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Postfeminism or post-feminism is a reaction against some perceived 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. Post-feminism is the next stage in progress towards society/culture free from the gender binary. A postfeminist is a person who believes in, promotes, or embodies any of various ideologies springing from the feminism of the 1970s. Post feminism can be considered as a critique on what is called ‘second wave feminism’. Post feminism critiques especially second wave’s binary thinking and essentialism, its vision on sexuality and its perception of the relationship between femininity and feminism. Post feminism, also links with post structuralism and post colonialism, often referred to as ‘women of color feminism’ (e.g. Hooks, 1996; Spivak, 1999), not only critiques the modernist aspect of second wave feminism, but also challenges imperialist and patriarchal frameworks. Traditional feminism perpetuates the idea of women as victims, while post feminism concentrates on idea of empowerment and liberation. Emphasis on choices and freedom of choice.

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]

Post feminism encourages women to define femininity for themselves. Post feminism deals with issues meant to limit or oppress women. Post feminism seeks to break down gender roles and stereotypes. Oppression comes from defining gender roles.

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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The Student

The Student
Tue, 24 Nov 2015 18:26:15 -0800

However, postfeminism does not unfortunately relieve any chances of the creation an antifeminist. What Fielding has actually created is an ultimately pathetic and highly dependent character. Indeed, Bridget is a character whose life is dictated by ...

Indie Wire (blog)

Indie Wire (blog)
Tue, 21 Jul 2015 09:13:50 -0700

Buzzfeed's Anne Helen Peterson argues that "Trainwreck" is Schumer's subtle screed against the insidious dangers of postfeminism. What distinguishes "Trainwreck" from other postfeminist dystopias, then, is the way that it offers Amy a narrative path ...

Daily Caller

Daily Caller
Tue, 10 Nov 2015 12:26:15 -0800

“Fifty Shades of postfeminism: Contextualizing readers' reflections on the erotic romance series. In E. Levine (ed.) Feeling Feminine: Popular Culture for Women in the Early 21st Century.” Sadly, this book chapter has not yet been published, so the ...

Power Line (blog)

Power Line (blog)
Wed, 11 Nov 2015 17:41:15 -0800

Fifty Shades of postfeminism: Contextualizing readers' reflections on the erotic romance series. In E. Levine (ed.) Feeling Feminine: Popular Culture for Women in the Early 21st Century. Click, M. A. , Aubrey, J.S., & Behm-Morawitz, E. (2010 ...

The Stage

The Stage
Fri, 13 Nov 2015 07:56:59 -0800

The list of writers who've had work staged here over the years is impressive by any standards: Alice Birch, David Eldridge, Samantha Ellis – whose short Postfeminism remains one of my favourite Miniaturists to date – Joel Horwood, Anna Jordan, Duncan ...

Patheos (blog)

Patheos (blog)
Tue, 02 Sep 2014 09:36:14 -0700

In his newest book, postChristian, fellow Patheos blogger Christian Piatt takes up some important questions about Christianity in the 21st century: Because Christianity “is not what it should be, what it claims to be,” Piatt asks: What's left? Can we ...

Death and Taxes

Death and Taxes
Fri, 10 Dec 2010 14:56:42 -0800

Is anything more ridiculous than the idea that there is a safe, private place for which women are encouraged to talk anonymously about their feelings? Yes—the fact that this place is to be found on the internet, the most public place ever. Founded by ...


Thu, 30 Jul 2015 19:37:30 -0700

I'd say that Swift embodies postfeminism par excellence due to the contradictory nature of the popular brand of feminism she adopts. Swift's (post)feminism incorporates the legitimate feminist goal of women's solidarity but then rejects engagement with ...

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