Rosalind Gill, Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at City, University of London.

21 March 2017

To be self-confident is the new imperative of our time. It is seen in multiple domains: in education, in public health, in finance, in consumer culture,  and in hashtags and apps promoting  self-esteem, self-belief and positive self-regard. Starting from the proliferation of advertising campaigns that allegedly position themselves against the tyranny of ‘the perfect’ (McRobbie 2015) this paper looks critically at the rise of ‘love your body’ messages from companies such as Dove and Weightwatchers discussing their exclusions, their pseudo-diversity, their use of precisely the ‘fake’ techniques they repudiate (e.g photoshop, filters), and many other critiques.  More important than all of these problems, I argue, is the role that that the cult(ure) of confidence is  playing as a ‘technology of self’ concerned with remaking subjectivity whilst leaving gross inequalities and injustices intact. Drawing on my joint work with Shani Orgad I suggest this is part of a turn to ‘character’ in contemporary culture –  embedded in a wider cultural neoliberalization that increasingly also seeks to remake feminism in individualistic and psychologized terms.

Rosalind Gill is Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis at City, University of London. She is author of several books including – most recently – Aesthetic Labour: Rethinking Beauty Politics in Neoliberalism (with Ana Elias and Christina Scharff, Palgrave 2017) and Mediated Intimacy: Sex Advice n Media Culture (with Meg-John Barker and Laura Harvey, Polity, 2017)

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