Postfeminism: Cultural Texts and Theories

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In recent years, a number of writers have explored neo-liberalism and have shown that it has shifted from being a political or economic rationality to a mode of governmentality that operates across a range of social spheres see for example Brown, ; Genz, ; Van Bauwel, Post feminism can be situated within, and is closely related to, neo-liberal ideologies and shares the same late-capitalist values. It is not simply a response to feminism but also a sensibility partly constituted through the pervasiveness of neo-liberal thoughts.

First, both appear to be structured by the current increase of individualism that has invaded major parts of the social or the political, and that has pushed any idea of the individual as subject to pressures, constraints or influence outside themselves, to the margins. Second, the entrepreneurial, independent, calculating, self-governing subjects of neo-liberalism bear a strong resemblance to the dynamic, freely choosing, self-reinventing subjects of post feminism.

Third, the synergy is even more significant in popular cultural discourses where women are called upon to exercise to self-management and self-discipline, to a much greater extent than men Gill, This call for self-management is articulated in post feminist popular cultural texts such as reality make-over television shows e. Post feminism is thus embedded within a neo-liberal context and located in post modern popular culture.


In this context Genz concludes that post feminism is a politically impure practice, which is at odds with other, particularly feminist, strategies of resistance because of its paradoxical engagements in consumer society as well as in theorist debates on anti-essentialism and difference. Can post feminism offer a critique? And if so, what is the object of critique and how is this articulated within popular culture and in particular popular television discourses?

In the light of this short essay, I will only touch upon certain critical aspects of post feminist discourses acknowledging that more and different kinds of critical potential can be discovered. First, I will take a closer look at post feminism as a critique on second wave feminism. Second, I will elaborate on its paradoxical critique on neo-liberal society, keeping in mind the interrelatedness between political and critical potentials.

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Post feminism, like post modernism, offers a critique on these modernist, enlightened models. Post feminism pleads that every woman must recognise her own personal mix of identities. This claim contradicts the universal identity that was often promoted by feminists and that fits within a neo-liberal individualistic society with its emphasis on flexibility. In popular culture, this stance against binary thinking is articulated by for instance the increased attention for themes as androgyny, queerness, ….

They focus on themes as sexual transmittable diseases, sexual abuse and sexual objectification of women in media discourse. For example Andrea Dworkin , a radical feminist, pointed to the effects of pornography on the increased number of rapes. This becomes very salient in popular discourse as a marked sexualisation of culture arises. For example in magazines aimed at young women, sex is discussed through a vocabulary of youthful pleasure-seeking indicating a blurring of boundaries between pornography and other genres , and sex is constructed as something requiring constant attention, discipline, self-surveillance and emotional labour Gill, Linked to this changed representation is the shift from sexual objectification to sexual subjectification, from a focus on a powerful male gaze to a self-regulating narcissistic individualistic gaze.

Here again, the political and the critical cannot be separated as the demand for more female sexual freedom is linked with the critique on the early and rigid conceptualisations of female sexuality.

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Central to second wave thought is the idea that femininity and feminism are oppositional, mutually exclusive and that the adoption of one of these identities feminine or feminist can only be achieved at the expense of the other. Post feminism critiques these body politics and re-evaluates the tension that existed between feminism and femininity, establishing a link between previously opposed alternatives, carving out a new subjective space for women, allowing them to be feminine and feminist at the same time without losing their integrity or being relegated to the position of passive dupes Genz, The conventional manners of articulating femininity — such as lipstick, high heels or glamour — do not conflict with female power anymore.

We can even say that one of the most striking aspects of post feminist media culture is its preoccupation with the body which implies a huge contradiction with earlier representational practices.

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It appears that femininity is defined as a bodily property rather than a social, structural of psychological one. Although embedded in neo-liberal society, proclaiming individualistic, late-capitalist consumerist values, post feminist discourse can paradoxically enough be considered as a form of non-hegemonic resistance against neo-liberalism and its values. Consumer culture for instance, is an essential element within the post feminist tradition.

Consumption within a neo-liberal context is a tool to achieve power and pleasure, an alternative route for self-esteem; women construct their identity and receive societal appreciation through consumption Featherstone, The emphasis on consumption has often been criticized by second-wave feminists, defining consumers as victims of commodification.

Post feminist media texts always imply a hint of irony, a wink of the eye to the audience. That is why reception analysis is necessary to establish whether readings against the grain of the media text are actually made in practice and how they are made.

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  • Because of the overall academic attention for the political aspect of post feminism, this essay questions whether post feminism also comprises a critical potential. But not only second wave feminism is critically assessed. Although fully rooted within the consumer culture of neo-liberal societies, post feminism also critiques its hegemonic values.

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    • In popular culture, the post feminist critique on neo-liberalism is predominantly articulated through humour, irony and overemphasising. Although critical resistance can be found within post feminist discourse, care in interpreting them remains necessary, as the critical aspect in post feminism is weakened by the fact that many divergent and contradictory meanings are attached to the concept. In the end, post feminism is not an exclusive signifying practice.

      Therefore, the political and the critical potential of post feminist discourses have to be seen as interrelated. Brooks, A. Payment Methods accepted by seller. Items related to Postfeminism : Cultural Texts and Theories. Home Stephanie Genz and Benjamin A. Brabon Postfeminism : Cultural Texts and Theories. Stock Image.

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      Published by Rawat, Save for Later. About this Item Contents Acknowledgements Introduction Postfeminist Contexts1 Backlash and New traditionalism 2 New Feminism Victim vs Power 3 Girl power and chick lit 4 Do-me feminism and Raunch culture 5 Postmodern post Feminism 6 Queer post Feminism 7 Men and Postfeminism 8 Cyber-Postfeminism 9 Third Wave Feminism 10 Micro-Politics and enterprise culture Bibliography IndexThis book is the first introductory text on postfeminism It provides an indispensable guide that both surveys and critically positions the main issues theories and contemporary debates surrounding the term The book analyses postfeminism?

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