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Susanne Aline Ritter: Exploring imperatives of normalisation in weight-loss makeover shows

Tampere University
LocationKalevantie 4, Tampere
City centre campus, Main building, lecture hall D11 and remote connection.
Date15.6.2024 9.00–13.00
Entrance feeFree of charge
In her doctoral dissertation, Susanne Aline Ritter investigates the portrayal of fatness in Finnish and American weight-loss makeover shows. By analysing how these shows represent the fat female body, Ritter uncovers societal discourses on gender, power, relationships, and identity that these representations reflect and reinforce.

Susanne Ritter’s dissertation offers a comprehensive analysis of weight-loss makeover television shows from Finland and the United States. The study focuses on three Finnish shows – Jutta ja superdieetit (Jutta and the Super Diet), Jutta ja puolen vuoden superdieetit (Jutta and the Half-Year Super Diet), and Rakas, sinusta on tullut pullukka (Honey, You’ve Become Chubby), and two American shows – Revenge Body with Khloé Kardashian and Fat Chance. 

Inspired by feminist critical discourse analysis and Foucauldian discourse analysis, Ritter explores how the representations of the fat female body in these shows construct and reproduce societal norms. Her research delves into the dynamics of control and surveillance, the normalisation of bodies, and the concept of liminality as it relates to fatness and singlehood. 

Ritter’s key findings include the pervasive control exerted on the fat female body as evident in all of the analysed shows. She highlights the power dynamics between the participants and experts, drawing on Foucault’s theories of surveillance and control. The research uncovers underlying structures of normalisation and their implications for romantic relationships, reflecting broader societal expectations. 

“Weight-loss makeover shows, regardless of their country of origin, perpetuate control and normalisation of the fat female body”, says Ritter. “This research offers a critical perspective on the regulation of women’s lives through the regulation of their bodies and highlights the need to challenge these pervasive societal pressures.” 

Ritter’s work broadens the scope of fat studies, traditionally dominated by US and UK scholars, by including Finnish media. Her research helps us understand how the control over fat women’s bodies is inextricably linked to broader societal issues, ultimately showcasing how women’s lives are regulated through the regulation of their bodies.

Susanne Ritter is a doctoral student in gender studies at Tampere University where she specialises in feminist media studies and feminist fat studies. Her research aims to uncover and challenge normative beliefs and inequalities through critical discourse analysis. 

Public defence on Saturday 15 June  

M.Soc.Sc. Susanne Aline Ritter’s doctoral dissertation in the field of gender studies Regimenting Bodies, Regulating Lives. Fatness, gender, and relationships of power in makeover television shows from Finland and the United States will be publicly examined at the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere University, at 12 o’clock on Saturday 15 June 2024. The venue is Auditorium D11 of Päätalo, address: Kalevantie 4, Tampere. The Opponent will be Associate Professor Lene Bull Christiansen from Roskilde University. Associate Professor Venla Oikkonen from the Faculty of Social Sciences, Tampere Universit, will act as the custos.

The doctoral dissertation is available online.

The public defence can be followed via a remote connection

Photograph: Nina Navajas Pertegas