Congratulations to recent PhD Alexandra Rodney on her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph

Congratulations to Alexandra Rodney, who has started a postdoctoral position on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative at the University of Guelph. Alexandra recently received her PhD after completing her dissertation, Healthy is the New Thin: The Discursive Production of Women’s Healthy Living Media, under the supervision of Josée Johnston (chair), Shyon Baumann, and Elaine Power. Her dissertation abstract is as follows:

Dissertation Abstract

This dissertation explores how food and fitness discourses are produced in the contemporary healthy-living mediascape for women. This is done through a content and discourse analysis of 640 blog posts from six foundational healthy living blogs and 230 articles from two high-circulation health and fitness magazines. In the first of three papers, I compare how food is framed in the magazines and blogs. I find that healthy-living magazines frame food as pathogenic, disease-promoting and dangerous in relation to body composition. In contrast, healthy living blog posts present food as a relatively “salutogenic” (Antonovsky 1996) force that promotes health and wellness. I argue that healthy living blog prosumers (who both produce and consume social media) are able to broaden the range of public health discourses, albeit without critiquing the moralization of health or thinness as an overarching goal. In the second paper, I use the analytical tool of biopedagogy to understand what bloggers are teaching readers about how to manage their bodies. I argue that, in order to generate the authority to disseminate health information bloggers, laypeople who are not health professionals must produce health media that includes a distinct knowledge base and evidence to support their recommendations. I offer the concept “blogspert” to describe the way in which bloggers’ authority to disseminate biopedagogy is produced through anecdotal evidence of successfully and intentionally cultivating bodily knowledge towards losing or managing weight. In the third paper, I study the construction of authenticity, a highly-valued trait in contemporary culture. I find that an authentic healthy persona is produced on healthy living blogs through “calibration” (Cairns and Johnston 2015) — a gendered self-presentation process whereby women continually work to position themselves away from pathologized extremes of feminine excess (e.g., obsessiveness perfectionism) and apathy (e.g., laziness, insufficient self-monitoring). Overall, in this dissertation I make the following conclusion: while healthy living bloggers remain compelled to navigate a broader context in which they are required to demonstrate self-regulation, they steer clear of restrictive and punitive discourses through presenting alternative logics of healthy living that reflect and reproduce the neoliberal fetishization of the individual and individual experience.

In her postdoctoral position at the University of Guelph, Alexandra will be working on the Gender Equity and Excellence through Leadership initiative under the direction of the Provost, Charlotte Yates. The initiative will involve studying the status of women and gender minorities at the University of Guelph, including staff, faculty, and students. Their research will examine the barriers that underrepresented groups face in moving into positions of authority, and propose solutions for creating a more inclusive and equitable campus.

PhD students Alexandra Rodney, Sarah Cappeliez, Merin Oleschuk & Professor Josée Johnston examine ideals of feminine domesticity in food blogs

Sarah CappeliezMerin Oleschuk


Sociology PhD students, Alexandra Rodney, Sarah Cappeliez, Merin Oleschuk, with Associate Professor Josée Johnston have recently published an article in the international multidisciplinary academic journal, Food, Culture & Society. The paper titled “The Online Domestic Goddess: An Analysis of Food Blog Femininities“, analyzes how idealized notions of femininity are demonstrated in blog posts written by female food bloggers.

We have posted the citation and abstract below. The full article is available on the Taylor & Francis Online Database.

Rodney, A., Cappeliez, S., Oleschuk, M., & Johnston, J. (2017). The online domestic goddess: An analysis of food blog femininities. Food, Culture & Society, 20(4), 685-707. doi:10.1080/15528014.2017.1357954

Scholars have explored how female food celebrities represent a realm of fantasy and desire, embodying attractive “domestic goddesses” who showcase the wonder and seduction of home-cooked meals. These studies have largely focused on television personalities and have overlooked the food blogosophere, a highly popular, digital realm of food media dominated by women. The blogosphere has its own prominent food personalities and occupies a central role as a source of information and inspiration for home cooks. This paper investigates how idealized food femininities manifest on popular food blogs by examining 426 blog posts written by twenty-two award-winning, female food bloggers. These bloggers forward a vision of idealized feminine domesticity that is glamorously seductive and rooted in the “real” life of everyday home cooks. This article illuminates food blogs’ paradoxical combination of idealization and mundanity. It argues that the online domestic goddess exemplifies women’s need to balance multiple, seemingly contradictory ideals: she must embody domestic success, while avoiding associations of perfectionism, excessive control, or laziness. This study of female bloggers nuances scholarly understanding of the domestic goddess fantasy by revealing the deep tensions in women’s food blogs, particularly the challenge of crafting a credible and appealing feminine voice in a postfeminist context.

Read the full article here.


Doctoral Candidate Alexandra Rodney receives SAGE Teaching Innovations Award

Congratulations to PhD candidate Alexandra Rodney who  will be attending the ASA Section on Teaching and Learning’s preconference workshop as a recipient of the 2017 SAGE Teaching Innovations and Professional Development Award. The award is funded by SAGE publications and approximately twenty SAGE authors who donate their royalties to provide a fund to offset the costs incurred by graduate students and pretenure faculty of attending the preconference. The award seeks to “prepare a new generation of leaders in the sociology ‘teaching moment'” and is awarded based on 5 criteria:

  1. demonstrated commitment to teaching
  2. potential contribution to the workshop and benefit of attending
  3. depth of reflection on the dynamics of the classroom
  4. financial need
  5. proximity to first full-time college teaching position (recently entered or about to enter)

Alexandra will attend this year’s session which is called “Thinking Matters: Critical Thinking, Active Listening, and Evidence-Based Writing.”  Alexandra is passionate about teaching sociology. She has already participated in 35 teaching-related workshops and earned a Teaching Fundamentals Certificate from the University of Toronto.  She hopes that attending the preconference session at the ASA will help her develop community-engaged and experiential learning activities for students, especially those that are applicable for use in a variety of class sizes and heterogeneous groups.

Alexandra is one of 26 recipients of the SAGE Teaching Innovations Award and the only one from Canada. The full list and the list of sponsoring authors is available here.

Alexandra Rodney on Totem Vodka

University of Toronto PhD Candidate Alexandra Rodney recently published a blog post on the site Sociological Images. The blog, created and edited by Professor Lisa Wade of Occidental College in Los Angeles, provides short sociological discussions of “compelling and timely imagery that spans the breadth of sociological inquiry.” It is widely used by instructors of sociology and by people just interested in exploring contemporary issues through a sociological lens.

Alexandra published a discussion about Totem Vodka, a vodka that was produced for a short time in the Vancouver area in June and July, 2016 before being pulled from the market in response to objections. The piece introduces the concept of Cultural Appropriation and then uses Totem Vodka to illustrate the concept.

The post begins:

Totem Vodka and Indigenous Cultural Appropriation

Cultural appropriation generally refers to the adoption of traditional practices, objects, or images by a person or group that is not part of the originating culture. Cultural appropriation can become problematic when it is done without permission, serves to benefit the dominant group, and erases or further marginalizes the oppressed group. In this way, cultural appropriation can recreate larger structures of inequality.

On a recent stroll through a duty-free shop, I was introduced to one of these problematic examples in the form of a new Canadian product named “Totem Vodka,” packaged in a bottle resembling a totem pole. Totem Vodka is not a product of Indigenous entrepreneurship.

Read the full Sociological Images post here


Alexandra Rodney is a PhD Candidate in Sociology with research interests focusing on the Sociology of Culture, and Gender. Her dissertation work probes into the world of food and healthy living blogs to bring understanding to the production and reception of food and fitness discourses in Canada and the United States.