Media Visibility of Femininity and Care: UK Women’s Magazines’ Representations of Female “Keyworkers” During COVID-19

Shani Orgad, Catherine Rottenberg


This article explores the media visibility of female keyworkers—workers deemed essential for society’s functioning, including medical staff, transport workers, and social care workers—during COVID-19. Focusing on UK women’s magazines as an important genre regulating femininity, we analyze representations of female keyworkers during the pandemic’s first six months, demonstrating how these depictions and the construction of keyworkers’ femininity gesture toward “care justice” while simultaneously buttressing sentimentalized “care gratitude.” “Care justice” is articulated through a focus on women’s ordinariness, collectivity, and the voicing of critique regarding working conditions and the urgent need to invest in care infrastructure. “Care gratitude” is promoted through the magazines’ celebration of “heroic” keyworkers who are overwhelmingly young, able, employed, resilient, and caring, reinforcing heteronormative femininity. Women’s magazines thus constitute a mediated site where both the possibilities and the limitations of the recent media visibility of care work and those performing it are illuminated.


women’s magazines, COVID-19, women keyworkers, femininity, care gratitude, care justice

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