Graduation Year

2012

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Granting Department

Sociology

Major Professor

William Tyson

Keywords

Advertising, Consumption, Family, Food Provisioning, Gender Roles

Abstract

This thesis examines how food advertisers contributed to the cultural identity of the "good mother" in the 1990s and 2000s. It expands on previous research that investigated traditional gender ideologies in food advertisements by narrowing in on the specific stories presented to African American women. It highlights a time when advertisers were responding to the demands of African American activists to recognize the African American consumer, and depict African American characters in a positive light. A narrative method of inquiry is utilized to deconstruct the stories in 117 food advertisements running in Essence magazine (an African American targeted women's magazine) in the 1990s and 2000s. Analyses suggest that the most frequent narrative in both decades was the story of the "good mother." Food advertisers primarily constructed this story with characters of mothers, fathers, and their children in the 1990s, and children alone in the 2000s. Other characters that recurred less frequently were the "good woman," "expert advisors," and "activists and innovators." Yet, these characters made minimal appearances compared to those in the "good mother" category. This study suggests that in the 1990s and 2000s food advertisers were portraying African American characters in a positive manner, but that these positive portrayals reinforced hegemonic ideologies about family life that ignored the experiences of mothers living outside of heteronormative nuclear families.

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