The Femininity Diet: A Rhetorical Analysis of the Discursive Formation of Femininity and Weight Loss in Contemporary Social Media Promotions




DeMuynck, Jacqueline P.

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This thesis identifies the communicative means by which the conflation of femininity and weight loss is perpetuated and sustained across contemporary health discourses. Through the rhetorical lenses of Michel Foucault’s discursive formation and Kenneth Burke’s dramatistic cycle, several examples of contemporary weight loss promotions are examined. The continuation of Barbara Welter’s “Cult of True Womanhood” is clearly seen within Kim Kardashian’s 2018-2019 Flat Tummy Co. (FTC) sponsored Instagram posts and WW’s (formerly Weight Watchers) 2018-2019 rebranding campaign videos. Together, these texts exemplify the popular repressive messages that normalize and intensify the self-subjugating weight loss behaviors engaged in by women. Kardashian’s FTC sponsored posts utilize individualized guilt induction, messages of faulty agency, and the appropriated slim-thicc body hierarchy to conflate feminine purity and submissiveness with weight loss. WW’s rebranding videos co-opt symbols of wellness and deploy a three-fold compositional narrative to conflate and modernize feminine domesticity and piety with weight loss. Through the analysis of these conflations this thesis maps the discursive formation of femininity and weight loss. The analysis concludes with a discussion of methods to reduce the formation’s influence in online spaces.



Foucault, Michel, Discursive formation, Cult of true womanhood, Welter, Barbara, Kardashian, Kim, Weight Watchers, Instagram, Wellness, Eating disorders, Repressive hypothesis, Burke, Kenneth, Dramatistic cycle


DeMuynck, J. P. (2020). <i>The femininity diet: A rhetorical analysis of the discursive formation of femininity and weight loss in contemporary social media promotions</i> (Unpublished thesis). Texas State University, San Marcos, Texas.


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