Welfare Queens, Thrifty Housewives, and Do-It-All Mums: Celebrity motherhood and the cultural politics of austerity

Kim Allen, Heather Mendick, Laura Harvey, Aisha Ahmad

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


In this paper, we consider how the cultural politics of austerity within Britain plays out on the celebrity maternal body. We locate austerity as a discursive and disciplinary field and contribute to emerging feminist scholarship exploring how broader political and socio-economic shifts interact with cultural constructions of femininity and motherhood. To analyse the symbolic function of mediated celebrity maternity within austerity, the paper draws on a textual analysis of three celebrity mothers: Kate Middleton, Kim Kardashian, and Beyoncé. This analysis was undertaken as part of a larger qualitative study into celebrity culture and young people's classed and gendered aspirations. We show how these celebrity mothers represent the folk devils and fantasy figures of the maternal under austerity—the thrifty, happy housewife, the benefits mum, and the do-it-all working mum—and attempt to unpick what cultural work they do in the context of austerity within Britain. Through the lens of celebrity motherhood, we offer a feminist critique of austerity as a programme that both consolidates unequal class relations and makes punishing demands on women in general, and mothers in particular.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)907-925
Number of pages19
JournalFeminist Media Studies
Issue number6
Publication statusPublished - 30 Jul 2015

Bibliographical note

This is an Open Access article distributed under the terms of the Creative Commons Attribution License (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/), which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited.


  • austerity
  • celebrity
  • motherhood
  • post-feminism
  • social class


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