Production And Negotiation Of Femininity Cultural Studies Essay

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The first aspect of this literature review relates to how the area of celebrity culture and the notion of celebrity have been defined generally. This will include looking at the work of writers such as Redmond, Rojek, Marshall, Turner amongst others. Within this work, I will look specifically at how celebrity has become a key site for productions and negotiations of individual identity in capitalism, and how much agency an audience or reader has in relation to this. Moving on from this, I will focus more specifically on gender, looking at writers who have related celebrity discourse to issues of productions, performances and negotiations of femininity. I want to combine this by proposing that certain distinctions such as Rojek's between attributed and achieved celebrity can be understood in relation to gender. After this, I will move on to a review of writing on performativity, including the work of Butler and Foucault. Here, I want to consider how this could be relevant to the broader discourse of celebrity, gender and identification.



"Much of what makes a star or celebrity interesting is how aspects of living in contemporary society is articulated by them .Amazingly, a star image is multi-faceted in terms of what they consists of the real person who is the "His or Her image" comprising of obviously stage managed appearances, and screen roles, and also images of the real person which is the site of the manufacture of that image''……(Dyer, 1987:8)….This means that stars are representations 'made up' in media culture because of what they consist of and how they relate to issues either complex, conflicts or contradictions that emerge in the social world.

Hall (1997), further described the star and celebrity as "complex sign systems that involve generating meaning, 'cultural circuit' or dynamic exchange of production; identification, ideological and consumption elements". (Hall, 1997) by this Hall, analyzes the celebrity representations as either meaningful or otherwise depending on how people (or fans) acknowledge or identify with it or against it.

Redmond also suggests that a "celebrity or star has an intimate or one-to-one relationship configured to articulate what it means to be and individual to another individual or fan by being personal in a way and also having political relationship with the social world as cultural products: as they are the component out of which culture created." (Redmond, 2006 : 36-42)

According to Chris Rojek, "Ascribed, achieved and attributed are three forms in which celebrity status is derived." (Rojek, 2001, p.17). He defines the ascribed celebrity as someone who is born a celebrity without having to actually do anything. For example members The British Royal family are celebrities because of the monarchial form of leadership in Great Britain; they derive celebrity status for the role they play in the country .This contrasts with the second category - Achieved celebrity: "Achieved celebrity is recognized in the public realm as individuals who possess rare talents and skills and also comes from the perceived accomplishments of the individual in open competition" …. (Rojek, 2001, p.18). Some examples here include Wayne Rooney England footballer, Lewis Hamilton British Formula one Racing Driver, Stephen Spielberg American Film Producer, Penelope Cruz or Tracey Emin, who through being outstanding in their respective fields are all seen to have achieved celebrity status.

However, Rojek, complicates this category by suggesting that: "Special talent or skills is not exclusively the determinant of Achieved Celebrity, Rather, it is the result of the concentrated representation of an individual as exceptional or noteworthy by cultural intermediaries in some cases. At this point it is seen as attributed celebrity".(Rojek, 2001, p.18). For as we have seen in Rojek's definition, Attributed celebrity is a product of media representation rather than talents of the individual (or related to) which is not necessarily the situation. Rojek goes on to introduce a further term - 'celetoid', to refer to "a media-generated, compressed, concentrated form of attributed celebrity" (Rojek, 2001, p.18). Which includes celebrities who appear momentarily and then vanish from the public eye, "lottery winners, one-hit wonders, stalkers" (Rojek, 2001, p.18). A recent example could be "why women hate me for being beautiful", the article written by daily mail columnist Samantha Brick who momentarily leapt to the front of the newspapers as a rich visually striking personification relating to discourses of Beauty, Looks, Fashion, Lifestyle Femininity, depending on which representations you focus on. Daily mail chooses to quote Samantha Brick relating to the subject that "there are downsides in looking pretty" (Mail online, 2012).

