Book Launch: Consuming the Body by Dr. Dawn Woolley

Dr. Dawn Woolley will be in conversation with Dr. Jacki Willson to discuss some of the themes and ideas in the book.


Leeds Arts University Postgraduate Hub, Leeds Arts University, LS2 9AQ.

21st October 2022, 17:30 – 19:00

Free entry. Refreshments will be provided.

Dawn Woolley is an artist and research fellow at Leeds Arts University examining consumer culture, social media, and gender. She completed an MA in Photography (2008) and PhD by project in Fine Art (2017) at the Royal College of Art. Her artwork is a feminist critique of consumer culture, encompassing photography, video, installation, and performance to draw attention issues of sexualisation, objectification, and idealisation. Recent solo exhibitions include; “Consumed: Stilled Lives” Perth Centre for Photography, Australia, (2021), and “Dance for Good & Exercise Your Rights” in collaboration with Davin Watne, Public Space One gallery, Iowa City, (2020).

Jacki Willson is an Associate Professor in Performance and Gender in the School of Performance and Cultural Industries at the University of Leeds. She has published two monographs – ‘The Happy Stripper’ (2008) and ‘Being Gorgeous’ (2015) – and two co-edited collections, ‘Revisiting the Gaze: the Fashioned Body and the Politics of Looking’ (2020) and ‘Dangerous Bodies: : New Global Perspectives on Fashion and Transgression’ (2022). She is PI on a three year AHRC project entitled, ‘Fabulous Femininities: Extravagant Costume and Transformative Thresholds’ which is exploring the transformative role costume plays within burlesque subcultural communities across the UK.

About the book

Consuming the Body: Capitalism, Social Media and Commodification examines contemporary consumerism and the commodified construction of ideal gendered bodies, paying particular attention to the new forms of interaction produced by social networking sites. The book describes the behaviours of an ideal neoliberal subject: modes of discipline, forms of pleasure, and opportunities for subversion are identified in an examination of how individuals are addressed and the ways in which they are expected to respond. Key modes of address that compel the consumer to consume are: sadistic commands communicated in adverts, TV programmes and magazine articles; a fetishistic gaze that dissects the body into parts to be improved through commodification; and a hystericized insistent presence that compels the consumer to present their body for critique and appreciation that is exemplified in the selfie.

Woolley interprets the visual characteristics of different types of selfies, including #fitspiration, #thinspiration, #fatspiration, and #bodypositivity to understand how they relate to current body ideals. Healthism and culture bound illnesses such as hysteria and eating disorders are examined to demonstrate the impact of commodified body ideals on consumers’ bodies. An analysis of thinspiration images (photographs of emaciated bodies shared on pro-eating-disorder blogs and websites) suggests that the anorexic body represents the logical (and fatal) end point for the idealised body in consumer culture. Fat acceptance selfies suggest there is a fourth mode of address, empowering presence, that has the potential to liberate consumers from the ‘trap of visibleness’ produced by the other three modes of address. In conclusion, the book identifies some creative methods for producing selfies that evade commoditisation and discipline.