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The Girl in the Mirror

The Psychic Economy of Class in the Discourse of Girlhood Studies

Valerie Hey

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'.

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Mean, Wild, and Alienated

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.

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“I’m No Donna Reed”

Postfeminist Rhetoric in Christian At-Home Daughterhood Texts

Elizabeth Shively

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.

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Sarah Hill

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.

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Transition, Crisis and Nostalgia

Youth Masculinity and Postfeminism in Contemporary Hollywood, an Analysis of Superbad

Victoria Cann and Erica Horton

This article explores the representation of youth masculinity in contemporary Hollywood comedy. By focusing on the intersection of gender and generation, it emphasizes the importance of relationality in a consideration of representations of boyhood. Using Superbad as a case study, this article reveals the nuanced ways in which the crisis of masculinity is represented in popular culture in a postfeminist context. Foregrounding issues of homosociality in coming-of-age narratives, it emphasizes the tensions between generational expectations and performances of gender. Themes of loss and nostalgia are explored through analysis of the juxtaposition of adult and adolescent male characters in Superbad, providing insight into and understanding of the complexities of boyhood. Superbad is contextualized in relation to teen comedy more broadly, highlighting the important cultural space that contemporary Hollywood comedies play in (re)constructing discourses of masculinity.

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Emma Celeste Bedor

Revenge pornography emerged in a flurry moral panic in 2010 when Hunter Moore created the website Is Anyone Up? (isanyoneup.com), where anonymous Internet users submitted nude photos for thousands of unknown purveyors to view. Moore’s endeavor appeared ingenious: What better way could angry exes enact revenge and humiliation on former partners than by displaying their naked photos, against their will and without consent, on a notorious website? The site’s “spirit of retaliation,” apparent from an anthem whose lyrics consisted of “Cheated on me and broke my heart / Gonna show the world your private parts” lives on due to the emergence of other revenge pornography sites, despite the fact that isanyoneup.com was disbanded and Moore recently arrested. Using a critical theoretical framework, this article illustrates that victims of revenge pornography are emblematic of post-feminist and neoliberal hostilities. As such, this article contends that revenge pornography is about revenge and humiliation, not sex.

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Naughtiest Girls, Go Girls, and Glitterbombs

Exploding Schoolgirl Fictions

Lucinda McKnight

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.

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Aiyana Altrows

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.

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Queering masculinity

Re-Theorising Contemporary Tomboyism in the Schizoid Space of Innocent/Heterosexualized Young Femininities

Emma Renold

This article critically explores the seduction of contemporary tomboyism for young tweenage girls within neo-liberal postfeminist times and an increasingly commodified (hetero)sexualised girlhood culture. A central aim of the article is to contextualize the persistence of the tomboy discourse and girls' appropriation of tomboyism within competing schizoid discourses of presumed innocence and compulsory normative (hetero)sexuality. Drawing on past and current predominantly UK based ethnographic research mapping girls' relationship to tomboyism, the first half of the article considers how to theorise girls' fluid appropriation of 'being a bit tomboy' within a discursive terrain of multiple femininities and fashion feminism. The second half of the article revisits a case study of one eleven-year-old self-identified tomboy, Eric/a, to re-think conceptualisations of girls' sustained appropriation of 'tomboy' as more than some licensed mimicry of masculinity when it is taken-up as a performative politics of subverting emphasized (hetero)sexualized femininities. The article concludes with a call for future theorizations of girlhood (for example, tomboyism) that foreground the intersection of gender, sex, sexuality, age and time and their socio-cultural and contextual contingency.

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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.