Feminism is Post-Feminist

I would like to talk about the word “post-feminist”. Now, this word came about as a backlash against feminism and goes on the premise that feminism is no longer necessary.

But let me illustrate something: a world in which feminism is not necessary would never define itself as post-feminist. Why? Because a world in which feminism is no longer necessary would have no problem recognizing the important achievements of the feminist movement, and therefore would have no need to label itself post-feminist.

In fact, it is very likely that in an equal society most people would take it as assumed fact that they were, in fact, feminist. Feminism wouldn’t be just some obscure subject covered in Women’s Studies, but it would be taught as part of history to help people understand how we got to an equal world. Feminist theory would be one of the background theories that we are taught when critically examining literature.

Simply put, the label “post-feminism” would be unneeded because “feminism” would be so commonplace that it would be unremarked upon. Why? Because the only way for equal rights to win is if the doctrine of equal rights becomes part of every one of us.

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17 thoughts on “Feminism is Post-Feminist

  1. yup. It would be kinda of like someone going around saying they were “post-democracy/democratic” without any intention of irony.

  2. I’ve never really understood what that word means anyway, or really, what anything means when you toss a “post-” in front of it. I mean I know that literally it means “after” but you start saying things like “posthuman theory” and I just go, “buh whu-?” with a blank stare.

    I think it’s one of those prefixes that’s just really worn out its welcome.

  3. Mickle: Great analogy, it really makes sense when you put it in that context.

    Sara: Yeah, whenever I see someone use the word it’s always when they’re treating women as if we’re stupid and should listed to the post-feminist who Knows Everything. I’m actually looking into the actual definitions and theories because I’m writing a FAQ entry on it for the Feminism 101 blog, but I’m having trouble finding accounts of what post-feminism means from the mouths of self-identified post-feminists.

    As for the prefix… yeah, it’s one of those prefixes that, if it has any use at all, it’s in an esoteric academic sense that is totally not accessible to the majority of the population.

  4. great point. reminds me of the debate on affirmative action. in a perfect world, affirmative action would be unnecessary because everyone would be on equal footing. but we’re so far from that equality that we need those boosters there to even the score. in that utopia, feminism would be chapters in a history book, and we wouldn’t have to worry about challenging a non-existent patriarchy.

  5. It’s just a label to describe time frames, references, or ideological shifts and largely for their impact on societies. Post-Communism, Post-Victorian, Post-Cold War, Post-Inquisition. All social movements or events have their height. Rarely do they ever peak again.

  6. That’s a great way to put it, Tekanji. If feminism had “worked” and was “all done now”, the word would more likely fade from usage than get revamped with a “post-” prefix.

    I always think the “post-” is the speaker’s way of implying the movement is passe and should be abandoned for the newer, shinier movement. Which I can’t help noticing embraces the idea that women are now “empowered” to give blow jobs with no consideration for their own naughty urges. Oh, thanks, I don’t think my mom had that enticing option /sarcasm

    In other words, it’s doublespeak. Orwell would be impressed.

  7. Nic: Except in the case of post-feminism, it’s more than just “feminism has had its height” and expressly “feminism is dead, so get over it already”. BetaCandy actually got the general impression that many of the visible post-feminists give off when they talk about women.

    Like I said, I’m working on a post for the feminism 101 blog about this, which will go into more detail about the origins and ideology of the movement.

  8. I sometimes use this term in a pop-culture sense, and I’d never use it to describe an era or a person, but maybe to describe the point-of-view or fictional world of something like the new Battlestar Galactica, or maybe the comic book Alias. The work (or criticism/review) would clearly assume that the broad objectives of feminism have clearly been integrated into the work, and are assumed to be self-evident, and the work requires that the audience take them as a given, without those objectives being the subject or intended subtext of the work.

    I’d compare it to a construction like “post-Marvel comics”, “post-Copernican”, “post-Civil Rights” or yes, “post-democracy”, which doesn’t mean to me “after democracy has gone away”.

