Roberts, M. 2007. The Fashion Police: Governing the Self in What Not to Wear.

Roberts, Martin. 2007. “The Fashion Police: Governing the Self in What Not to Wear.” Pp. 227-248 in Interrogating Postfeminism: Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture, edited by Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Privatization and corporatization of television prompts controlled media encouraging consumption, neoliberalism, “individualism” – positing itself as a service – offering advice, information, innovations, goods. Women recognized from the start of television marketing as key audience, due to stronghold of consumption.

“If feminism has historically aligned itself with the Marxist critique of consumer society, elaborating a critique both of the commodification of women themselves and of models of femininity inseparable from mass consumption (fashion, cosmetics, etc.), the discourse of postfeminism has proceeded to stand this critique on its head, articulating a model of feminine identity unthinkable outside consumption and constructing a logic in which ‘empowerment’ –perhaps the central tenet of postfeminist ideology – is shown as dependent on self-confidence and sexual attractiveness, which in turn depend on the services of the fashion and beauty industries – all of which, needless to say, must be purchased” (229).

  • Presumption of ability to consume — to afford to obscure flaws and purchase items that enhance natural assets relies upon class assumptions
  • The surveillance and insistence upon changing the behaviors/stylings/ “authentic self” of the “fashion criminal” alludes to rehabilitation – instituting a new set of practices that enhance self-esteem and sexiness. “The supposedly more authentic self, however bears the unmistakable hallmark of the postfeminist, consumer-oriented self. It is, above all, a sexier self in which sexual attractiveness has been magically transformed from an oppressive imperative of the patriarchy into a source of power over it, a brave new postfeminist self requiring continual self-monitoring and investment in salons and spas, fashion stores, and regular visits to the gym” (237).
  • “The narrative here elaborates a recognizably postfeminist ideology of female emancipation through embracing bourgeois gender identities and the consumer culture that goes with them in contrast to the feminist rejection of them” (244) – as a way of “turning themselves” into powerful classed individuals, gaining access/benefits?

*** Ask Grace to look further into “governmentality.”


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