Women 24 an online Feminist news website on the other hand focuses on "the power of the internet which made Samantha Brick a celebrity overnight" (Lili Radloff, 2012)

Samantha will just as quickly vanish from the public eye as the media seek new scoops, sensations and exclusive news stories. As Turner has pointed out, "celebrity has considerable explanatory power in a time of great complexity and contradiction" (Turner et al., 2000, p.166), and it is the attributed nature of Samantha's celetoid fame that allows her image to be mobilized in relation to these broader social discourses. The examples above shows how the media proffers a way into thinking about femininity and celebrity and how a celebrity becomes a means for the media to utilize certain images in order to achieve their own agenda's. The first approach to representations of the female celebrity body, beauty and looks is as attributed celebrity with explanatory power. Concepts and identifications of gender are effected through the concentrated representations in social discourses that women are open to as they become images in the media. The first utilization this study will focus on is the function of female celebrity in relation to discourses of the media, capitalism and social mobility.


According to Marshall (2006,p.4): " The major and essential component of the newspapers, newsmagazines, websites and blogs ,TV and Radio Channels are the celebrity representations which is an intensifying and proliferating discourse which populates entertainment magazines in this twentieth century. This author claims that across contemporary western culture the Ascribed celebrity discourse is forever present through the people in the society's attitudes and behavior. "A survey conducted by the journal of psychology research cyberspace revealed that between ages 9 - 11's primary value is currently "fame". (, 2011) . The disconnection from the idea of achievement, to the ready -availability i.e opportunity to be a celebrity describes the discourse of can-do-ideology, which suggests that regardless of the barriers such as social background or lack of talent, you can become and do whatever you want.

However, many theorists focal point regarding the media-generated (achieved/attributed) celebrity in the west relating to issues such as individualism ,power and subjectivity. Amongst which Rojek (2001), makes it clear that there is complexity between the achieved celebrity that is broad in contrast to the ascribed celebrity. A contemporary celebrity appears to be all encompassing and its subdivisions include the constructed media celebrity ad also the celebrity who achieved fame purely by being good at something (Rojek 2001).

For example, Elizabeth Taylor British born actress started acting from her childhood days till she died. The philosophy that being a celebrity is a legitimate choice of occupation desirable and open to anyone and everyone. Gamson(1994) revealed a contradiction regarding the heart of celebrity image. Describing it as "something quite achievable or normal, un-natural and exotic". (Gamson, 1994, p.1) Exploring at depth the relations between discourses of realism or normality and the unnatural perfect body next has been trigger by the above ideology.

According to Marshall (2006) the contemporary celebrity ideology's fundamental component are the sense of 'realism' and 'authenticity' He argues that the media provide an intoxicating image for an audience through "reality-effect" which is "alluring, (Marshall, 2006, p.3). The celebrity industry's policed form of reality combined with achieved/attributed celebrities' (self made fame) which creates the It could be you effect all relating to managing and production of consumer desire. Rojek argued that, "The development of the contemporary society has allowed celebrities to fill the decaying popular idea of the death of God and the divine rights of kings in absence" (Rojek,2001,p.13). Celebrity culture is a fundamental aspect of validating beliefs of capitalism, i.e by just buying into the right image you can become a celebrity since celebrities are real, claiming that " The commodity consumption process is humanized by celebrities" (Rojek,2001,p.13). For example, instead of the monarchial lineage recommended by definitions of ascribed celebrity, it also appears to be the case that achieved / attributed celebrities can do this in a more realistic way or a lot better, than ascribed celebrities I will further discuss research if this dream operates specifically relates to feminine desire.

However, Bradley also describes the idea that regardless of talent, social background and ability anyone can become a celebrity is a realistic function of celebrity, as Bradley phrases it, "the lure of consumerist celebrity - Live The Dream!" (Bradley, 2007, p.162).


In contemporary society debates central to feminism is now common as issues about gender and representation are often debated. Feminism perspectives vary from liberal feminism, black feminism, post modern feminism, described as either First ,second or Third wave feminism. (Boyle 2005:29). Boyle claims that the different perspectives are complex and therefore needed to be described in several waves.

Whelehan, also described the second wave as the most dominant in the society today, "The second-wave feminism is more about the power of representation: and the need to challenge dominant ideological definitions of femininity is now recognized by women" (Whelehan,1995:5). For example the dominant paradigm between 1945 and 60's that the "surburban housewife is the ideal woman to build the American woman's life upon, rather than mythological 'Happy Housewife'' described by Friedan (Friedan 1992:30). However, Jackie Stacey who has looked into the dilemma of female desire in relation to star image by focusing on the Hollywood films female spectators and their consumption practices.

