Wednesday, March 9, 2016

Slam Your Body Down and Wind it All Around: Postfeminism and Dominant Representations of the Female Form

Amalia Charles, Anne Kelly, Lille Formigli, Emma Ben Ayoun, Katherine Robinson

Question 1:
In this week’s readings, each theorist presents a different definition of post-feminism in terms of historical moment, process, and discourse. McRobbie discusses postfeminism as the contemporary moment in time which positions feminism as a completed project with an endpoint. In this context, postfeminism isolates feminism as a past referent, thus objectifying and demonizing it in order to ultimately render it “safe” for current neoliberal postfeminism. Postfeminism is itself trapped in a “double entanglement” - the coexistence of neoconservative values about gender/sexuality/family, and the liberalization of choice and diversity. For McRobbie, postfeminism is a current phenomenon wrapped in concepts of historicity.
By contrast, Banet-Weiser defines postfeminism as a process, rather than a historic moment. To Banet-Weiser, postfeminism transforms and dilutes the ideals of feminism for consumer culture. This seeming inclusion of feminist ideologies – together with racial commodification – actually undoes feminism. As typified by “global citizen” Dora the Explorer, postfeminist, post-racial culture de-politicizes the original goals of feminism and diversity by setting them as ambiguous commodities to be consumed.
Butler rejects both Banet-Weiser and McRobbie’s definitions for being too homogenous in their concepts of postfeminism. Butler states that postfeminism is not one dominant ideology or process, but rather a range of cultural discourses. These discourses have in common a disavowal of politics, attempting to de-politicize and de-historicize feminism. Crucially, Butler sets a contrast between apolitical postfeminism and political (neoliberal) third wave feminism.

Question 2:

Angela McRobbie:

“Broadly I am arguing that for feminism to be ‘taken into account’ it has to be understood
as having already passed away.” (255)
This quote highlights the ways in which feminism has continuously evolved throughout
its history to encompass other ideas, and to understand those shifts to acknowledge the
death of particular types of feminism is important.

“The concept of subjectivity and the means by which cultural forms and interpellations
(or dominant social processes) call women into being, produce them as subjects whilst
ostensibly merely describing them as such, inevitably means that it is a problematically ‘she’ rather than an unproblematically ‘we’ which is indicative of a turn to what we might describe as the emerging politics of post-feminist inquiry.” (256)
This quote discusses the ways in which the female subject is not the author of her own narrative, often reduced to two-dimensional and reductive stereotypes purported by dominant ideology and representations. By reducing women to subject, it removes a larger narrative and discussion of an identity that is not monolithic.

“To count as a girl today appears to require this kind of ritualistic denunciation, which in
turn suggests that one strategy in the disempowering of feminism includes it being
historicised and generationalised and thus easily rendered out of date.” (258)
This quote is talking about the idea of there being a correct type of feminism that all  women must ascribe to in order to be counted as being truly a part of the movement.
This statement highlights the ways in which the feminist community can sometimes be
dividing instead of inclusive, and that perhaps the movement needs to embrace the
different forms of femininity across the spectrum instead of delineating once again what
is and isn’t correct ways to enact empowered womanhood.

Sarah Banet-Weiser:

“Within this particular battlefield, the struggles of the past to represent women and people of color are read through a nostalgic lens as an "old school" kind of politics.”
This quote demonstrates Banet-Weiser’s view of post-feminism and post-racialism as processes which continually undo efforts to accurately and politically represent women and people of color.

“This commercially defined articulation of identity needs to be distinguished from other means of self-construction within the social and political world, but the distinction itself is one that is in flux and continually negotiated. That is, when a media audience is "empowered" by images of race and gender, there is no linear connection to empowering communities. Rather, the connection is based on a notion of agency that is consumer driven and thus has consequences primarily in terms of consumption habits and even specific purchases made.”
Banet-Weiser articulates postfeminism as a process which separates empowerment and identity. Postfeminism commodifies symbols of empowerment, reassociating them with consumer values rather than actual empowerment.

“The current moment is thus characterized by ambivalence rather than specificity, where an ambivalent identity category such as urban or girl power becomes dominant and is the entry point to a commercially defined "postfeminist" or "postracial" society.”
This quote illustrates Banet-Weiser’s view of a postfeminist and postracial society as one which strips individual and specific identity from symbols of empowerment, instead continually creating a culture of ostensibly empowered individuals who are in fact totally ambivalent to their identities beyond their consumption.
Jess Butler:

Butler's sharpest point of divergence from the other two articles is her description of the third wave. She writes: "Ultimately, the third wave is meant to provide women with a comfortable, inclusive—and, I argue, fundamentally neoliberal—space where they can cultivate individual feminist identities without all the strident negativity of “old-school” feminist activism (42)" For Butler, postfeminism and third-wave feminism are both cultural forces within the framework of a neoliberal economy, and the third wave, with its emphasis on plurality and inclusivity, nevertheless situates political empowerment within the imperative towards personal, capital gain.
Following from this, she argues, "Not simply a rejection of prudish, militant mothers, postfeminism also draws on a vocabulary of individual choice and empowerment, offering these to young women as substitutes for more radical feminist political activity" (43). Rather than a 'backlash,' referred to by McRobbie, Butler reads postfeminism as an act of erasure, not just distancing itself from the past that engendered it but undermining and actively drawing over that past. The specific emphasis on the 'positive' is also important for Butler, in that it essentially negates the need for "radical feminist political activity" through its refusal to engage with sites of pain, injustice and failure.
In this pithy quote, Butler outlines the postfeminist as person: "Postfeminists may be lawyers, doctors, and heads of state; they may also be strippers, shoppers, and sorority girls. In short, it appears that the only thing postfeminism requires is that women “be who they want to be”—just as long as it is not a feminist." (44) As we will demonstrate with the clip below, a multiplicity of futures, of possible individual options (all within the dictated confines of a capitalist consumer culture) is predicated upon the eradication of the 'we,' of the collective movement towards political change.


The Spice Girls occupy the typically ambivalent, postfeminist position between 'she' and 'we', embodying so-called individual (archetypal) identities within the space of a collective girlhood. The imperative to 'harmony,' literal and figurative, in a postfeminist, Spice World landscape, constrains and shapes the development of an 'empowered' girl, wherein the disruptive or destructive forces of previous feminisms are foregone in favor of glorifying pre-existing notions of femininity that have existed across pop-culture narratives forever. While it give us a glimpse at potential ideation of feminist inklings, it unfortunately, because it is wrapped within a capitalistic structure, is unable to divorce itself from the power structures it finds itself playing into.The Spice Girls' "flava" is necessarily incorporated, made bland, rendered inert.

The Spice Girls as a group are meant to sell the commodity “Girl Power” Banet-Weiser identifies as a fundamental message of post-feminism. However, their individual archetypes – meant to sell a concept of empowerment through portraying the diverse ways to be female – actually undermines their Girl Power message. Each represents a hypersexualized, de-indivualized concept of femininity: the crazy black girl, the sexy posh girl, the sexy baby girl, the (straight) sexy butch girl, and the redheaded slut. From their song lyrics to their personas, both individually and as a group, the Spice Girls sexualize and commodify the message of feminism, thereby (as Banet-Weiser points out) undoing feminism’s goal.

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