City Research Online

Get Unstuck: Pandemic positivity imperatives and self-care for women

Gill, R. ORCID: 0000-0002-2715-1867 & Orgad, S. S. (2022). Get Unstuck: Pandemic positivity imperatives and self-care for women. Cultural Politics, 18(1), pp. 44-63. doi: 10.1215/17432197-9516926


Examining women's magazines and lifestyle coaching, the article explores how positivity imperatives in contemporary culture call forth a happy, confident, hopeful, and vibrant subject during the COVID-19 pandemic. The analysis shows how these positivity imperatives acknowledge stress and difficulty, and at times highlight their gendered impacts, yet nevertheless systematically figure responses and solutions in individual, psychological, and often consumerist terms. The discussion demonstrates how positivity imperatives operate not only through verbal advice but also through visual, embodied, and affective means and through an emphasis on developing new social practices—from holding one's body differently, to keeping gratitude journals, to cultivating a new virtual persona for online work meetings. The article highlights a profound paradox: in times of a global pandemic that has affected women disproportionally, and when structural injustices and inequalities have been made ever more visible, positivity and individualized self-care interpellations to women flourish, anger is muted, and critiques of structural inequality are largely silenced. Thus seemingly benign and often undoubtedly well-meaning messages of confidence, calm, and positivity during the pandemic work to buttress a neoliberal imaginary and persistent social inequalities.

Publication Type: Article
Additional Information: © Duke University Press Journal, 2021.
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
H Social Sciences > HV Social pathology. Social and public welfare
Q Science > QR Microbiology > QR355 Virology
R Medicine > RA Public aspects of medicine > RA0421 Public health. Hygiene. Preventive Medicine
Departments: School of Communication & Creativity > Media, Culture & Creative Industries > Culture & the Creative Industries
SWORD Depositor:
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