Stacey's (1994) work is a different history and way or theoretical analytical requirements through cinematic method of observation from magazine readership analysis , transferring theories of celebrity is evident in her work on gendered consumption arguing that a fundamental element of a star/celebrity image involves a combination of realism and exoticism (Stacey 1994). In 1950's Stacey wrote about female celebrity readership and representation today as well as consumption of Hollywood films. The celebrity has double image which is essential for reader identification relating to the could-be-you ideology and increasing consumer goods consumption.

Indeed, in an analysis of celebrity consumption modes in contemporary world Turner refers to Stacey suggesting that, "Recognizing Stacey's argument is not difficult in the present trend in women consumer magazines by providing information for readers to get cheaper substitutes or specific celebrity clothes worn in celebrity pictures. (Turner, 2004, p.122). The construction of double image will be examined more in my primary research. However, I suggest that in order to ensure proper functioning of the celebrity industry escape and identification must work together consecutively.

Redmond and Holmes also focus on the relation between the star and the fan: "Stars and celebrities are consumed and appropriated by fans in ways which have a profound effect on their identity, self-image, and sense of belonging" (Redmond and Holmes, 2007, p.4). These debates over the relation between a star and a fan, celebrity and reader have had intense consequences.

In my previous discussions, it is evident that by being potential sites of challenges or negotiation and also means of inflicting cultural meanings are major functions of celebrities.

However, Judith Myane argues that "Important components of celebrity image are inconsistency, change and fluctuation (Mayne,1993,p.128). She criticizes Dyer who introduced the idea of "structured polysemy" in relation to film stars, his claims were that the a star image can have several opposing meanings as well as operate across a variety of media but not having the freedom to mean anything by still being "structured" (Dyer, 1979, p.3). Mayne's criticism was that Dyer's focal point was on "constant reinvention" which is the embracing of essentially opposing terms and the dissolution of divergence through his emphasis on celebrity symbol of flexibility and openness"(Mayne, 1993, p.138). Although, others such as Turner or Marshall emphasized definitions and productions of celebrity relating to the importance of social context in representations. Marshall's argument was that "how connotations that link past power structures (I.e church) to modern power structures (i.e capitalism) is linked to the term [celebrity]" (Marshall, 1997, p.7).

As Chris Rojek's definition also emphasizes the importance of such structures, "I treat celebrity as the attribution of glamorous or notorious status to an individual within the public sphere…The media determines this idiom, although the content remains a matter of political and ideological exchange" (Rojek, 2001, p.10). These approaches have an ideology in common which is the conceptualization of celebrity as the product of broader media discourses. The media actively construct the celebrity discourse and celebrity figures in relation to structures of power and politics, beyond revealing the lives of prominent people.

My argument in relation to these debates are divided into two major categories, Firstly, gender in this case is the embodiment of specific dominant ideologies relating to power through which celebrity discourse can be understood. Secondly, celebrity discourse is an essential site of negotiating the dominance of specific ideologies as it is part of a process of open exchange.

Frankfurt school critiques of consumer culture, scholars of the so called "Dominant Paradigm", have strongly made their views clear. For instance, Marcuse describes "the surrender of thought, hope and fear to the powers that be" (Marcuse, 1964, p.12), while Adorno and Horkheimer describe "enthusiastic obedience to the rhythm of the iron system" (Adorno & Horkheimer 1944: 2). Both ideologies define mass culture as part of the determining force of ideological power, against which the consumer has no agency. In contrast with some of the Frankfurt School approach then, the film star or celebrity as a more complex site of identification, negotiation and potential resistance is what Dyer's work suggests (Dyer, 2006). These connections to gender are obvious when magazines showcase ideologies that are against the normative image of femininity represented in magazines, by being defined in relation to men, submissive, sexualized and objectified, readers may or may not re-interpret such imagery in relation to more liberal discourses, appropriating celebrity for feminist aims (Dyer, 2006).

