DiscoverMaterial GirlsAthleisure x Optimization with Anne Helen Petersen
Athleisure x Optimization with Anne Helen Petersen

Athleisure x Optimization with Anne Helen Petersen

Update: 2024-03-191


We're thrilled to be joined by Anne Helen Petersen for this episode about the popularity of athleisure! If you don't already know, Anne Helen Petersen (she/her) is the incredible writer, journalist and recovering academic behind the beloved newsletter Culture Study. She is the host of a brand new podcast of the same name and the author of four books, most recently Out of the Office: The Big Problem and Bigger Promise of Working From Home (co-written with Charlie Warzel) and Can’t Even: How Millennials Became the Burnout Generation.

Together we begin with a history lesson from Hannah about WWII's effect on the fashion industry, particular women's clothing and the rise of spandex. Hannah offers some insight from cultural critic Jia Tolentino and her essay, "Athleisure, barre and kale: the tyranny of the ideal woman." We then move on to some helpful framing from theorist Michelle Foucault, sociologists Daniel Nehring and Anja Röcke, and feminist scholars Julie Brice and Holly Thorpe. We talk neoliberalism, fatphobia, and, of course, our culture's obsession with optimization.

We end with an honest discussion about the role of pop culture analysis in helping us navigate the murky waters of ideology. We loved having Anne on the show and if you like this episode, we recommend heading to for more! Anne joins us for two perks you DO NOT want to miss. And of course, you can find more of Anne's specific, timely and thoughtful writing all over the internet @annehelenpetersen!

You can learn more about the show at and on our instagram at! Want more from us? Check out our website We'll be back in two weeks for another episode, but until then, we mean it — go check out all the other content we have on our Patreon at!


Material Girls is a show that aims to make sense of the zeitgeist through materialist critique* and critical theory! Each episode looks at a unique object of study (something popular now or from back in the day) and over the course of three distinct segments, Hannah and Marcelle apply their academic expertise to the topic at hand.

*Materialist Critique is, at its simplest possible level, a form of cultural critique – that is, scholarly engagement with a cultural text of some kind – that is interested in modes of production, moments of reception, and the historical and ideological contexts for both. Materialist critique is really interested in the question of why a particular cultural work or practice emerged at a particular moment.

Music Credits:

“Shopping Mall”: by Jay Arner and Jessica Delisle ©2020

Used by permission. All rights reserved. As recorded by Auto Syndicate on the album “Bongo Dance”.

Hosted on Acast. See for more information.









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Athleisure x Optimization with Anne Helen Petersen

Athleisure x Optimization with Anne Helen Petersen