ideas for change · skeptical feminist · women

Guest Post: ‘You, I, Me, We’: Re-Fashioning ‘Post’-Feminism?

I recently read Kate Bernheimer’s “This Rapturous Form,” which recollects a quote from Angela Carter’s Introduction to the Virago Book of Fairy Tales, “Sisters under the skin we might be,” writes Carter, “but that doesn’t mean we’ve got much in common (79).” Carter’s statement lingered and lingers with me.

I want to begin this post by recollecting the ways we recognize the differance between women. Specifically I am thinking of the various discussions and methods within feminisms that show us differance and also the work required to recognize the differences between women. But just as Carter’s statement echoes in my mind, so too does the oft-bandied and rarely unpacked “post-feminism.” What cultural work does post-feminism do? Sisters under the skin we might be but where is the connective tissue today?

In “The Other F-Word: The Disappearance of Feminism from Our Fiction,” Nicole Dixon writes that the point of the third-wave movement is “varied inclusivity” and a “refusal to set a definition” (Notes & Queries): we are different and that’s it? The current position of ‘post-feminism’ does not resonate with me especially because it is based on a lack or a refusal to engage, and so work through limitations. I often use feminist theory as a method for working against the grain of text, master narratives, and persistent ideological frames to perceive what is on the margins or receding; however, I do not often engage post-feminism as theory due to its absent-presence.

So, what kind of discussion might arise if hook & eye proposed a conversation (on-going or not) regarding the work feminisms does now inside and outside the academy, and, specifically, that of post-feminism.

Firstly, what does “post-feminism” mean to you, readers? How does the concept or claim of “post-feminism” negotiate or add to feminisms in the academy? Although some of the above questions might seem wide-ranging or open-ended, I find feminisms wide-ranging and open, but I am not entirely sure about post-feminism. I am open to convincing rhetoric and more so, convincing ideas about post-feminism. However, I resent the term “post-feminism.” I resent using the term in my critical work so I rarely do. I do not use the term in my classes because rather than open class discussion I find the term requires so much explanation (A. “No, feminism is not dead.” B. “Yes, the ‘Post’ does signal after, but…etc., C. “No, we cannot conflate Post-feminism with Post-Modernism…”etc.,) that any argument, ideas, discussion, and/or questions about feminisms becomes lost in the ‘post’ rhetoric. So, I sort of pretend that post-feminism is a capitalistic maneuver due to socio-economic turn. Or, post-feminism is a form that might, with some transformation, begin another kind of conversation, another kind of cultural work. If we could only begin discussing something other than its name, post-haste.

The questions that I am interested in pursuing are as follows:

-Does feminisms require a definition? Re-definition? Refer to “What’s Political about the New Feminism?” What about Feminist theory? Can a theory operate without definitions, margins, or a desire to engage?

-Why the post? Why do ‘we’ entertain, negotiate, and persist with post? (I know this is more complex than the question implies but I think it is a good starting point).

-Do we continue the waves metaphor? Refer to the recent article, “Is it Time to Jump Ship? Historians Rethink the Waves Metaphor” (Spring 2010). Should we coin a new term or just advocate for feminisms if ‘post’ does not resonate? Work?

-What does post-feminism convey to readers, writers, students, women and men now? v How do we position ourselves, especially in the academy, when the ‘F-word’ is deemed passé, nostalgic, retro, etc? I am feminist so I am passé, nostalgic, retro or worse…?

Am I too concerned with semantics? I do not think so. What’s in a name, after all, often says it all especially when it affects/effects cultural thought and action.

-Carmen Derksen
PhD Student