The Social Media Feeds of Loose Women: Taking the Temperature of Popular Feminism

Garland, Ruth. 2024. The Social Media Feeds of Loose Women: Taking the Temperature of Popular Feminism. In: Barbara Mitra; Sharon Young and Mehreen Mirza, eds. Gender in the Digital Sphere: Representation, Engagement and Expression. Lanham, Maryland: Rowman & Littlefield. ISBN 9781538155684 [Book Section] (In Press)

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Abstract or Description

ITV’s Loose Women is a live British panel discussion show presented by and for women that attracts daily audiences of up to one million and many more through social media (Degun 2020).1 The show recorded an audience of 1.7 million on 19 February 2021 and greater audience share as a result of the pandemic (Thinkbox 2021). As the only all-female daytime programme on UK mainstream television, it claims to offer “real, authentic and empowered women having an upfront and candid discussion” (ITV 2017) but given its preoccupation with showbiz values and submission to commercial logic can it realistically offer a subversive and grounded form of feminism? As a manifestation of what Sarah Banet-Weiser has termed ‘popular feminism,’ Loose Women seeks to raise its visibility through a cloud of commercialized activity on social media (Banet-Weiser 2018).

This chapter draws on a thematic analysis of two years-worth of programming between 24 May 2017 and 21 November 2019. The dataset consists of two editions a week to May 2018, with additional sampling in quarterly one-month batches to November 2019. All content, including advertising breaks, was noted and analysed, together with a qualitative case analysis of particular social media content on Twitter, YouTube and Facebook relating to three ‘stunts’: a rendition of cosmetic surgery as entertainment (10 July 2018): a spectacular row between a panellist and a guest (29 August 2018): and a guest appearance by the Baywatch actress, Pamela Anderson, 53, in bed with her fifth husband (19 February 2021).

The hypothesis behind the research is that Loose Women provides an authentic and diverse representation of the dilemmas facing women while also submitting to a relentless and increasingly mediatized commercial logic. In this sense, it can be considered to be a feminist project. Yet as a multi-media brand it “enables some women to have spectacular visibility, while others are obscured and eclipsed” by providing points of discrimination between we, the panel, and they, the audience (Banet-Weiser 2018, 31). Among the themes explored by the wider study of which this chapter is a part, are ageing, ‘ordinary’ celebrity, showbiz culture, body image and the beauty myth, and the creeping commercialization of screen content. Particular focus is directed at ‘ageing anxiety,’ cosmetic surgery and the digital manipulation of image to examine the extent to which such representation normalizes ‘regulatory regimes’ of the body. This chapter will consider whether Loose Women in its

online and broadcast forms offers an empowering and holistic vision of the female life-course that is often absent from mainstream media. How do the opinions of viewers as expressed online differ from some of the assumptions that appear to guide the show’s editorial policy? How does the show keep itself true to its founding values while also embracing the chase for

Item Type:

Book Section

Departments, Centres and Research Units:

Media, Communications and Cultural Studies
Media, Communications and Cultural Studies > Centre for Feminist Research


December 2022Accepted
March 2024Published

Item ID:


Date Deposited:

22 Jun 2023 14:39

Last Modified:

31 Mar 2024 01:28


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