Consuming Pedagogies: Controlling Images of Women as Consumers in Popular Culture

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Journal of Consumer Culture




We seek to understand how, by engaging in various sites of consumption, we learn particular gendered, raced and classed consumer subjectivities that often uphold patriarchal consumer capitalism. Drawing from academic literature on the history of consumption, we examine the historical construction of shopping and consumption as ‘feminine’ domains and explore how current discourses about females and consumerism continue to construct women as particular kinds of consumers who possess and enact particular behaviors, dispositions and values. We also conduct a cultural studies analysis of popular culture discourses about female consumers. We argue that dominant discourses about women as consumers operate as master narratives, creating controlling images and perpetuating a politics of disgust that demeans and oppresses women. We specifically focus on how particular groups of women are differentially subjected to more or less negative characterizations with/in these discourses. We examined historical texts, including print advertisements, television commercials and popular literature, that memorably portrayed the roles of women as consumers. Contemporary print advertisements, television commercials, internet sites and music lyrics from popular artists provided sources for further analysis of the proliferation of these stereotypes. Through critical analysis and description of these popular culture representations, we hope to reveal and challenge – to disarticulate and rearticulate – the deficit, racist, classist and sexist perspectives in these majoritarian stories, in order to challenge dominant discourses of White, male and middle-class privilege.