News and Shoes: Consumption, Femininity and Journalistic Professional Identity

Doctoral thesis English OPEN
Oliver, Harriet

This thesis explores the professional cultures, capital and occupational identities of a group of women journalists working in contemporary Londonbased women’s magazines and newspaper supplements. I have mapped this journalistic subfield in order to answer questions about the gendering of hierarchies and structures in the wider journalistic field and the opportunities and limitations provided by women’s traditional associations with consumption. Commercial journalism created for, and by women, plays an increasingly important editorial and commercial role within journalism, but has received little academic attention. In this research I demarcate a distinct subfield of print journalism that I term feminine journalism. This female oriented subfield is concerned with lifestyle, fashion, celebrity and the body and extends across women’s magazines and newspapers. My research is based on analysis of qualitative semi‐structured interviews with a cross‐section of forty journalists from across the subfield. I use Bourdieu’s notion of habitus and field to interrogate the gendered journalistic cultures that mediate the production of feminine journalism. Through a detailed consideration of working practices, routines and occupational identities, I document a journalistic domain dominated by consumption, taste and aesthetics and inextricably enmeshed with the adjoining commercial fields of fashion and beauty brands. I explore the way in which the cultural and economic interlink to produce a version of commercial femininity, which helps to constitute subjective identities for both practitioners and readers. I argue that the species of feminine, embodied capital deployed by the subfield’s agents offers some women power, privilege and success within the journalistic field, but ultimately circumscribes their progress barring them from the professions defining discourses of objectivity and autonomy. This situation supports my wider conclusion that the feminine capital offered to women through consumption represents a limited and contingent form of power, which ultimately reinforces a symbolic order that privileges masculinity over femininity.
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