In 2010, media outlets began to buzz about a trend among young conservative Christian women—a rise in at-home daughterhood, a practice in which women forgo college and paid work in favor of staying at home and honing their homemaking skills until marriage. These reports suggested that the practice was out to “turn back the clock on gender equality” and declare, “In your face, feminism!” While these accounts frame at-home daughterhood as a rejection of feminism, I suggest that advocates actually employ postfeminist strategies to make the practice palatable to contemporary women. My argument uses critiques of postfeminism to advance historical and sociological debates about the complicated role of feminism in conservative Christianity. Analyzing texts from parenting workshops and promotional materials, I find proponents acknowledge social progress on gender equity issues, but dismiss feminist politics through tactics of humor and depoliticization.
Postfeminist Rhetoric in Christian At-Home Daughterhood Texts
Girls and the State of Feminism in Popular Culture
Deirdre M. Kelly and Shauna Pomerantz
The article explores representations of "realistic" teen girlhood in popular culture in order to examine the current constructions of power made available to girls. Specifically, it focuses on three recent popular and critically acclaimed films: Mean Girls, Thirteen and Ghost World. The dominant discourses put forward in these films—girls as mean, as wild, and as alienated—naturalize negative behavior as a normal part of girlhood. In the terrain where these distinct, yet overlapping and reinforcing discourses on girlhood operate, postfeminism is taken for granted. Girls are portrayed as facing only individual concerns rather than any group-based injustices and, therefore, as not needing collective deliberation, evaluation, or action to solve their problems. The resulting discursive formation works to limit access to feminist and other oppositional discourses that name girls' experiences and link their feelings to the ongoing quest for gender justice.
Recently, the field of girlhood studies has witnessed a growing body of research into girls’ self-representation practices, but disabled girls are largely absent from this work. In this article, I intervene in this area by asserting the need to explore how disabled girls represent themselves online in order to consider the intersections between girlhood and disability. I attempt to move away from discourses of risk that circulate around girls’ digital self-representation practices by demonstrating how these practices provide disabled girls with visibility in a postfeminist mediascape that renders them invisible, and also act as a form of social advocacy and awareness raising. I then explore how disabled girls represent themselves online in a postfeminist cultural landscape through a case study of a severely sight-impaired blogger, looking at how they must be seen as both motivated and motivational.
Exploding Schoolgirl Fictions
In this article I consider the white British and Australian schoolgirl through a notionally comparative study of Enid Blyton’s The Naughtiest Girl in the School (1940–1952) series and the contemporary Go Girl (2005–2012) series, texts spanning my lived experience as girl, mother, and teacher. Through incendiary fragments of memory and media, I, as researcher and writer, seek the girl addressed by these texts and consider the struggles, denials, and ambivalences that produce and are produced by reading the schoolgirl. This girl resists historical determinism, coalescing as contemporaneous past, present, and future as the reader performs her own girlhood through reading and writing. This creative analytical article notices the visual and physical manifestations of texts, as well as their linguistic discourses. Through this work, we perceive postfeminist entanglement in the ongoing re-configuration of the schoolgirl, with implications for policy and practice in education and for cultural and girlhood studies.
Bringing rape stories into popular discussion was a crucial success of the Second Wave Women’s Liberation movement. Popular culture is now inundated with rape stories. However, the repetitive scripts and schemas that dominate these are often informed by neoliberal individualism that is antithetical to feminism. The contradictions that characterize the tensions between feminism and neoliberalism in these texts are typically postfeminist, combining often inconsistent feminist rhetoric with neoliberal ideology. By examining the use of the silent victim script in young adult rape fiction, in this article I argue that most young adult rape fiction presents rape as an individual, pathological defect and a precondition to be managed by girls on an individual basis, rather than an act of violence committed against them.
Sarah E. Whitney
In this article, I consider middle-grade tween literature through a Black Girl Magic framework that creates space and visibility for girls of color in postfeminist America. I read two works of fiction by middle-grade author Sherri Winston through such a lens. By locating girls’ tweenhood as a space of developmental continuity, and by claiming an aesthetic of sparkle, Black Girl Magic readings can re-situate dominant interpretations of the tween literary hero and provide exciting new methods for reading middle-grade fiction.
Possibilities and Implications
Shauna Pomerantz and Rebecca Raby. 2017. Smart Girls: Success, School, and the Myth of Post-Feminism. Oakland, CA: University of California Press.
The Psychic Economy of Class in the Discourse of Girlhood Studies
This article questions Angela McRobbie's recent text The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change because it creates some interesting new vocabulary for understanding late modernity's revised sexual and cultural politics. Whilst acknowledging the sophistication of its cultural studies-inspired argument, I consider some consequences of this reading. If theory also performs as a politics of representation, I ask what happens if, in accounting for post-feminism, the theoretical status of class as an antagonistic relation is diminished. I suggest what gender and education discourses can add to a reading of 'new times'.
The Unfulfilled Possibilities of a Difficult Relationship
Recent pronouncements of the swift and painful death of Marxism, and repeated debates over the demise of feminism, or the meaning of neo-feminism or post-feminism, make the discussion of the relationship between communism and feminism an important one. Given the events of 1989 and the twists and turns of more recent global politics, understanding the history of the past relationships between these two ideologies and movements might help us to determine whether there is still life in these two movements, and whether they can overcome their differences to create a synthesis that is more than the sum of its parts. As an historian I would like to consider these issues by looking at the past and listening to what others have had to say about them. As a feminist I will occasionally insert some of my own ideas and judgements into the discussion.