Tag Archives: Discourse

Gendering responsibility for child obesity

The Daily Mail’s recent article ‘Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?’ serves as an example of the mediated discourses which hold feminist values and therefore women, as responsible for the so-called child obesity epidemic (WHO, 2010). The argument centers on three discourses – morality, science and gender.

In contemporary societies the responsibility for health is increasingly that of the individual (Petersen 1997). That is, we are held morally responsible for the quality and quantity of food that passes our lips, the amount of exercise we take and so on. So weight gain is presumed to be a result of health-defeating practices. However unlike adults, children are clearly not able to self-regulate and manage their own health because children cannot be responsible for food production and consumption themselves. That responsibility, it is argued, resides with parents and specifically with mothers. Drawing on natural science discourses, advocates of this position argue that due to biology ‘women possess a greater nurturing instinct than men’. Therefore mothers are presumed to have primary responsibility for their children’s health. If children are overweight it is mothers and not fathers who are held accountable.

Maher, Fraser and Wright’s (2010) research on media representations of mothers has identified two ways in which they are held accountable. The first, like the Daily Mail, points to the increasing absence of the family meal. It suggests that if women didn’t follow feminist values and work so long or so hard, then they would have more time to spend at home creating nutritious meals. It is their absence from the home that is blamed as the reason children eat at junk food outlets far too often, survive on processed meals and eat too many snack foods. The second way mothers are held accountable is through pregnancy. Scientists argue that ‘diet, exercise and women’s attentiveness before and during pregnancy are linked to specific disabilities, to childhood health generally and, more recently, to childhood obesity’ (Maher, Fraser and Wright, 2010).

It is these mediated discourses that hold mothers specifically responsible for the battle of the bulge, but more generally they argue ‘it’s feminism we have to thank for the spread of fast-food chains and an epidemic of childhood obesity.’

Has feminism killed the art of home cooking?

Is it really women’s fault our kids are fat?

WHO – Obesity and overweight

Obesity

John Terry, the England captaincy and subject positions

The recent scandal and dismissal of John Terry as England team captain provides an interesting example of the psychological theory of discourse and subject positions (Edley, 2001; Holloway, 1984)). Put simply, discourses (all the utterances around a particular topic) both produce and subject people (also by themselves and others) to specific discursive positions. Therefore, the way people experience the world and themselves is in part a by-product of discourse. For example, when Terry took up the position of England captain, he will not have encountered the discourse of the England captaincy pre-formed. Instead he will have been re-constituted as the ‘subject’ of the England captain in the moment of its consumption. In more familiar terms, the moment that Terry became the England captain, he will have been discursively located with a particular identity (Hall, 1988). The identity of the England football team captain presumably carries with it certain attributes e.g. good team leader, sound role model, respectability, monogamy etc. The point I am making is that, the media allegations of his affair with Vanessa Perroncel located Terry in a ‘troubled subject position’ (Wetherell, 1998). That is, the allegations implied he occupied a subject position of a discourse other than that of the England team captain. Unfortunately for Terry, occupying a troubled subject has resulted in Fabio Capello replacing Terry as England team captain with Rio Ferdinand.

Grazie, Signor Capello: After days of dithering by the FA, it takes an Italian family man just 10 minutes to sack captain who shamed England

Negotiating Hegemonic Masculinity: Imaginary Positions and Psycho-Discursive Practices

Masculinities in Theory

Chapter 41: The Psychology of Men and Masculinity in The Wiley-Blackwell Handbook of Family Psychology

Mothers, Sex Tapes and Gender Morality

Coleen NolanColeen Nolan’s recent televised revelation that she made a sex tape provides an interesting example of how talk and discourse is saturated with moral work. Her self-confession allowed for a host of consequential moral assumptions to be made about her making of a sex tape. These assumptions rest on the known-in-common attributes that are associated with gender categories. The apparent ‘shock’ experienced by her sons, panel and audience about the revelation allows us to see her actions as a ‘breach’ to the common-sense cultural knowledge about how ‘moral types of women’ (e.g. mothers) should behave.

Wowk’s (1984) research from a murder suspect interrogation and Stokoe’s (2003) neighbour disputes research provide interesting examples of this moral accountability in practice. Their data revealed that peoples’ perceptions of morality, in relation to women, were aligned with specific activities and characteristics for ‘good mothers’ (e.g. ‘sexually discreet’, ‘mother-as-childcarer’) and ‘bad mothers’ (e.g. ‘being overtly sexual’, ‘swearing’). They also found that moral judgments were often non-explicit and smuggled in through indirect references to illicit behaviour in order to subtly police moral boundaries. Coleen’s sons, the panel and the audience therefore, by their very (re)actions, can be seen to be unavoidably engaged in producing and sustaining a gendered moral order out of the particulars provided by Coleen.
square-eyeLoose Women – Coleen Nolan

square-eyeColeen Nolan shocks the Loose Women TV audience – and her sons – as she admits to starring in a sex tape

square-eyeSocial Psychology and Discourse

square-eyeMothers, Single Women and Sluts: Gender, Morality and Membership Categorization in Neighbour Disputes