‘Your new smart-mouthed girlfriends’: Postfeminist conduct books

Alison Winch

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12 Citations (Scopus)


Postfeminist popular culture celebrates women's entitlement to makeover and female sociality. This article examines the confluence of body image and expert girlfriendship in the conduct books, What not to wear (Susannah Constantine and Trinny Woodall) and Skinny bitch (Kim Barnouin and Rory Freedman). These co-authors brand themselves ‘best friends’ and market this female relating as evidence of expertise. Extending their friendship to their readers, they create an intimate female site in order to guide the reader into making normative choices around body image. In particular, they employ strategies of policing and surveillance, appealing to self-responsibility. The girlfriends write the body through an ethical code, employing the rhetoric of guilt, punishment and humiliation if the consumer fails to conduct herself and those around her correctly. I ask what happens when policing is applied to female friends: how far is female friendship, or girlfriend culture, governed by the neoliberal market forces into privileging the mechanics of makeover? What is the significance of having women dictate how other women relate? How far are women involved in the public shaming of other women?
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)359–370
Number of pages11
JournalJournal of Gender Studies
Issue number4
Early online date14 Dec 2011
Publication statusPublished - 2012


  • female friendship
  • branding
  • conduct books
  • postfeminism,
  • femininity
  • neoliberalism

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