On Leggings and Lemongrass Shots: How Momfluencing Perpetuates the Feminine Mystique
Keywords:feminine mystique, sexual sell, social media, momfluencer, Instagram
n this paper, I situate the Instagram ‘momfluencing’ industry within Betty Friedan’s framework of the feminine mystique, specifically the sexual sell. The sexual sell is the concept of targeting housewives for profit, promising identity and fulfilment in exchange for product purchase. I bring this into conversation with the momfluencing industry by integrating Friedan’s research on the impact of 1950s women’s magazines with modern research on the impact of social media advertisements (specifically through influencers) on women. Then, I apply my comparative work to some of the most popular momfluencers. I claim that while advertisements today do not appeal so explicitly to a woman’s rightful place in the home, the sexual sell has not been eradicated—it has mutated. What makes the momfluencer different (and more dangerous) than the straightforward magazines of the 1950s is her marketing approach: she is not just selling products. Rather, she brands herself and she is the product. Furthermore, I illustrate how momfluencing has armed and mobilized the sexual sell by exploiting the existing identity crises in women. Their lack of fulfilment is what feeds, and has always fed, the feminine mystique. I then state that because the momfluencer can only succeed at the financial and emotional expense of other women, the industry is ultimately destructive. While the momfluencing industry has the potential to be a powerful feminist play with its opportunities for women entrepreneurs, its rampant success must be interrogated: Why is the flawless housewife who ‘has it all’ still the picture of achievement for women? This leads to my conclusion that despite isolated empowerment to the momfluencer herself, the success of her industry limits the role of women everywhere because it squanders women’s identities while capping their potentials at housewifery, impeding progress that could be made otherwise. By showcasing unachievable domestic fantasies and capitalising on women’s lack of fulfilment, the momfluencing industry perpetuates Friedan’s feminine mystique.
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