Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Group post: Cheny, Christal, Doug, Hui, Lina, Yitong

For White Girls Only? Post-Feminism and the Politics of Inclusion

  1. Jess Butler argues that post-feminism is more complex, more multilayered than it has been theorized in recent history. To propose a more “intersectional approach to post-feminism,” Butler outlines a number of key concepts in the development of post-feminism: sexuality as discursive formation, different (oppositional) movements in feminism, neoliberalism and its influence, and postfeminism as a sensibility which affirms a white, middle-class, heterosexual subject while including/policing identities outside this norm. Butler’s intention is to look at how dominant power structures are reproduced through post-feminism, but also to push the conversation around post-feminism beyond an exclusionary approach. It is through inclusion (via assimilation), she argues, that whiteness and heterosexuality are normalized, but also through inclusion (via visibility) that gender/race hierarchies in the US can be potentially destabilized. Thus, post-feminism always already represents the intersection of gender, race, class, and sexuality, and cultural icons like Nicki Minaj can reveal the ways in which scholarship at this intersection is ripe for exploration.

(1).  “Understanding postfeminism as a sensibility, in Gill’s words, ‘emphasizes the contradictory nature of postfeminist discourses and the entanglement of both feminist and anti-feminist themes within them’.” (44)

Postfeminism is a “collective ambivalence” which cannot be pinned down as one clear ideology but contains contradictory ideologies, being both feminist and anti-feminist. Everyone can be whoever they want to be — individual is empowered; but “just as long as it is not a feminist” — this self empowerment must be done through consumption/commodification rather than political activism.

(2). “Clearly, the versatility of postfeminism functions as a double-edged sword with regard to women of color: on the one hand, it allows nonwhite women to participate in its deployment and enjoy its rewards, albeit in narrowly circumscribed ways; on the other, it works to conceal the underlying power relations that reproduce hegemonic ideas about race, gender, sexuality, and class.” (39-40)

Sex and sexuality are understood as individual rights. Sexual freedom promoted by postfeminism conceals the unequal power relations the in the mainstream heterosexual system. It goes in line of the postfeminist discourse that gender inequality has been accomplished and feminist activism is no longer necessary. Sex/sexuality becomes a token of freedom because it is about deployment of one’s body, but postfeminism conceals the underlying unequal power relations in the disguise of political and economic gender equality, as well as gender freedom. Postfeminism ignores and colludes to reproduce hegemonic ideologies on race, sexuality and class.

(3) “Unchained from political activism, postfeminism constructs gender as a consumer product that women can try on—and take off—as they choose.” (46)

In line with neoliberalism, postfeminism commodifies feminism. In postfeminist discourse, feminism is depoliticized and trivialized as a product; it’s no longer about political activism, but about self-improvement or self-empowerment through consumption. This metaphor delineates the relationship between feminism and individual, and how consumerism becomes the main mechanism of feminism, which foundation is understood as individual freedom (which goes in line with neoliberalism). Postfeminism converts our focus from political activism to the issues of aging, body, fashion, relationship, and desires, and confine self-empowerment within these issues.  


Kardashian family is a celebrity royal family, a white upper-class family who brand themselves as princesses from Armenia. On one hand this is an embrace of their race, on the other this is also commodification of race.

Sundi Sundaram suggests that Kim Kardashian is an “overlooked face of feminism” (see He argues that Kim Kardashian is a new brand of feminism because she has great control over the media empire to showcase her sexuality and power in the way she wants. But as Tracie Egan Morrissey argues in her article, Kardashian are completely contradictory to the feminism agenda, because rather than sending positive, constructive and powerful messages to women, they are commodifying woman insecurities. Their narrow definition of femininity and sexuality has great influence over the public. This goes in line with Butler’s argument on postfeminism’s commodification, and how it promotes self-empowerment through self correction and regulation.  

^ Keeping Up with the Kardashians is a post-feminist media representation which emphasizes and capitalizes upon bodily femininity: The bodies (butts, in particular) of the Kardashian women are both celebrated and sold.

