Graduation Year

2015

Document Type

Thesis

Degree

M.A.

Degree Name

Master of Arts (M.A.)

Degree Granting Department

Womens Studies

Major Professor

Kim Golombisky, Ph.D.

Committee Member

David A. Rubin, Ph.D.

Committee Member

Diane Price-Herndl, Ph.D.

Keywords

biopower, childhood obesity, critical fat studies, discourse analysis

Abstract

This project analyzed First Lady Michelle Obama’s Let’s Move! campaign for how it constructs obesity and health. Let’s Move! is a national internet-based campaign to end childhood obesity. The literature on Let’s Move! is limited and focuses on the privatization and corporatization of children’s physical education in public schools. Taking an intersectional approach to critical fat studies, I use critical discourse analysis to investigate how the language used in the Let’s Move! campaign (re)enforces and (re)signifies cultural notions of fat as a social problem – specifically that fat bodies are diseased, unproductive, and a financial burden. I maintain that the Let’s Move! campaign is a symptomatic text that reveals a moral panic over the so-called childhood obesity epidemic by insisting that childhood obesity is a threat to national economy and security. I contend that Let’s Move! constructs good citizens as informed consumers, and the biopedagogies recommended by Let’s Move! promote White middle-class norms as the proper way to live while ignoring structural inequalities. Furthermore, I posit the campaign employs neoliberal discourses to frame mothers as responsible for their obese children’s weight and encourages women to conform to the cultural notion of the “good mother.” Overall, I argue the Let’s Move! campaign produces classed, raced, gendered, and able-bodied ideals of citizenship that function to further marginalize poor and minority groups.

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