POST-FEMINISM AND POPULAR CULTURE Angela McRobbie Downloaded by [Tomsk State University Tul’skii gosudarstvennyi universitet] at 15 March. KEYWORDS girl power, individualism, popular feminism, postfeminism . Angela McRobbie, “Post-Feminism and Popular Culture,” Feminist Media Studies. Post-Feminism and Beyond Angela Mcrobbie . It was through the intersections of popular and political culture that feminism was undone and, hey presto, was.

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On this site we use cookies to aid your use of our service and for statistical purposes. Remember that you can manage the cookies yourself by changing the settings on your browser. From the late s, my attention, as a feminist sociologist, kept being drawn to media images which were intended to provoke some imagined group of always humourless feminists.

These images appeared, in a celebratory fashion, to reverse the clock, turning it back to some earlier pre-feminist moment, while at the same time doing so in a rather tongue-in-cheek kind of way. The prevailing use of irony seemed to exonerate the culprits from the crime of offending against what was caricatured as a kind of extreme, and usually man-hating feminism, while at the same time acknowledging that other, more acceptable, forms of feminism, had by now entered into the realms of common sense and were broadly acceptable.

Thank goodness, the image seemed to suggest, we can now, once again, enjoy looking at the bodies of beautiful women with impunity. So skilful with the use of postmodern irony was the image, that it also sought to produce a kind of generational divide, the younger female viewer is not made angry, unlike her older counterpart.

She appreciates the multiple layers of meaning and she gets the joke. Since then this new kind of sophisticated anti-feminism has become a recurring feature across the landscape of both popular and also political culture.

Its distinctive feature is that it upholds the principles of gender equality, while denigrating the figure of the feminist. I have referred to this phenomenon as a form of symbolic power which can be understood as post-feminist. There is a double entanglement, across the socio-political universe as feminism is taken into account, in order that it can be understood as having passed away.

What once may have had some role to play on the historical stage, is now no longer needed. Feminism is associated with the past and with old and unglamorous women Germaine Greer in the UK, Alice Schwartzer in Germany and this encourages a dis-identification with feminism on the part of young women.

Indeed it is a mark of their cultural intelligibility as young women that they renounce or disavow the need for a new sexual politics. To this extent young women have been expected to become both quiet and quiescent. We might ponder how and why this has happened.

It would be possible to extend their argument to include some of the critiques provided by second-wave feminism. Fraser sees unwitting collusion on the part of feminism here which, she argues, not uncontroversially, had by the time at which neoliberalism was on the ascendant, subordinated or suspended? Like myself Fraser recognises that western feminism, in a popular vein, had entered into everyday life especially around a set of values which appeared to challenge and contest visible inequalities and injustices.

However apart from implicitly castigating the so-called cultural feminists with whom she has already been in critical dialogue, especially Judith Butler, Fraser underplays the way in which capitalism sought to undo feminism. There is nothing in her argument which documents the sustained attack on feminism and feminists which is also a defining feature of neoliberalism. She makes it sound as though there was simply a convergence even a seemingly fortuitous liaison. The world of media imagery and the politics of meaning are deeply and inextricably connected to and part of the wider political economy.

It was through the intersections of popular and political culture that feminism was undone and, hey presto, was instead replaced by a prevailing, even triumphant, discourse of female individualism informed by a veneer of feminist principles and buzz words such as female empowerment or A1 girls etc which could then quite easily be set cultue work as part of an emerging new capitalist or neo-liberal agenda, this time directly addressed to, indeed cultue for, young women.


The feminist movement did indeed force open the gates to employment and wage earning capacity for women across the boundaries of class and ethnicity as never before in recent history. The work of the Operaismo writers would presumably make a similar case for women though they pay little or no attention to gender in their writing. But if we extend their argument it would be possible to suggest that some of the successes of feminism translated into employers and the state being forced here to compromise and grant concessions which had the overall effect of permitting women more protection and security in regards to rights and entitlements and also legitimacy in their move into work and employment.

In each case, though with different inflections, feminism could be seen as having forced some concessionary response on the part of the status quo and the dominant social groups in society or the patriarchy.

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However I am already reading more gender dynamics into this work than are actually present, they are perhaps at best implicit. I would prefer to re-cast this debate about the recent and current status of women in terms of what Foucault famously calls day-to-day governmentality, rather than focus on the meta-structures of capital and labour.

I would make the case that the re-contouring of contemporary young womanhood as having benefited from the struggle for gender equality marks out the horizon of a more profound hegemonic process.

This granting of some degree of freedom or capacity to women, and with this the idea that western women are nowadays liberated from tradition, becomes, at the same time, the means and the measure of a new form of capture or control.

The scale of this undertaking, a re-making of modern young womanhood so as to suggest that feminism has indeed been taken into account, required the active participation of the media and popular culture. Here we run into the problem of how to avoid an analysis which simply focuses, in a rather mechanical way, on the power of the press and media and mcrobvie obligations or not to government, including, in this pkpular, the nominally leftist government of the Blair decade.