At the same time, if you search ‘Kardashian tutorial’ on Youtube, there are almost 800,000 hits. Butler cites Jennifer Lopez and Nicki Minaj as cultural icons whose ambiguity of appearance has disrupted the “binary logic and essentialism” of black/white race dichotomies in America. To a greater extent than them both, the Kardashian family has demonstrated the possibilities of reshaping idealized norms of race and beauty; however, their trenchant materialistic agenda reinforces the notion

Post-feminism and Popular Culture
                           --- Angela McRobbie


Angela McRobbie defines postfeminism as a new dilemma that not only took the equality achieved by feminism into account, but also abandoned the term feminism. She suggests that postfeminism is a thing of the past and no longer needs to be stressed since it has achieved and transcended the need for equality. She engages with the term to understand the complications of rejecting feminism and the coexistence of both “neo-conservative values in relations to gender, sexuality, and family life with processes of liberalisation in regard to choice and diversity in domestic sexual and kinship relations” -- what she calls double entanglement.

  1. “We would also need to be able to theorise female achievement predicated not on feminism, but on “female individualism,” on success which seems to be based on the invitation to young women by various governments that they might now consider themselves free to compete in education and in work as privileged subjects of the new meritocracy.” (p258)
---Up to this point, McRobbie described the hatred toward the term “feminism”, and how post- feminism should be interpreted as “female individualism” instead.The equality achieved through feminism is assumed, while at the same time, their individual freedom to choose is added on.

2. “We are witness to a hyper-culture of commercial sexuality, one aspect of which is the repudiation of a feminism invoked only to be summarily dismissed… There is quietude and complicity in the manners of generationally specific notions of cool, and more precisely an uncritical relation to dominant commercially produced sexual representations which actively invoke hostility to assumed feminist positions from the past in order to endorse a new regime of sexual meanings based on female consent, equality, participation and pleasure, free of politics.” (p 259-260)

---McRobbie argued that the normalisation women showing their bodies in popular culture are their individual choices. Post feminists are fully aware of the criticism they received from the feminists, and it is their freedom to withhold that critique.

3. “ Young women are, as a result, now ‘disembedded’ from communities where gender roles were fixed. And, as the old structures of social class fade away, and lose their grip in the context of ‘late or second modernity,’ individuals are increasingly called upon to invent their own structures. They must do this internally and individualistically, so that self-monitoring practices replace reliance on set ways and structured pathways. Self-help guides, personal advisors, lifestyle coaches and gurus, and all sorts of self-improvement TV programmes provides the cultural means by which individualism operates as a social process. “ (p260)

McRobbie emphasizes that young women are free to have and act on their own agency because of the loosening of traditional gender structures. There is a focus on individuals to monitor and depend on themselves thereby creating a life no longer based upon fixed roles. The increase of female agency, independence, and power through self motivation and self improvement is positive and empowering, but also gives rise to new fears and anxieties that must be dealt with alone. The weight of self dependency and internal management become so heavy that fears such as not finding a husband/being single are conjured -- returning to the ideas of old traditional roles.

"What's Your Flava?" 
--- Sarah Banet-Weiser

Sarah Banet-Weiser borrows a lot of her ideas about “post-feminism” from McRobbie. She also views it as a kind of anti-feminism that recognizes feminist concerns superficially (ambiguously) only to dismiss them and relegate them to the past. Banet-Weiser does, however, focus more on the commodification of gender and racial identity as an “entry point” to postfeminism, and she describes a “turf war” between Second Wave feminists (who opposed commercialism and the mainstream) with Third Wave feminists (who, in the name of visibility, embrace commodification) that creates a paralysis that allows postfeminism to dominate culture.
“Like race, gender identity is constructed in the present “postfeminist” cultural economy as a “flava ,” a flexible, celebratory identity category that is presented in all its various manifestations as a kind of product one can buy or try on.” (202)
This quote explains the meaning of “the commodification of gender,” which depoliticizes it.
“This move toward focusing on individual empowerment rather than coalition politics or structural change forces consideration of several questions. Once feminism is represented as a commodity in precisely the mainstream it has traditionally challenged, can we still talk about it as political?” (208)
This quote relates to the differences between Second Wave feminism and Third Wave feminism.
”There is, however, no lack of the image of diversity and gender within media culture; images of savvy, urban individuals and empowered girls function as lucrative commodities in the media marketplace.” (216)
This quote gets her point about the result of using media visibility to commodificate gender.”
Always’ 2014 ad is a perfect example of the commodification of feminist concerns; its emotional power- extolling the freedom and empowerment of female identity- builds in a carefully constructs montage, only to climax with the brand product. In its vague inspiration it echoes Sarah Banet-Weiser’s critique of the way post- feminist ideology shies away from a specific political context in order to target a commercial demographic; consumerism as “identity.”

1 comment:

  1. Re: The Kardashians:

    **reinforces the notion that women must be seen, bought and sold--indeed this is their work and livelihood (aside from marrying famous musicians and athletes).