New media platforms have increased and allow such 'major intervention' into reproducing more star images than Dyer suggests. For instance bloggers have increased over the years and the blog culture has other agenda's despite allowing celebrities to read from feminist views. "UK Feminista" Blog for example, provides a reading of gender in terms of feminism, by recommending women's right" (Charlotte Gage, 2012). Other blogs such as "Women 24" follow similar agendas, exemplifying Dyer's important points relating to gender and celebrity today. Although, Turner focuses on the aspect of the celebrity industry in his writing on "celebrity flesh" (Turner, 2004, p: 123).

I would argue that celebrity representations are important in mainstream representations such as NOW magazine, Dyer who said "the media-savvy hyperbole and comic irony that he locates within more pornographic celebrity representations" (Dyer 2006). Dyer's final point here is also important. Even though the audience or reader may actively read the celebrity image, the discourse of the individual vital for capitalism is still valued.


Dyer made it clear that a celebrity is either the Ideal, manufactured or the real individual "Multi-faceted" ….(Dyer 2006). This can be related to Marshalls ideology that the reason for proliferation of celebrity discourse is the relation it bears to the production and maintenance of fictions of the self as individuals. Marshall claims that, "the audience continues to interpret the meaning of celebrity in a grand narrative on the dimensions of individuality and identity in contemporary culture where comparisons between the self and the celebrity are constantly made, and cultural norms are supported, altered or dismantled" (Marshall, 2006, p.3-4). Which relates the celebrity to the policing and producing boundaries of self, As (Boorstin,1961,p.84), argued "that our world boundaries are marks by ourselves with walls of mirror ;as our shadows are enlarged because media machineries only continue multiplying. However, Marshall on one hand describes the method that cultural norms are supported, dismantled or altered and the compromise between self and celebrity could be more productively explored. Although, Rojek and Marshall's analysis are essential in examining from a broader cultural perspective the discourse of celebrity and cultural process.

My argument would be based on the increased focus on the female celebrity's body and its dominant imagery in celebrity magazines, which Marshall, throws spotlight on how people interpret celebrity in the politics of celebrity, his analysis gives a concrete perspective on how the fiction of self is performed by reading celebrity magazines. Bradley (Bradley, 2007,p.162 ) referred to female celebrities as "spectacles" stating that they are contemporary objects rather than subjects of gaze.

However, Mulvey (2001) suggested that when objectified and fragmented images of women are produced, women become objects of desire for men to look at especially through the cinematic apparatus which operates to produce a male gaze. Her argument became complicated when relating it to female spectatorship, in the case of celebrity magazines which have female readers as female celebrities are objects of female gaze. For instance, celebrity magazines in contemporary society like Now magazine, publish news, gossip and fashion trends of celebrities, female readers (fans) read about the celebrities and their fashion trends.

Geraghty (2007), separates the definitions of celebrity by Rojek (2001) in relations to film stars, production of meaning and representations to a greater extent. Her claim was "that women in the press and on TV as well as in the cinema function effectively as spectacles" (Geraghty 2007,p. 106), when she linked representation of female celebrities to the above quotation. This suggests that Rojek's ideology on achieved and attributed celebrity, star and celebrity or otherwise may not have been fully explored in his work. My argument is that these ideologies are all linked to the culture of Can-do and ready availability in relations to representation of femininity and that the perfect female body can be achieved by anyone.

Bradley goes on to make a number of points in relation to discourses of celebrity and gender. She points out how images of celebrity women in magazines, for the female gaze, are used to create "an obsession with size and weight [which] legitimizes the massive commercial apparatus of the slimming and exercise industry" (Bradley, 2007: p.161). This point makes another link between the representation of femininity and discourses of capitalism. One of the reasons that female celebrity perfect body images are mass-circulated as objects of desire is precisely so that readers will desire them and spend millions of pounds on products which then play on this desire to sell the image of the perfect body back to them. Considering the link between elements or capitalist society e.g advertising for beauty products and images of celebrity. These images cannot be in isolation without stating its relation to these other discourses.

