Adriaens, F. 2009. Post-Feminism in Popular Culture: A Potential for Critical Resistance?

Adriaens, Fien. 2009. Post-Feminism in Popular Culture: A Potential for Critical Resistance?” Politics and Culture 4 (November): online.

Post-feminism as contested, yet fundamental – differing definitions by Genz 2006, Lotz 2001, Tasker and Negra 2005 – contradictory, pluralistic, lacks fixed meaning. Requires situation within late-capitalist society framed by consumerism, individualism, post-modernism, decreased institutionalization of politics/activism. Gender issues as both public/private and relevant, but confronted through “ empowerment and independence, individual choice, (sexual) pleasure, consumer culture, fashion, hybridism, humour, and the renewed focus on the female body” (online).

Situated in a series of “posts” – post-structuralism, post-modernism, post-colonialism. Rejection of fixed paradigms of gender, heteronormativity; deconstruction of identity as singular and fixed. However, also seemingly accompanied by neoliberal individualism (neoliberalism shifting from “being a political or economic rationality to a mode of governmentality that operates across a range of social spheres” (online)).

  • Post-feminism as political – as confrontation of third-wave “ difference”
  • Post-feminism casting feminist action and thought as historical
  • Post-feminism as neoconservative backlash against feminism

Gill (2007): PF not only as response to feminism, but an integration of neoliberalism into feminist ideology.

  • Increased focus on agentic individualism; structures as being pressed to the margins of influence
  • Neoliberalistic rationality, independence, and dynamism echoed by agentic and self-creating subjects of PF.
  • Cultural discourses of PF call women to self-manage, self-discipline (“to a much greater extent than men” — kx^ WHY? – see also Gill 2007 – 163-164); evident in popular cultural texts – how to dress, how to design your home, how to model your body.

However, PF discussed within political terms of agency, resistance, counter-hegemonic actions within feminist theory and practice. Paradoxical, according to Genz 2006, due to its rooting in both consumerism as well as anti-essentialism and individual difference.

PF as critique to second-wave feminism – committed to “sameness, equality, universal action, sisterhood and scientific understanding” (online – see also Arneil 1999, Gamble 2001); critique to SWF’s reliance on essentialist binaries and relationships between feminism, femininity,(and kx^ women). Critiques monolithic ideal of woman, femininity – rejects binaries of gender, sexuality. Instead, PF promotes hybridized and multiple identities, relies on women to construct, recognize, and act on own personal set of identities.

“In the process post feminism facilitates a broad-based, pluralistic conception of the application of feminism, and addresses the demands of marginalized, diasporic and colonized cultures for a non-hegemonic feminism capable of giving voice to local, indigenous and post-colonial feminisms” (Murray, 1997: 39). — PF as critique to whiteness, straightness, liberalism, and imperialism?

SWF as having a noted pessimism regarding sexuality – constructing sexuality as fraught with danger/oppression – focusing on themes of sexual abuse and objectification; PF focuses instead on “ the fundamental female right on ‘sexual pleasure and fun’ as a form of critical resistance” (online). Personal choice becomes critical to constructing agentic sexual pleasure and freedom. Gill (2007) notes that sexualization of culture is exemplified by promoting sexual discourses in popular culture, idealizing it as something requiring “constant attention, discipline, self-surveillance, and emotional labor” (online) – response and source of proliferation of sex/sexuality discourses across media forms. Women are cast as “ entrepreneurs” of sexuality – modifying the self and sexual behaviors, becoming responsible for one’s one shift from sexual objectification to sexual subjectification (moving from “a powerful male gaze to a self-regulating narcissistic individualistic gaze” (online)) – as a critique of previous essentialism and rejections of female sexuality. Similar, rejects SWF’s rejection of cosmetics, form-fitting clothing as sources of oppression, patriarchy – instead, these items can be used to articulate powerful femininities and create spaces for subjective self-creation. However, this seems to be paradoxical with the rejection of bodily absolutes — femininity under PF becomes something that is “embodied” – something that can be “practiced” (kx^ through purchasing?)

PF as a source of resistance through use of humor, irony, overemphasis — consumption as a way to achieve power/pleasure, Featherstone 1996 notes that women construct identity and receive social praise through consumption. Critiqued by SWF as commodified feminism — kx^ – if PF is about humor, irony, and overemphasis – does this not presume that you must draw from certain cultural scripts/knowledges to be able to be “in” on the joke?!

“ Post-feminism and post-feminist popular cultural texts are a potential breeding ground for emancipatory discourses (‘the political’) and at the same time extend and stabilise, but also critique and question (‘the critical’), a hegemonic neo-liberal consumer culture” (online).


Arneil, B. (1999) Politics and feminism. Oxford: Blackwell Publishers.

Featherstone, M. (1996) Consumer culture and postmodernism. London: Sage.

Gamble, S. (2001). The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Post feminism. London and New York: Routledge.

Genz, S. (2006) ‘Third Way/ve. The politics of post feminism,’ Feminist Theory, 7(3): 333-353.

Gill, R. (2007) ‘Post feminism Media Culture. Elements of a sensibility,’ European Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2): 147-166.

Lotz, A. (2001) ‘Postfeminist Television Criticism: Rehabilitating Critical Terms and identifying postfeminist attributes,’ Feminist Media Studies, 1(1): 105-121.

Murray, G. (1997) ‘Agonize, Don’t Organize: A Critique of Post feminism,’ Current Sociology, 45: 37-47.

Tasker, Y., Negra, D. (2005) ‘In focus: Post feminism and Contemporary Media Studies,’ Cinema Journal, 44(2): 107-110.


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