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Postfeminism or post-feminism is a reaction against some contradictions and absences of third-wave feminism. The term postfeminism is sometimes called "4th wave-feminism" as it focuses on smaller problems on the grounds of equality to men. It was historically used and sometimes is used today to pose a contrast with a prevailing or preceding feminism.

History of the term[edit]

Postfeminism describes a range of viewpoints reacting to feminism.

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,'" and that "their stance [is called] 'post-feminist.'"[1]

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.[2]

The term was used 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.[3] Other postfeminists say that feminism is no longer relevant to today's society.[4] Amelia Jones has written that the postfeminist texts which emerged in the 1980s and 1990s portrayed second-wave feminism as a monolithic entity and were overly generalizing in their criticism.[5]

Characteristics of Postfeminism[edit]

It was in the early part of the 1980s 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."[6]

Susan Faludi, in 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.[7]

Angela McRobbie argues that adding the prefix post- to feminism undermines the strides that feminism has made in achieving equality for everyone, including women. Postfeminism gives the impression that equality has been achieved and that feminists can now focus on something else entirely. McRobbie believes that postfeminism 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.[8]

In an article on print jewelry advertisements in Singapore, Michelle Lazar analyses how the construction of ‘postfeminist’ femininity has given rise to a neo-liberal hybrid "pronounced sense of self or ‘I-dentity’." She states that the increasing number of female wage earners has led to advertisers updating their image of women but that "through this hybrid postfeminist I-dentity, advertisers have found a way to reinstall a new normativity that coexists with the status quo."[9]

According to Prof. D. Diane Davis, postfeminism wants what first- and second-wave feminisms want.[10]

Examples of Postfeminist work[edit]

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. 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.[11] These descriptions and her other work have caused Hoff Sommers to be described as an antifeminist by some other feminists.[12][13]

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.[14][15]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cott, Nancy F., The Grounding of Modern Feminism (New Haven: Yale Univ. Press, [2d printing?] pbk 1987 (ISBN 0-300-04228-0)) (cloth ISBN 0-300-03892-5), p. 282 (author prof. American studies & history, Yale Univ.) (book is largely on U.S. feminism in 1910s–1920s) (n. 23 (at end) omitted) (n. 23 (in full): "23. Judy 1:1 (Jun. 1919); 2:3 (1919), n.p., SL." ("SL" in small capitals & abbreviating "The Arthur and Elizabeth Schlesinger Library on the History of Women in America, Radcliffe College, Cambridge, Massachusetts", per id., p. 285 (Abbreviations Used in Notes (Libraries)))).
  2. ^ Rosen, Ruth. The World Split Open: How the Modern Women's Movement Changed America. New York: Viking, 2000, 275, 337.
  3. ^ Wright, Elizabeth, Lacan and Postfeminism (Icon Books, 2000), ISBN 978-1-84046-182-4
  4. ^ Modleski, Tania. Feminism without Women: Culture and Criticism in a "Postfeminist" Age. New York: Routledge, 1991, 3.
  5. ^ Jones, Amelia. "Postfeminism, Feminist Pleasures, and Embodied Theories of Art," New Feminist Criticism: Art, Identity, Action, Eds. Joana Frueh, Cassandra L. Langer and Arlene Raven. New York: HarperCollins, 1994. 16–41, 20.
  6. ^ Aronson, Pamela (2003). "Feminists or "Postfeminists"?: Young Women's Attitudes toward Feminism and Gender Relations". Gender and Society 17 (6): 903–22. doi:10.1177/0891243203257145. 
  7. ^ Faludi, Susan, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women (Three Rivers Press, 2006)
  8. ^ McRobbie, Angela (2004). "Post‐feminism and popular culture". Feminist Media Studies (Taylor and Francis) 4 (3): 255–264. doi:10.1080/1468077042000309937. 
  9. ^ Lazar, Michelle (2014). "Recuperating feminism, reclaiming femininity: Hybrid postfeminist I-dentity in consumer advertisements". Gender and Language (Equinox) 8 (2): 205–224. doi:10.1558/genl.v8i2.205. 
  10. ^ Davis, Debra Diane, Breaking Up [at] Totality: A Rhetoric of Laughter (Carbondale: Southern Ill. Univ. Press, 2000 (ISBN 0-8093-2228-5)), p. 141 n. 8 (brackets in title so in original) (author asst. prof. rhetoric, Univ. of Iowa).
  11. ^ Hoff Sommers, Christina, Who Stole Feminism? How Women Have Betrayed Women (Touchstone/Simon & Schuster, 1995)
  12. ^ Flood, Michael (7 July 2004). "Backlash: Angry men's movements", in Stacey Elin Rossi, ed.: The Battle and Backlash Rage On. N.p.: XLibris, 273. ISBN 1-4134-5934-X
  13. ^ "Uncovering the Right—Female Anti-Feminism for Fame and Profit". Archived from the original on 2007-12-15. Retrieved 2007-12-21. 
  14. ^ Pollitt, Katha, Reasonable Creatures: Essays on Women and Feminism (Vintage, 1995) ISBN 978-0-679-76278-2
  15. ^ Strossen, Nadine, Defending Pornography: Free Speech, Sex, and the Fight for Women's Rights (Prentice Hall & IBD, 1995), ISBN 978-0-684-19749-4

Further reading[edit]

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