Additionally, Bradley (2007) also suggests that readers become consumed through the influence of magazine representations. On one hand, she argues that the female readers themselves have their own ideology of the perfect body which is carefully maintained and self-policed. On the other hand, the obsessing effects on readers are also as a result of the representations of the ideal perfect body which is forced upon society by beauty industries and magazines.

Ironically, it has been noted that it is women themselves who police the cult of slenderness; women criticizing other women's figures and clothing…and the catty commentators in Now and Heat who take delight in pictures of female stars wearing unbecoming clothes, having 'bad hair days', or showing glimpses of cellulite (Bradley, 2007, p.161).

Bradley's analysis further points out the ideological functions of celebrity in relation to gender. My argument will be evident through my textual analysis of magazines (primary research) and how they present images of celebrity and also through interviews that I will conduct based on the audience (readers) opinions. The question of how dominant representations are so self- policed becomes difficult to challenge.

On the discourse of self-policing Michel Foucault proposes his idea: I would say now that I am interested, in fact, in the way in which the subject constitutes himself, in an active fashion, by the practices of the self. These practices are nevertheless not something that the individual invents by himself. They are patterns that he finds in his culture, and are proposed, suggested and imposed on him by his culture (Foucault 1987, cited in Strozier 2002 p.141).

Interestingly, Foucault's quotation here suggests a shift from the question of agency, when he describes people as the major constituents of their own subjectivity; however active construction is still being controlled by cultural factors.

Foucault moved away from the determinism of institutional discourses towards more liberating theory in his later works. He proposes, "another kind of critical philosophy…that seeks the conditions and the indefinite possibilities of transforming the subject, of transforming ourselves" (Foucault, 1997, p.179).This suggests the ideal self and the production of self can not only be isolated theoretically but is specifically based on practical experiment.

Therefore, active transgressions of normative roles can be performed based on lived and present relations. His work also proposes the possibility that:

"The modification of received values…one does something else in order to become someone else by seeking other rules of the game and detaching oneself from what are the received truths" (Foucault, 1996, p.306-7).

Simon O'Sullivan's writing on the production of subjectivity is a different dimension from Focault's; O'Sullivan, (2008), suggests that the new way of being in the world or the new, in terms of a new subjectivity, is produced through a certain orientation and specific technologies and cannot simply be read about, or directly accessed. (O'Sullivan, 2008, p.95).These technologies have various interpretations including behavioral modes of acting in the world. Such work suggests that, although normative images of femininity are produced and maintained through celebrity magazines, referring to interconnected discourses of capitalism and power, an entirely deterministic understanding of the regulatory norms of gender may not explain the creative potential of resisting such categorization in the everyday productions of and care of the self.

In summary, this section of the review started with Dyer, Redmond, Rojek and Marshall's work on celebrity as the production of fictions of the individual, and then introduced readership theories of challenging and dismantling of the image. I recounted this expressly in relation to women with Bradley's analysis of the circulation of feminine desire in celebrity images, and her audience research suggesting women's self-policing, then moving into Foucault's theories the liberatory potential of practices of the subject and disciplinary institutions and the. Performativity may now be considered as relevant discourses above have been dealt with.


How dominant discourses such as the new perspectives in Judith Butler's seminal work on gender performativity as she explores the idea of gender as a performance that is culturally and socially constituted rather the natural phenomenon. (Judith Butler, 1990; 1999), For this, my interest is to focus on theories of 'performativity' in order to consider how they could relate to debates over celebrity discourse. The modes of reading celebrity in relation to dominant discourses such as particular gender roles, but also other processes in which identification, negotiation and subversion may take place are my key interests. As Austin the philosopher of language describes: "To utter the [performative] sentence is not to describe my doing..or to state that I am doing it: It is to do it" (Austin, 1975, p.6).

However, there is a link between performativity and gender as Butler, "argues that gender identities are given meaning only when performed or acted out as they are not fixed or natural" (Butler 1990;270). She suggests here that within theatrical contexts the acts by which gender is constituted is similar to performative acts.

