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post feminismthe viewpoint that earlier forms of FEMINISM have been replaced by a new phenomenon. The 1990s, in particular, were often characterised by the media as the post feminist decade; a rejection on the part of many women of the outdated feminism that had dominated the 70s and 80s, and a move beyond the ‘hard-line’ to the more amenable and photogenic ‘girl power’. According to Barrett (2000) post feminism:
- ‘puts the feminine back into women's sense of identity and aspirations’; and
- sometimes incorporates ideas drawn from poststructuralist theory which cut away a good deal of the ‘conceptual ground’ on which earlier forms of feminism were based, including fixed notions of gender difference, ideas of gender equality, middle-class or western notions of feminism (Barrett, 2000).
As Barrett notes, the prefix ‘post’ may refer to either or both that:
- we have moved ‘beyond’; or
- ‘come from’ earlier feminism. Much of the manifest controversy that surrounds feminism/post-feminism hinges on whether (a) or (b) is emphasized. What is clear, however, is that post-feminism often incorporates a critique of previous assumptions about history, the SELF, the social, the political, the TEXT, knowledge and the West.
High profile women associated with post-feminism include Naomi Wolf, Katie Roiphe and Camille Paglia (see Gamble, 1999). All are critical of definitions of women as passive victims of patriarchy; thus they are reluctant to endorse feminist campaigns (such as those against pornography or date rape for example) and keen to generate more flexible discourses of power and subordination. However, this version of post-feminism has been challenged as impossibly utopian, an anti feminist betrayal of women's struggle which, in effect, delivers us back to pre-feminist times. Women are still expected to look slim, ‘feminine’ and eternally youthful while also bringing up the children and succeeding at their highflying career.
An alternative post feminist discourse emerged in the late 1990s. This view aims to extend rather than reject earlier theorizing and is associated with women like Rosi Braidotti, Ann Brooks, Judith BUTLER and Elspeth Probyn. Like the other ‘posts’ of recent years, particularly POSTSTRUCTURALISM, POSTMODERNISM and POST COLONIALISM, post feminism has been characterized as a break with a previous range of oppressive relations. However, Brooks (1997) argues that just as the ‘post’ of post colonialism should not imply colonial relations have been overturned, so post - feminism or post modernism should not be perceived as suggesting that patriarchal or modernist discourses have been superseded. In this view then, post feminism is feminism that has been dispersed into other areas of debate (eco-feminism, CYBERFEMINISM, POSTMODERNISM) as well as a set of debates that continue to engage with patriarchal discourses. In this way, post feminism challenges the hegemonic assumptions of earlier FEMINIST EPISTEMOLOGIES while remaining an important site of political mobilization.