"You want to do everything in your power": representations of breast cancer risks in Canadian popular women’s magazines




Sato, Kazuko

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This thesis explores the way that breast cancer risks are represented in popular Canadian women’s magazines. In particular, using discourse analysis on 34 articles from Chatelaine, Canadian Living, and Flare, this study examines how public discourse of breast cancer risks in women’s magazines engages specific ideas about women, consumption, and individual responsibility for health. Using a variety of discursive representation techniques, women’s magazines define breast cancer risk as a problem originating in the individual woman’s body and behaviour. Women’s magazines also emphasize the individual woman’s responsibility to lower the risk of the disease, and identify willpower to choose the “right” products and practices as key instruments to fulfill this responsibility. While highlighting women’s capability to make autonomous decisions to manage the risk, breast cancer risk discourse in women’s magazines also encourages readers to maintain morality as females without breaking away from society’s expectations about femininity. In this way, breast cancer risk discourse in women’s magazines is not merely a less technical, reader-friendly reproduction of scientific reports, but a product that explains health risk information through the lens of longstanding cultural values about women and contemporary sociopolitical ideology that emphasizes individual responsibility for health.



risk, gender, breast cancer, discourse, women's magazines, technologies of the self, responsibility, consumption