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  • 2017houstonphd

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The representation of disabled women in Anglo American advertising: examining how cultural disability tropes impact on the subjective wellbeing of disabled women

Research output: ThesisDoctoral Thesis

Published
  • Ella Houston
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Publication date2017
Number of pages361
QualificationPhD
Awarding Institution
Supervisors/Advisors
Publisher
  • Lancaster University
Original languageEnglish

Abstract

This thesis critically analyses the representation of disabled women in a small sample of Anglo-American advertisements (produced post-2000), from a feminist disability studies perspective. From my application of textual and discourse analyses to nine advertisements featuring women with mobility impairment, mental health issues or visual impairment and gathering of data on how a sample of women with impairments respond to advertising representations of disability, I extend existing knowledge on the extent to which the makers of advertisements are representing disabled women in positive and empowering ways. Mitchell and Snyder’s (2015) concept of ‘inclusionism’ and Davis’ (2013) critique of ‘diversity’ in mainstream contexts particularly inform my argument that the makers of ads often presume to be empowering disabled women and promoting human diversity, whereas, the opinions of women with impairments frequently suggest otherwise.

My findings indicate that individual responses to advertisements are inextricably linked with individual subjectivities and embodied realities. I argue that problematic advertising representations of disabled women do not automatically cause women with impairments to experience lowered levels of subjective wellbeing. Rather, many women with impairments use oppressive portrayals and cultural tropes surrounding disability and gender as an opportunity to reassert their affirmative identities as disabled women.

I intend for the conclusions of my thesis to be used by the makers of advertisements who aim to promote authentic, rather than tokenistic, representations of diversity in their advertisements. In addition, my research adds to existing knowledge in the field by critically highlighting how tokenistic approaches to ‘diversity’ in advertisements constitutes ‘inclusionism’.