Tuesday, March 8, 2016

Core Post #3: Feminism Beyond The Brand

One of the strange issues I think at stake this week is the relationship between social issues and capitalist markets. If we return to the original Gitlin-Newcomb/Hirsch debate, it was between a networked system of markets that will inevitably reproduce dominant ideological strains and pockets of resistance that open up avenues of discussion. But now as Butler writes, postfeminism only “requires [] that women ‘be who they want to be’—just as long as it is not a feminist” (44), arguing for it as essentially a neoliberal attitude. Most importantly, it “constructs women as both subjects and consumers, elevating consumption as an individualistic mechanism of empowerment and effectively commodifying feminist activism” (45). So now we can have shows like 30 Rock, Parks & Rec, Sex and the City, Inside Amy Schumer, or just choose any 10 best shows of the year, which can brand themselves under feminist to be consumed. Which is to say, the subversive ideology does eventually grow, but it gets subsumed into the dominant one.

This brings us back to Gitlin though, because as both Butler and Banet-Weiser argue, postfeminism has been defined by its very lack of political engagement as much as its #brand (and their lack of intersectionality). Newcomb/Hirsch saw the potential of television to be a discussion market that would slowly pervade, but if the ultimate result is once again a capitalist market, is there not an inherent problem with the practices? Or do today’s shows, despite their postfeminist appeal on the surface, then allow for the possibility of the pocket of discussion?

The real question missing from all of this is what would (or could) an alternative market look like. We’ve discussion BeyoncĂ©’s “Formation” during a few sessions, in which an artist despite being at the literal top of a capitalist market, uses her power to promote an intersectional feminism. Of course, getting there requires two decades of work that did not necessarily contradict those issues, but certainly was not actively and openly espousing them. But I think a question more essentially is how does one develop and sustain an alternative market that could challenge dominant markets. Would we call Netflix an alternative market? (Which produced an often-cited intersectional show like Orange is the New Black, though an Adam Sandler film still dominates the market). Is it enough for ideas to simply percolate before becoming a #brand? I’m not really sure on any of these topics and curious to hear what people think.

1 comment:

  1. I think you raise an important point here, Peter. Ultimately we're frequently arguing over who controls what and the notion of postfeminism, which might well have been internalized to such a degree that most don't realize what it is when they encounter it, is just a nice way of selling traditional white male hegemony. Comedy Central, which makes Inside Amy Schumer and Broad City, is feathering Sumner Redstone's nest (as he's days away from the grave... and there are all sorts of gender role issues going on there with his ex-wife, his daughter from his first marriage, and his head consiglieri Philippe Dauman), Parks and Rec and 30 Rock help Brian Roberts at Comcast. Granted there are lots of women in the middle, and many of the shows (especially on Comedy Central) are co-produced by the women who write and star in them. Still, if post-feminism de-politicizes everything and shows like Sex and the City revolve around a consumerist lifestyle that exploits frequently subaltern labor around the globe (though Carrie Bradshaw would kill you if you said her Manolos were made anywhere outside of an artisanal workshop in Italy), isn't there a seriously negative, non-empowering element at work? Just because you talk about sex as you buy stuff doesn't make your actions apolitical.