The perfomative utterance is important as the act of utterance, allows something happen. The relevance of this outside of a linguistic context is in how it has been taken up to describe how identity is played out and produced in a performative way. As Parker and Sedgwick argue:

The construction of identities through complex citation processes Performativity has enabled a powerful appreciation of the way that identities are constructed through complex citation processes (Parker and Sedgwick, 1995, p.2). This means that, identities, including gender identities, are played out through repetitions and the act of quoting. Femininity for example, according to theories of performativity, is not a pre-given category which we can either accept, question or challenge, but instead it only exists through the act of, say, getting up, putting on a dress and going out to buy make-up. Celebrity then, as a point of reference for networks of identity, becomes a vital element in the way these performative identities are constructed.

The wake of Judith Butler perspectives on performativity in relation to gender and feminism are evident as she describes on one hand how the subject is formed and constituted in language (Butler, 1997, p.3-4). On the other hand however, she describes the "threat [which] emerges precisely through the act that the body performs in speaking the act" (Butler, 1997, p.9). For Butler, gender identity is iterated, or repeated ritually, through language. However, this very iteration also contains the potential to be a threat as it is played out. In other words, the everyday playing out of gender identity can simultaneously disrupt that identity by being played out in a different way. This is Butler's fundamental claim and while it is coherent theoretically, it is hard to think how it could be tested in relation to lived experience. In order to find out if the notion of threat to gender norms can be challenged by respondents, in everyday performance or whether it remains an ideal that is theoretical will be incorporated and discussed in my analysis and conclusion.

Sarah Salih outlines in detail some of Butler's work on performativity and gender. She describes how Butler's theory is "anti-essentialist" (Salih, 2004, p.90) meaning that it is critical of the idea that gender is a given and universal form, and instead proposes it as open to change. For Butler, "gender is an open-ended process, a sequence of acts or events, which does not originate and which is never finally or fully realised" (Salih, 2004, p.90). This seems a direct contradiction with the idea, based on ideological models, that women passively consume images of celebrities in magazines, which force them to aspire to specific images through the illusion that it could be them and through the consumption of marketed goods. If Butler's theory of open-ended deferred identity can be put to use in celebrity magazine readership then I will have to show that the process of negotiating gender in magazines can be, somehow, open-ended, rather than one-way. On the other hand however, Butler's theories, such as, "interrogating the terms in which our identities are described, constituted and circumscribed" (Salih, 2004, p.90), can be useful in understanding how images in magazines are able to have such powerful effect in shaping identity. Importantly from her theories comes the idea that it is through the act of reading celebrity magazines, that gender is actively constructed. There is no gender identity behind the expressions of gender; identity is discursively constituted…there is no actor who performs the sequence of gender acts that constitute its identity…the doing itself is everything (Salih, 2004, p.91).

How important this element of performance is to celebrity discourse, and whether it can indeed add anything at all is what I set out to test. To do this requires analyzing Butler further:

In the first instance, the performativity of gender revolves around the way in which the anticipation of a gendered essence produces that which it posits as outside of itself. Secondly, performativity is not a singular act, but a repetition and a ritual, which achieves its effects through its naturalization in the context of a body, understood, in part as a culturally sustained temporal duration (Butler 1990, cited in Litosseliti and Sunderland, 2002, p.25).

In other words then, the act of playing out gender precedes gender identity. Gender is produced through this act and proposed, in an Imaginary fashion, as something that pre-existed. Secondly, this act is ritually repeated and becomes natural in the way a body comes to be disciplined. Reading celebrity magazines then can be understood as such a ritualistic act, a scene where femininity is played out in a relation between readers and images. The performative process outlined by Litosseliti and Sunderland, "a ritualized process which allows the participants to construct and project desirable versions of their identities in a succession of performances targeted at specific audiences" (Litosseliti and Sunderland, 2002, p.26) could relate both to the construction of the magazine itself, and to the act of reading it. In relation to this then, my main questions here become to identify how gender is established performatively through magazines, and to consider whether the act of readership can become a performative 'threat' to normative gender identity, or whether it acts as another empty repetition plugged into the circuits of capitalist desire. As Yates has argued, (Yates, 2003, p.7), this must include not only analysis of the texts but also a focus on how readers 'use' and 'transform' magazine representations in their everyday lives.