Date of Award


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy


Speech Communication

First Advisor

Daughton, Suzanne


This dissertation is a study of breastfeeding images and the commentary about those images, from a rhetorical perspective. Specifically, I use a feminist lens in order to analyze images of breastfeeding in both magazine and online environments, as well as online commentary about the images. I examine both celebrity and non-celebrity images of breastfeeding from popular pregnancy and parenting magazines, non-traditional parenting magazines, company web sites, and online articles and blog sites. Chapter one presents a statement of purpose, research questions, and an examination of the current literature pertinent to the study including sections on breastfeeding benefits, the sexualized woman's body and desexualized mother, and visual rhetoric. Chapter two explains the method for analysis of the study, namely, a feminist rhetorical critique of popular culture images of breastfeeding, informed by my own experiences as a nursing mother. Chapter three is the first chapter of analysis. For this chapter, I collected images of breastfeeding across a six-month time period from the popular magazines: American Baby, Baby Talk, Fit Pregnancy, and Pregnancy. I also examined images from the same time span from magazines that had lower circulation rates, but focused on natural parenting: Mothering and New Beginnings. Finally, I examined several online websites that sold nursing bras and breast pumps. Major categories of investigation included location of the mother and child, race, and the amount of breast displayed in the images. In chapter four, I looked at images of celebrity women breastfeeding, specifically Miranda Kerr, Angelina Jolie, Maggie Gyllenhaal, Julie Bowen, and Salma Hayek. I performed searches for key terms for each of these images and analyzed articles and comments that reacted to the images. Included in this chapter is a discussion of what an audience of breastfeeding sees as "public" and "private," as well as how images of celebrities can assist in encouraging breastfeeding. In chapter five I examined images of non-celebrity mothers breastfeeding, analyzing images and reactions to three YouTube videos. The chapter also included analysis of images of a nurse-in at an Arizona McDonald's, as well as articles and online comments about the event. The chapter's analysis includes an examination of how non-celebrity images differ from the celebrity images. Chapter six includes implications of the study, limitations, and suggestions for future studies.




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