Archive for the ‘Definitions’ Category

Reinventing Feminism

March 18, 2011

I’m handing out one of my oh-so-prestigious “Feminist of the Week” awards to Courtney Martin, author of a new book called Do it Anyway: The New Generation of Activists, and editor at If you’ve got a spare ten minutes check out this fantastic TED presentation by Courtney Martin called “Reinventing Feminism”.

In her inspiring and entertaining speech (embedded below) she outlines many of the differences between so-called ‘second-‘ and ‘third-wave’ feminism, as well as highlighting their similarities. She also points to the diversity of contemporary feminist activism, as well as the ongoing relevance of feminism in young women’s lives. Excellent stuff.

(Thanks to S. for sharing the video with me!)


I’m banging on about generation

February 18, 2010

Dr Penelope Robinson has a piece published in today’s!!! 😉

To quote:

We must be careful not to oversimplify generational difference, but the concept of “generation” can reveal things about our society, past and present. These media-generated categories of generation have the tendency to pigeonhole individuals according to their year of birth, but they are not meaningless.

Sociologist Karl Mannheim, writing in the first half of the 20th century, gives us some pointers about how to think about the concept of “generation” in a more complex way. He argues that major events and political currents of a period come to shape a group of people of a similar age because they experience those moments at the same stage in their life-course. For example, for Gen Y this might be the September 11 attacks in 2001. For Baby Boomers, perhaps it was the Vietnam War; and for their parents, the Great Depression.

This concept can be extended beyond major socio-political events such as wars and recessions to include other important cultural moments and cultural products such as songs, fashions, films or hairstyles. Certain moments of popular culture become so talked about that they come to define the era. In a sense it doesn’t matter whether we loved or loathed a particular celebrity or film or album. What matters is the way these cultural products resonate with us. They are worth investigating and celebrating because they can reveal much about our shared social history and ourselves.

For the full article: Why do we keep banging on about generation?

more defining…

February 3, 2010

(A snippet from my PhD dissertation)

I consider postfeminism to mean after the height of the women’s liberation movement and the changes in society that it brought about. However, I am not trying to articulate a “style” of feminism. Rather, postfeminism offers a way of thinking through the way feminism has changed, and a way of marking and explaining a particular era – a specific generational moment.

As Joanne Hollows (2006: 104) articulates, today’s women:

“have grown up in conditions that are both shaped by second-wave feminism, and which are also the product of a time that is historically post-second-wave-feminism”. [1]

Avoiding the hyphenation, this is one sense in which I use the term postfeminism. It specifies the current historical moment, making clear the role cultural context plays in shaping a generation, and clarifies the extent to which feminism has impacted the lives of the current generation. The idea of “post” meaning “after” gets around the problem of envisaging it as “death”. It allows room to acknowledge that the young women today have grown up after the height of the second-wave women’s movement, in a cultural context different from their parents, that has been strongly influenced by second wave feminist discourses.

[1] Hollows, Joanne (2006) “Can I Go Home Yet? Feminism, Post-feminism and Domesticity”. In Feminism in Popular Culture, edited by J. Hollows and R. Moseley. Oxford and New York: Berg.

So, what is postfeminism anyway?

January 23, 2010

Postfeminism is a bit of a funny term. It probably has almost as many meanings as feminism does… ie. a lot. Within the feminist literature I have read, definitions tend to fall into two categories:

1) “death of feminism”, “anti-feminism”, “feminism is irrelevant now”
2) the next stage in feminism, or feminism that intersects with other “post-” philosophies/theories, such as postmodernism, poststructuralism and postcolonialism.

Very commonly, postfeminism is understood as meaning “after feminism”. In the popular media it is sometimes used disparagingly, as if feminism is no longer needed. How many more “Is Feminism Dead?” articles do we need to read?!? And politicians love to get in on the feminism-bashing. For example, John Howard, former Prime Minister of Australia once said “We are in the post-feminist stage of the debate”. He reckoned that the feminist battle had been won. Pfft, is all I can say to that. Pfft, Howard, AS IF.

Howard’s use of “post-feminist” is certainly *not* how I understand the term, nor how I intend to use it on this blog. Feminism is not dead. It is very much still needed and very much alive.

But the “after feminism” idea doesn’t have to be seen as a negative. What I like about the idea of postfeminism is that it can help to situate contemporary feminism as a continuation of the long history of the women’s movement.

I use postfeminism in a positive sense. For me it helps make sense of the times we live in. Women and men of my age have grown up after the heights of the “first wave” and “second wave” of the women’s movement and have therefore benefitted from many of the things that feminists fought for in previous generations. (Examples include: women being able to vote and go to university, establishment of things such as rape crisis centres and in Australia, legislation such as the Sexual Discrimination Act. There are many more examples.[1])

There is also a large body of writing and activism that calls itself the “third wave” of feminism. This stage of feminism began in the 1990s and, broadly speaking, it sought to challenge some of second wave feminism’s essentialist view of femininity. It was also responding to media claims that feminism was dead and no longer relevant to young women.

What I don’t like about the “wave” metaphor is that it tends to pit feminists against one another based on their age. Self-proclaimed second wave feminists make claims about how young women aren’t carrying on the feminist baton appropriately. And self-proclaimed third wave feminists make sweeping claims about what second wave feminism represented, without always acknowledging that it was a very diverse and complex stage in the women’s movement.

So, this is where postfeminism comes in. I don’t use postfeminism to describe the “next stage” or “next wave” of feminism. I use it as a way of trying to understand how feminism is constantly shifting and evolving, without resorting to age-based bickering.

I think I’ll leave it there for now. Postfeminism means more than what I’ve briefly outlined here. The generational debates within feminism were the starting point in my dissertation, so I thought it a useful place to start my postfeminist ponderings online.

[1] We must keep in mind that these examples are generally benefits for Western women, and that even between Western nations, there are stark differences in things like legislative changes and the types of feminist debates and activism that occur. The wikipedia links above are very US-focused.

Why postfeminism?

January 17, 2010

Why dedicate a blog to the exploration of a term like postfeminism?

Well, I’m glad you asked. I recently completed my PhD thesis that examined the concept of postfeminism in relation to popular culture, young women’s attitudes to feminism, and the generational debates within feminism. Since I have spent many years investigating these issues, I wanted to create a place where I could continue writing about them – but in a not-so-academic way…A place where I could put forward my thoughts on “postfeminism”, which is, lets face it, a pretty controversial and confusing term.

On this blog I’ll discuss what I think postfeminism means and explore the potential it has for moving feminist debates forward, and for helping us think through issues of gender, equality, difference, culture, politics, and so on. One of my primary research interests is popular culture, so I’ll be talking about postfeminism through things like film, television, music, internet culture, advertising, and more.

Alongside pondering postfeminism, this blog will discuss feminism more generally, as well as other political and cultural theory. I suspect I’ll also include a range of other topics that happen to take my fancy or catch my attention. The luxury of a blog as opposed to a dissertation is that I can go off on tangents whenever I feel like it! I hope you’ll join me on the ride.

Let the pondering begin!