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Deconstructing “real” women: Young women's readings of advertising images of “plus-size” models in the UK

Beale, Katie; Malson, Helen; Tischner, Irmgard


Katie Beale

Helen Malson
Associate Professor in Social Psychology

Irmgard Tischner


© 2016, © The Author(s) 2016. Critical feminist researchers and others have amply elucidated the perniciousness of contemporary Western beauty ideals and, particularly, the near-ubiquitous idealisations of slenderness. In this context, the advent of media images featuring “plus-size” models has been rightly heralded as a welcome challenge to this hegemony. Yet, little attention has been given to women's interpretations of these images. In this brief report, we outline a preliminary exploration of young women's views about advertising images featuring “plus-size” models in the UK. We used a discourse analytic method to analyse 35 young women's responses to a qualitative questionnaire asking for their views and feelings about three adverts featuring “plus-size” models. Our analysis suggests that, while the models were positively construed, participants also drew on distinctly conservative notions of femininity such that romanticised constructions of a “plus-sized”, traditional and domestic femininity were contrasted with a highly pejorative framing of “stick thin” women as vain, vindictive and self-obsessed. Our analysis thus indicates how representations of women focusing on body weight and shape can, even when reclaiming “fat” or “plus-size” bodies, mobilise derogatory and constricting rather than empowering constructions of femininity.


Beale, K., Malson, H., & Tischner, I. (2016). Deconstructing “real” women: Young women's readings of advertising images of “plus-size” models in the UK. Feminism and Psychology, 26(3), 378-386.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Dec 11, 2015
Online Publication Date Apr 15, 2016
Publication Date Aug 1, 2016
Deposit Date Dec 14, 2015
Journal Feminism and Psychology
Print ISSN 0959-3535
Electronic ISSN 1461-7161
Publisher SAGE Publications
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 26
Issue 3
Pages 378-386
Keywords plus-size models, media images, young women, discourse analysis, body image
Public URL
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