Contemporary female celebrity is produced within a context of postfeminism, sexualised culture, consumerism and neoliberalism. Feminist analyses often argue that such celebrity figures commodify female sexuality and depoliticise feminist issues regarding autonomy and sexual agency; although some celebrate contemporary celebrity as a site for producing less conventional sexual identities. In this paper we contribute to these debates with analysis of focus group and interview data from 28 white heterosexual women aged between 23 and 58 living in the UK. For the women in our study, female celebrities were figures of successful neoliberal entrepreneurial selves, with the capacity to make money from their bodies. This capacity was associated with continuous work on the bodies, rather than a natural beauty. And while there was often admiration for the work that went into this self-transformation, a consequence for the participants of equating beauty with normatively unattainable levels of body work was that they came to understand themselves as falling short of even ‘achievable’ attractiveness. We conclude that these participants made sense of celebrity sexiness through neoliberal rhetoric of ‘choice’, entitlement and pleasure, which worked to constantly underscore the ‘ordinary’ woman’s inability to measure up.
Bibliographical noteThis is an electronic version of an article published in the Journal of Gender Studies, 22 (3), pp. 268-281. The Journal of Gender Studies is available online at:http://www.tandfonline.com/doi/abs/10.1080/09589236.2012.658145.
- celebrity culture
- sexualisation of culture