Selling Synthetic Sisterhood: Legitimation Strategies of Entrepreneurship on MLM Corporate Websites

Heidi E. Huntington, Mary E. Brooks


Digital entrepreneurship is often positioned as a way for women to “have it all.” This is exemplified in the rise of multilevel marketing companies (MLMs) that rely heavily on the Internet to recruit and sell and are often targeted toward women. However, MLMs are often derided as pyramid schemes. This qualitative study aimed to examine how MLMs leverage their websites to rhetorically frame MLMs as legitimate operations. Through the examination and analysis of the visuals and texts of 10 different MLM corporate websites from 2019 to 2022, our results reveal that MLM corporate websites use gendered framing and appeal to entrepreneurism as an important component of their legitimation discourse. Using Van Leeuwen’s legitimation strategies as a framework, we identified six key themes at work in the MLM legitimation rhetoric.


multilevel marketing, corporate websites, entrepreneurship, legitimation discourse, gender

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