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Voices from the kitchen table: (Post)Feminism and Domestic Cultures during Austerity

posted on 2023-01-24, 14:27 authored by Jessica Martin
This study examines representations of feminism and domestic cultures in the UK during the period of austerity, from the election of the coalition government in 2010 until the vote on UK membership of the European Union in 2016. Given that austerity has had a disproportionate impact on women, it then follows that austerity culture requires a feminist analysis. This project provides a feminist analysis of popular culture, exploring instances of feminism in the domestic space (where austerity policy is usually felt) through an analysis of four public figures: TV host and crafting expert Kirstie Allsopp, founder of parenting forum Mumsnet Justine Roberts, environmental blogger Jen Gale and blogger and austerity chef Jack Monroe. These self-identifying feminists and mothers - who I term “austerity celebrities” – are all mediated public figures who achieved increased visibility in austerity culture. An intertextual approach was used, drawing on critical and visual discourse analysis of various texts including blogs, websites, TV programmes, newspaper interviews and Twitter sites to allow the study to add new insights into mediated motherhood and the ways in which it is politicised in times of austerity. A significant contribution of the study is the demonstration of how the postfeminist sensibility (Gill, 2007), which is intrinsically linked to consumption, has managed to adapt to retain its hegemonic hold on popular culture, despite the economic period of austerity, and the rising visibility of feminism in the UK. Through an analysis of these four case studies, my research demonstrates various ways in which domestic spaces have been re-politicised in new ways in direct response to austerity policy. This includes the ways voices from the ‘kitchen table’ have been integrated in general elections to using experiences of poverty in the domestic space to critique austerity policy. In doing so, this thesis adds to a body of literature which recognises that domestic spaces continue to be a key and legitimate site for resistance, consent and for political analysis. The study explores how domesticity experts in popular culture provide a space in which I argue that austerity policy is both discursively reinforced and resisted, allowing for feminist discourses to sit in tension with the rise in traditional femininity, and allowing for the entanglement of postfeminist discourses focused on choice and individualism to coexist alongside feminist invocations of collectivism and political action. The study also demonstrates how dominant austerity narratives which invoke thrift, nostalgia, resilience and entrepreneurial spirit as a moral imperative for women prevail throughout popular culture, even for those who are trying to challenge or actively resist these narratives.



Kaitlynn Mendes; Melanie Kennedy; Helen Wood

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School of Media, Communication and Sociology

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University of Leicester

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