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Abstract

This essay analyses a range of British women’s weekly magazines commonly referred to as ‘Women’s Weeklies’. Examples of these texts include Pick-Me-Up, Take-a-Break, Real People, and Closer. Unlike more widely researched magazines such as Cosmopolitan or Glamour, the women’s weeklies draw their readership based on the supposed autobiographical nature of the narratives, which in turn generates the ‘authenticity’ attributed to personal narratives. In this essay I analyse the personal narratives of the weeklies within the wider public sphere, arguing that such personal narratives render women’s weeklies relevant in political debate. The essay demonstrates how the individual narratives of social history and autobiography have become generalized and are thus circulated as evidence of something shared in the larger social and political climate. The aim is not to explain what happens to specific aesthetically mediated subjects as equivalent to what happens to people, but rather to unpack the affective scenarios of women’s weeklies’ narratives in order to shed light upon the claims they make about the situation of contemporary life. Drawing on theorists such as Lauren Berlant and Lee Edelman, I argue that through their use of optimism and affect the articles perpetuate the fantasy of the domestic good-life while concurrently, and subconsciously, providing evidence of the violence that heteronormative fantasy enacts. I claim that these articles illustrate the changing form of the family while simultaneously failing to acknowledge it. I demonstrate how they rely on the shared, lived experience of their readers, and as such, use affect to normalize even the most sensational of narratives. Ultimately, I query their insistence on securing futurity and the good-life through reproduction and family, postulating how these texts may be re-appropriated to call for a social and political shift away from the family.

Note on the Author

Melanie Stewart is a gender, queer, and cultural studies scholar from Oxford University.

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