The Knowing mother : Maternal knowledge and the reinforcement of the feminine consuming subject in magazine advertisements

Davis, Teresa and Hogg, Margaret and Marshall, David and Petersen, Alan and Schneider, Tanja (2022) The Knowing mother : Maternal knowledge and the reinforcement of the feminine consuming subject in magazine advertisements. Journal of Consumer Culture, 22 (1). pp. 40-60. ISSN 1469-5405

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The caring mother is one of the most recurring images of femininity in post-war advertising. We examine how mothers are depicted as knowing consumers in advertisements in Australian Women’s Weekly and the United Kingdom’s Good Housekeeping magazines between 1950 and 2010. Our data suggest that although visual representations of maternal consumer knowledge change over this period, assumptions about the responsibilities of mothers endure in the family-related advertisements in these women’s magazines. There is a shift over time, however, from a representation of mothers as passive recipients of advice provided by external experts to a more active representation of mothers as experts themselves within both domestic and private spheres. We trace historically how the trope of the knowing mother works as a visual discursive device that helps to reinforce not just patriarchal hegemony, but a particular form of maternal hegemony. The hegemony of motherhood presents a particularly desirable/idealised femininity. However, this visual depiction also serves to gender the very way in which maternal knowledge is to be used. While maternal knowledge is depicted as changing from being merely intuitive or practical to subsuming the technique of knowledge or prescribed expertise; the purposes for which such knowledge is used remain firmly situated within the maternal/feminine realm of nurturing and caring consumption for the family. Despite shifts in discourse that appear to increasingly value mothers’ knowledge—there exists an enduring assumption that mothers should use their knowledge for domestic caring and consumption , ultimately reinforcing a heteronormativity of the use of women’s knowledge that subdues even expert knowledge for a domestic purpose.

Item Type:
Journal Article
Journal or Publication Title:
Journal of Consumer Culture
Additional Information:
Please note that most of the advertisements from Australian Women's Weekly and Good Housekeeping (1950-2010), which are the basis of this article, are not available to the journal readers because of copyright issues. The final, definitive version of this article has been published in the Journal, Journal of Consumer Culture, ? (?), 2019, © SAGE Publications Ltd, 2019 by SAGE Publications Ltd at the Journal of Consumer Culture page: on SAGE Journals Online:
Uncontrolled Keywords:
?? maternal knowledgefeminine consuming subjectmagazine advertisementsaustralian women's weeklygood housekeepingeconomics and econometricsbusiness and international managementsocial psychologysociology and political sciencemarketingdiscipline-based research ??
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Deposited On:
07 Oct 2019 09:45
Last Modified:
15 Jul 2024 19:57