“Greedy but harmless”: Consuming gender embodiment through online eating shows


This study explores how women’s bodily and emotional presentations in Taiwan are shaped through online eating shows. I focus specifically on online streamers such as Chien’s Eating, Bella’s Foodie Diary, and Abby Big Eater, which have gained significant attention among Taiwanese audiences but have not yet been explored systematically. These shows are centered on the eating practices of women who manage to keep their bodies fit or even “paper-thin” while consuming large portions of food in front of their audiences. These shows create the online communities that encourage interactions based on an intimate ambiance co-constructed by live streamers and their followers. Drawing on the sociological concepts of mediated intimacy, gender embodiment, and conspicuous consumption, this study asks two main questions: First, how and to what extent is gender embodiment shaped through online eating shows? Second, how do these online cultural fabrications approach and mediate the contradictions between women’s gendered bodies and consumerist aspirations in the context of cultural norms of emotions and femininity?

By analyzing video clips, other relevant images, advertising, interviews, comments, and online interactions, I highlight the intersection between sociological issues of embodiment and emotions within media culture. I show that the increasing popularity of online eating shows is significantly related to women’s anxieties, not only about their bodies but also their capacity to reconcile consumerist activities with their emotional lives. Furthermore, I argue that the live streamers and their followers participate in the mediation of gender relations via online co-presence that creates an intimate ambiance, blurring the borders between producer and consumer, thus mitigating the tensions between consumerism and gender norms in women’s daily lives. These findings provide a particularly interesting context and open up new avenues for studying online popular culture, embodiment, emotions, gender, and consumption.