Gender equality as psychological capital: The case of the UK Body Confidence Campaign

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This article argues that gender-equality policy may function to cultivate women’s ‘psychological capital’, that is, psychological traits that assist women in becoming better workers and therefore further the interests of capital. It assesses documents produced by the UK government’s Body Confidence Campaign. First, the article finds that the campaign promoted narrow and corporate ideas about gender equality, only treating women’s aspiration as valuable if it led them to pursue profitable and traditionally ‘male’ professions. Second, it finds that despite campaign leaders’ criticisms of initiatives that blame women for their own low self-esteem, in practice, the campaign ended up doing exactly this by portraying low confidence as a drain on society and instructing women and girls to ‘build resilience’. Finally, the article finds that the campaign allowed companies to receive credit for limited and temporary efforts to appear ‘woman-friendly’ without overhauling their harmful marketing strategies in the long term.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to) 381–397
Number of pages17
JournalEuropean Journal of Politics and Gender
Issue number3
Early online date4 Jun 2019
Publication statusPublished - 30 Sept 2019


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