Interrogating Postfeminism

Gender and the Politics of Popular Culture

Interrogating Postfeminism

Console-ing Passions: Television and Cultural Power

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Book Pages: 360 Illustrations: 41 illustrations Published: November 2007

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Film

This timely collection brings feminist critique to bear on contemporary postfeminist mass media culture, analyzing phenomena ranging from action films featuring violent heroines to the “girling” of aging women in productions such as the movie Something’s Gotta Give and the British television series 10 Years Younger. Broadly defined, “postfeminism” encompasses a set of assumptions that feminism has accomplished its goals and is now a thing of the past. It presumes that women are unsatisfied with their (taken for granted) legal and social equality and can find fulfillment only through practices of transformation and empowerment. Postfeminism is defined by class, age, and racial exclusions; it is youth-obsessed and white and middle-class by default. Anchored in consumption as a strategy and leisure as a site for the production of the self, postfeminist mass media assumes that the pleasures and lifestyles with which it is associated are somehow universally shared and, perhaps more significantly, universally accessible.

Essays by feminist film, media, and literature scholars based in the United States and United Kingdom provide an array of perspectives on the social and political implications of postfeminism. Examining magazines, mainstream and independent cinema, popular music, and broadcast genres from primetime drama to reality television, contributors consider how postfeminism informs self-fashioning through makeovers and cosmetic surgery, the “metrosexual” male, the “black chick flick,” and more. Interrogating Postfeminism demonstrates not only the viability of, but also the necessity for, a powerful feminist critique of contemporary popular culture.

Contributors. Sarah Banet-Weiser, Steven Cohan, Lisa Coulthard, Anna Feigenbaum, Suzanne Leonard, Angela McRobbie, Diane Negra, Sarah Projansky, Martin Roberts, Hannah E. Sanders, Kimberly Springer, Yvonne Tasker, Sadie Wearing


Interrogating Postfeminism has overseen a transition in feminist scholarship, where situating consumption-oriented agency in its politico-historical context just might manage to explore the noise that race, class and sexuality introduce into the equation of postfeminism’s undeniable traction in contemporary popular culture.” — Inna Arzumanova, International Journal of Communication

Interrogating Postfeminism, a productive and diverse collection of articles, usefully helps to fill a gap in film and media studies literature. . . . Overall, feminist film and media studies, cultural studies and women’s studies graduate students and scholars should welcome Interrogating Postfeminism. The articles go beyond the expected and open up numerous avenues for further investigation.” — Michele Schreiber, Film Quarterly

“[Interrogating Postfeminism] covers a wide range of texts, and offers analyses that are incisive and politically engaged, emphasising the exclusions of postfeminism and its maintenance of certain vectors of power. . . . [It] offers varied approaches, recognising the complexities of postfeminist culture and the tools required for its analysis,” — Anthea Taylor, Australian Feminist Studies

“[The] collection has a unified, critical perspective but nonetheless acknowledges the pleasures and even the potentially liberating elements within postfeminist culture.” — Elana Levine, Cinema Journal

“All the essays effectively combine specific analysis with general insight, thus offering both depth and breadth as they comment on contemporary culture.” — L. McMillan, Choice

“The essays are written in a clear, politically-engaged style, and cohere well as a group. Collectively, they seek to clarify the term postfeminism and its connection to different waves and factions of feminist politics, and to explore how it can be more effectively used in media analysis. . . . the majority of essays are solid examinations of where postfeminist media analysis might go.” — Becca Cragin, Journal of Gender Studies

“This book is both challenging and rewarding, presenting a rich array of critiques on feminism’s twenty-first century paradoxes and contradictions. In addition to communication, it would serve well as a course reader for other disciplines such as media studies, gender and women’s studies, or film and television studies.” — Ellen W. Gorsevki, Journalism & Mass Communication Quarterly

“This collection suggests that far from living in a clearly delineated post-feminist age, we are instead still in the process of negotiating this term. While literally, post-feminism suggests an era after feminism, and without the need for feminism, these contributors show, in their vast variety of interpretations of the term, that post-feminism is a term that can apply to those women who have benefited from feminism, as well as those who continue to maintain sexist traditional norms. However, all is not lost, as many of these essays suggest there is a blurring of the negative depictions of feminism in the way in which powerful women have come to be taken for granted. Feminism may be a movement that few women today wish to identify with, yet its effect on their lives and choices remains obvious and virtually impossible to deny.” — Evelyn Hartogh, M/C Reviews

“This collection is just what I’ve been looking for: a smart feminist analysis of the curious phenomenon of postfeminism. The editors and contributors provide ample and intelligent criticism of ‘commodity feminism’ and the lies of ‘self-empowerment’ in myriad makeover shows, plastic surgery ads, and female action films, without belittling the power, appeal, and sheer gusto of the myths of empowerment, diversity, and ‘girl power’ in contemporary culture. Interrogating Postfeminism demonstrates that announcements of the ‘death’ of feminism have been premature.” — Pamela Robertson Wojcik, author of Guilty Pleasures: Feminist Camp from Mae West to Madonna

“This is a benchmark text: rich, authoritative, timely. Bringing together work by key authors on most of the significant phenomena and genres of ‘postfeminist’ culture, it will convince readers of the necessity of confronting the term.” — Patricia White, author of Uninvited: Classical Hollywood Cinema and Lesbian Representability


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Yvonne Tasker is a professor of film and television studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Working Girls: Gender and Sexuality in Popular Cinema and Spectacular Bodies: Gender, Genre, and the Action Cinema as well as the editor of Action and Adventure Cinema.

Diane Negra is a professor of film and television studies at the University of East Anglia. She is the author of Off-White Hollywood: American Culture and Ethnic Female Stardom; the editor of The Irish in Us: Irishness, Performativity, and Popular Culture; and a coeditor of A Feminist Reader in Early Cinema, the latter two of which are both also published by Duke University Press.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Acknowledgments vii

Introduction: Feminist Politics and Postfeminist Culture / Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra 1

1. Postfeminism and Popular Culture: Bridget Jones and the New Gender Regime / Angela McRobbie 27

2. Mass Magazine Cover Girls: Some Reflections on Postfeminist Girls and Postfeminism’s Daughters / Sarah Projansky 40

3. Living a Charmed Life: The Magic of Postfeminist Sisterhood / Hannah E. Sanders 73

4. “I Hate My Job, I Hate Everybody Here”: Adultery, Boredom, and the “Working Girl” in Twenty-First Century American Cinema / Suzanne Leonard 100

5. Remapping the Resonances of Riot Grrrl: Feminisms, Postfeminisms, and “Processes” of Punk / Anna Feigenbaum 132

6. Killing Bill: Rethinking Feminism and Film Violence / Lisa Coulthard 153

7. Queer Eye for the Straight Guise: Camp, Posfeminism, and the Fab Five’s Makeovers of Masculinity / Steven Cohan 176

8. What’s Your Flava? Race and Postfeminism in Media Culture / Sarah Banet-Weiser 201

9. The Fashion Police: Governing the Self in What Not to Wear / Martin Roberts 227

10. Divas, Evil Black Bitches, and Bitter Black Women: African American Women in Postfeminist and Post-Civil-Rights Popular Culture / Kimberly Springer 249

11. Subjects of Rejuvenation: Aging in Postfeminist Culture / Sadie Wearing 277

Bibliography 311

Contributors 331

Index 355
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Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-4032-4 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-4014-0
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