This is merely to set one powerful apparatus alongside another, each with an agenda which may or may not coincide. Looked at in this broadly Foucauldian manner we can see the emergence of similar mobilising vocabularies and clusters of expressions and ideas.

The argument I proposed in The Aftermath of Feminism was that within the passage postreminism a new form anglea neo-liberal governmentality, young women came to occupy a key position, indeed they became exemplary subjects McRobbie Those who are exceptions to this rule are somehow abnormal.

There is nothing new about casting the feminist or indeed the lesbian as the arch-villain whose anger and hostility stems from some personal inadequacy. What changes in the new neo-liberal era as popu,ar was embarked upon by the New Labour government was a joining of forces across the media and political life which had the effect of intervening potsfeminism the space where previously feminism may have done its work, and substituting, in a pre-emptive manner, so that young women in particular become the object of intense attention.

While such an event may be interpreted as supportive and positive we need to dig deeper below the surface to understand what could be at stake in this kind of concern for young women and their body anxiety?

Under this new gender regime the subjectivities of young women are defined and described in a repetitive manner in popular and political discourses along the lines of female individualisation. This permits a replacement for feminism through stressing not collectivity or the concerns of women per se, but rather competition, ambition, the meritocracy, self-help, and the rise of the Alpha Girl much loved by the Daily Cu,ture. This activity on the part of government, designed to give a bigger place to consumer culture in the politics of everyday life, marked out poular just a recognition of the power of media and popular culture to forge a world of cohesive values culturf also a neo-liberal strategy of offloading the work of government into a more self-regulating terrain whereby the market is given more leeway to shape the needs of the population, in this case young women.

Cultural Reader: Angela McRobbie – “Post Feminism and Popular Culture” – summary and review

Then, when things go a bit too far government will step back in to pull the free market forces back into line. This could be seen in recent months on the public debate this time undertaken by David Cameron which tackled the subject of the sexualisation of childhood and the ranges of fashion and beauty populaf targeted at small girls often under the age of 5.


My focus of interest in The Aftermath of Feminism was in what I mmcrobbie a new sexual contract. This was a hegemonic process aiming at what Stuart Hall would call a kind of gender settlement regarding the status and identity of young women. They were to be encouraged at achieve in school, at university and in the world of work and in each postfeminissm these spheres they could rightly expect norms of gender equality to prevail. Government would at that time provide supports and incentives to do well, to gain high qualifications and to aim for the financial independence of the monthly salary.

This economic independence marked a shift away from dependence on the male breadwinner model and promised women greater freedom while also ideally taking the burden away from the state following marital breakdown or divorce.

The young woman could also expect as a result of her hard working outlook and capacity also to gain some tangible sexual freedoms in the form of access to leisure culture, to a sex life which need not be tied to marriage and having children, and to a climate where the sexual double standard was to be removed so that the young woman could heartily enjoy sexuality with impunity, indeed she could also now get drunk, and even behave badly within certain limits as Bridget Jones tumbles out of taxis onto the street after a long night in the wine bar.

As long as cultuure did not become a single mother who would be reliant on welfare she could gain access to sexual pleasures which in the past had always been the privilege of men hence the new female market for soft pornography and the growth of so-called porn chic. What was omitted was encouragement to a more active form of political participation. During the Kcrobbie years anfela life was increasingly linked with the pursuit of a narrow professional career in Westminster, best left to those few for whom this was a life-choice.

Let me conclude this update on the question cuoture post-feminism with one final point. Postfemiinsm concerns the UK Coalition government.

There are changes here which suggest the forging of a more explicit conjoining of neo-liberal policies, if not with feminism, then with an idea of modern womanhood. This is a currently emerging phenomenon, hence my tentative tone. And unlike Mrs Thatcher she is no longer absolutely unique and exceptional. She is not alone in the cohort of young women who have emerged within the Conservative Party whose upper middle-class background along with an Oxbridge education makes them exemplars of female capacity.

Across the spectrum of European politics it is the small super-league of polished, professional women who gain prominence from their prestigious jobs.

Post-Feminism and Beyond Angela Mcrobbie – MOCAK

But so far removed are they from ordinary women, especially those now losing their jobs across the angwla sector, that they may as well be film stars or celebrities.

This then is the legacy of post-feminism and female individualisation process, that there are spaces for the top girls to become elite women who may not be completely averse now to calling themselves feminists. Zamknij On this site we use cookies to aid your use of our service and for statistical purposes.

Mobile app Plan your visit to the Museum, check out current events and visit our exhibitions with our Mobile App. Political Culture, Popular Culture and Young Women The scale of this undertaking, a re-making of modern young womanhood so as to suggest that feminism has indeed been taken into account, required the active participation of the media and popular culture.