Postfeminism

Post-feminism is a reaction against some perceived contradictions and absences of second-wave feminism (a period of feminist activity that first began in the early 1960s in the United States, and eventually spread throughout the Western world). The term post-feminism is ill-defined and is used in inconsistent ways.

However, it generally connotes the belief that feminism has succeeded in its goal of ameliorating sexism, making it fundamentally opposed to the third-wave intention of broadening feminist struggle by focusing on diversity and change.

In 1919 a journal was launched by which ‘female literary radicals’ stated ‘we’re interested in people now—not in men and women,’ that ‘moral, social, economic, and political standards should not have anything to do with sex,’ that it would ‘be pro-woman without being anti-man.’ The term was reappropriated in the 1980s to describe a backlash against second-wave feminism. It is now a label for a wide range of theories that take critical approaches to previous feminist discourses and includes challenges to the second wave’s ideas. Other post-feminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today’s society. Amelia Jones has written that the post-feminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and were overly generalizing in their criticism.

It was in the early part of the 1980’s when teenage women and women in their twenties were labeled by the media as the ‘postfeminist generation.’ After twenty years, the term postfeminist is still used to refer to young women, ‘who are thought to benefit from the women’s movement through expanded access to employment and education and new family arrangements but at the same time do not push for further political change,’ Pamela Aronson, Professor of Sociology, asserts. Postfeminism is a highly debated topic since it implies that feminism is ‘dead’ and ‘because the equality it assumes is largely a myth.’

Angela McRobbie argues that adding the prefix post- to feminism undermines the strides that feminism has made in achieving equality for everyone, including women. Post-feminism gives the impression that equality has been achieved and that feminists can now focus on something else entirely. McRobbie believes that post-feminism is most clearly seen on so-called feminist media products, such as ‘Bridget Jones’s Diary,’ ‘Sex and the City,’ and ‘Ally McBeal.’ Female characters like Bridget Jones and Carrie Bradshaw claim to be liberated and clearly enjoy their sexuality, but what they are constantly searching for is the one man who will make everything worthwhile.

One of the earliest modern uses of the term was in Susan Bolotin’s 1982 article ‘Voices of the Post-Feminist Generation,’ published in ‘New York Times Magazine.’ This article was based on a number of interviews with women who largely agreed with the goals of feminism, but did not identify as feminists. Some contemporary feminists, such as Katha Pollitt or Nadine Strossen, consider feminism to hold simply that ‘women are people.’ Views that separate the sexes rather than unite them are considered by these writers to be sexist rather than feminist.

In her 1994 book Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women, Christina Hoff Sommers considers much of modern academic feminist theory and the feminist movement to be gynocentric and misandrist. She labels this ‘gender feminism’ and proposes ‘equity feminism’—an ideology that aims for full civil and legal equality. She argues that while the feminists she designates as gender feminists advocate preferential treatment and portray women as victims, equity feminism provides a viable alternative form of feminism. These descriptions and her other work have caused Hoff Sommers to be described as an antifeminist by some other feminists.

Susan Faludi, in the 2006 edition of her 1991 book ‘Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women,’ argues that a backlash against second wave feminism in the 1980s has successfully re-defined feminism through its terms. She argues that it constructed the women’s liberation movement as the source of many of the problems alleged to be plaguing women in the late 1980s. She also argues that many of these problems are illusory, constructed by the media without reliable evidence. According to her, this type of backlash is a historical trend, recurring when it appears that women have made substantial gains in their efforts to obtain equal rights.

One Comment to “Postfeminism”

  1. It’s a fascinating cdrnuonum this. I am committed to reasonable feminist ideals and regard myself as much a feminist as a male can be. I am committed to equality and the sharing of respect and trust. I abhor violence against women and the all too pervaisive climate of fear in which many women need to lead their lives. Yet, the over-zealous femmes who want to right the wrongs by use of the same mental attitudes they rail against really harm the cause. I can certainly understand their anger and sympathise with their frustration but recognise that their approach is not going to solve this most fundamental and complex of issues.

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