Commercialized Feminism and its Role in Millennial Feminists' Identity Construction

Katharina Neuhäuser

Student thesis: Master thesis


This thesis explores the ways in which millennial feminist’s identity construction is structured by the ongoing commercialization of feminist meanings such as empowerment, self-efficacy and independence. By drawing on theories within consumer culture theory, the movement of feminist meanings is examined. Symbolic consumption, theories of the self as well the theoretical body of consumer resistance are adapted to allow for an understanding for the ways in which commodified feminism becomes incorporated into the individual life world. This study is based on six in-depth interviews with millennial German feminists. Through hermeneutic phenomenology, cultural meanings of femininity, masculinity and feminism are identified. Furthermore, the discursive way by which these meanings are incorporated into the marketplace by cultural intermediaries is examined. Additionally, the way the feminist consumers relate to these communicative linkages is examined resulting in the identification of an ambivalence between distrust and hope. Particular emphasis is given to the phenomena of pink tax, a gender-based form of price discrimination, and femvertising, an advertising trend involving feminism. Moreover, the incorporation of feminist meanings into advertising straps those meanings off their context. The analysis proceeds to investigate the ways in which the individual informants translate the meanings of femininity and feminism into their own life. This is mediated by their individual life contexts and their personal idea of feminism. By juxtaposing different ideologies, the informants arrive at their individual consumption meanings, which are often localized and highly contextual. Finally, the way in which cultural meanings shape lived consumption experiences is investigated with the regard to the meanings of commodified feminism. In this way, the inquiry results in the conclusion that feminist consumption meanings are a product of creative interpretation and individualized remodeling. The discussion further illuminates the diffusion of ideological meaning into society through the marketplace, resulting at the conclusion that the formation of a mainstream feminism has occurred. Furthermore, the commercialization of feminist meanings as a means of consumer voice is discussed. Through this research, lived consumption meanings and market produced meanings of feminism are explored, expanding the field of consumer culture theory by adding to the discourse on sign domination & sign experimentation.

EducationsMSc in Brand and Communications Management, (Graduate Programme) Final Thesis
Publication date2019
Number of pages82
SupervisorsDiana Storm