examined for both visual and written discourse pertaining to the cultural construction of ideal motherhood. Through this analysis the interplay between the two seemingly contradictory messages of excessive, desire-based consumption and restrictive, corporeal discipline will be explored in order to gain a better understanding of how these incongruous scripts affect the lives of mothers today.
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