    I’d never thought of it before as an anti-feminist smack-down, but I can see how one (well, many) would.

  9. Tekanji: Please, if you would, include the origins of privilege and how it forms amongst societies. If that happens to be within the scope of it. So far I’ve only been able to find content on effects and use of it, but not how it originates. I think it would help more if that were included or more prevalent.

  10. Eric: I think that if its origins weren’t associated with anti-feminism it would be easier to take it in the sense that you describe. I do think, however, that there may be times in which it is used as a theoretical framework that fits your description. I still have some research to do in the area until I can be more sure, though.

    Nic: Post-feminism and the concept of privilege are only tangentially linked, so I think it would be off-topic to try to discuss it there. As for another post either here or there about the origins of privilege… while I think it’s a great idea, unfortunately I think to do that would require research more suited to academia, or the very least research by someone with access to an academic library.

  11. Nic,

    There’s a book you want. It’s called Privilege, Power, and Difference and it has a pretty good explanation for where privilege originates in a social setting. The author’s name is Allan G. Johnson (yes, a straight white guy, writing about social inequality — imagine that!) and I’m betting it’s either at your local library or your local bookstore.


    Further thoughts: it sounds vaguely like an insult. I keep catching the title of this post and find myself wanting to type back furiously, “your face is post-feminist”. Although I like Eric’s explanation best, I think; it makes more sense in a futuristic fictional context.

  12. I’m an Indian guy .. and I have no problems with feminism where women are treated as equal to men . They shouldn’t be oppressed in any way.

    But a few women have become radical and they are too difficult for relationships. I broke up with a post-feminist woman , who doesn’t want to accept responsibilities for her behavior or actions. It is really surprising that post feminists ( some of them) are too difficult and yet present themselves as “victims” . What i realized is that I would be happy with a woman who is feminine rather than a feminist , who is caring and respectable and who can be my equal in every way i can think of.

    Most post feminist woman are like the ones in the tv show “sex and the city” . Many have them have been “used” by men.Women have begun to think its ok to be promiscuous ( remember they are liberated and free to choose who they will have sex with) and such women are likely to be single moms of the future … whose kids are going to be fucked up..and its going to be a cycle.

    Women are superior than men in many areas where men wont match up to them . Nature created women and assigned the role of a caregiver to women, who give birth , take care of young and other people. Women also have more empathy compared to men.

    I think in today’s world , women are increasingly mislead by post-feminist propaganda that they are oppressed and so on, thus driving them away from their primary role of a caregiver as they were since 100000 BC or earlier. This system won’t work and will fail sooner or later as its against the laws of nature. I would be interested to hear others’ opinions.

  13. I agree with this argument. It is the same as those that are trying to sell us on the idea that we are living in a post racial world. It is an attempt to cover for the fact that people have learned to be visible in the bigotry but the discrimination still goes on.

  14. Post-feminist – is that an upright stick that is fully equal to a man?

    Post-feminist society – surely a misnomer. Was there ever a time when feminism commanded a majority? “I’ll be Post-Feminist in a Post-Patriarchy.” (http://www.now.org/store/images/items/bs-pfpp.jpg)

    “Post-feminist? You say that like feminism was a BAD thing!”

    Post-feminist? You mean JBL men have found something new to look at? ([Link removed at author’s request])

    Individuals who have sufficient power might identify as ‘post-feminist’, i.e. disengaged from issues of disadvantage; this is not particularly a reason to respect their luck or achievement, nor to assume that it is shared by society at large. (e.g. http://mamaneedsabookcontract.blogspot.com/2007/08/ill-be-post-feminist-in-post-patriarchy.html)

  15. tekanji, would you mind deleting the link to adpulp.com in my previous post? On reflection I really don’t think the offensive ad in question needs further circulation, especially not in this forum.

    I do apologise.

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