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  1. SarahMC
    SarahMC August 27, 2007 at 12:07 pm |

    There is no postfeminism. In the postpatriarchy, maybe. But to me, “postfeminism” means we’ve given up, that we’ll settle for the level of inequality we’re stuck with now.

  2. OlderThanDirt
    OlderThanDirt August 27, 2007 at 12:31 pm |

    Every time I hear ‘postfeminist’ I hear someone disparaging feminism. What really toasts me is the idea that feminists who complain about, well, anything, are just too boring and rigid and mean-spirited to be tolerated. This is all part of the big lie about women: if we talk about a problem, we ARE the problem.

    Conventional wisdom says we should worry about how we’ll sound. We should use a different tone. We should choose a different venue. We’re wrong to even be talking about whatever, because it will harm the family or men or our own cause.

    And nothing is worse than being associated with those bitches with the big mouths, the feminists.

    That’s what ‘postfeminism’ means to me.

  3. Laurel
    Laurel August 27, 2007 at 12:32 pm |

    Amen to that, SarahMC. I hate the term. Doesn’t matter what it might “really mean,” everyone I know interprets it the way you do. I know I do.

  4. Amanda Marcotte
    Amanda Marcotte August 27, 2007 at 12:59 pm |

    In my upcoming book, I address it in a joking way, but the larger point is that there’s two kinds:

    1) The kind where people determined that feminism “failed” because feminists failed to understand that men and women are “different” (in that women are inferior, which is only implied and rarely stated.) Believers in this post-feminism argue that women have wised up to the fact that they’ll never be men’s equals and are beating feet back to the kitchen. The NY Times loves articles that kinda sorta don’t really prove this theory.

    2) The kind where people think that feminism has done its job and isn’t needed anymore. People mean well but just don’t get that there’s continuing problems.

  5. Leigh
    Leigh August 27, 2007 at 1:20 pm |

    Crock of anti-feminist poop, as far as I’m concerned. I’ve never even encountered someone who uses it in the feminist-but-shifting-goals sense. When I hear and see “postfeminism” in action, all I can think is Backlash Backlash Backlash. And twenty-five years of backlash is a bit much to swallow. I call bullshit on the whole “postfeminist” agenda.

  6. ekf
    ekf August 27, 2007 at 3:35 pm |

    Agreed with the other commenters. Because people seem to use “postfeminist” without defining what they mean, I always look to the words around it for context and additional definition. Without fail, it’s based on not wanting to be like those, you know, “bra-burning feminist types,” demonstrating both an ignorance of and intent to disparage feminism.

  7. SarahMC
    SarahMC August 27, 2007 at 4:02 pm |

    Anyone who claims we’re living in a postfeminist world is obviously blissfully unaware of patriarchy and women’s continued struggle to be seen and treated as fully human.

  8. Imogen
    Imogen August 27, 2007 at 4:05 pm |

    I just finished Sisterhood, Interrupted, by Deborah Siegel, last night. She spent the last, I dunno, third? of the book talking about the history of ‘postefminism’ vs. ‘third wave feminism.’ She does a really good job of situating the argument exactly where you said: feminism’s never been a monolithic set of mission-statemented dogma, and therefore it’s pretty flawed to think of ‘postfeminism’ as a set of things somehow outside of the set of things that make up feminism

    So ah- the idea of postfeminism is that it’s a weird thing whose etymology contradicts its actual locus (jesus fucking christ, look at me go) in feminism itself. Which is kind of dumb. I vote against it, because to me it feels like it sweeps under the rug all the hard work and confrontation that go along with all the empowerment and makeouts and other delights that come from feminsm. Y’know?

  9. StealthBadger
    StealthBadger August 27, 2007 at 4:36 pm |


    Sometimes post-feminism is what is talked about by feminists who are really serious about respecting other people’s choices, as hard as that is, but the way “post-feminism” is co-opted by those who are at other times spouting off about “traditional values,” it’s usually about telling women that they can be avoid feeling bad/guilty/like they’re doing something stupid (and at the same time get warm fuzzies from) reciting some overtly misogynistic piece of patriarchal lore and enjoying the feel-good vibe that goes along with not fighting against the cultural stream.

    I believe it’s a reaction by those who have recognized the problems feminism points out, but can’t get over that moment of ooginess that comes when you realize you’re about to step outside the (questionable) warmth and light cast by your tribe.

    Just babblin’.

  10. StealthBadger
    StealthBadger August 27, 2007 at 5:13 pm |


    That’s me saying I’M just babbling. Trying to quit smoking makes me strange.

  11. Psychobunny
    Psychobunny August 27, 2007 at 7:09 pm |

    Hilariously, my Grandfather recently asked me (as a person taking a Feminist Theory paper at uni) what “postfeminist” meant. He’d just been to a performance of Lucia di Lammermoor, and the programme described the production as “postfeminist”.

    Grandfather’s response? “It seemed pretty pre-feminist to me.”

  12. Gayle
    Gayle August 27, 2007 at 8:01 pm |

    . . . where people think that feminism has done its job and isn’t needed anymore. People mean well but just don’t get that there’s continuing problems.

    That’s how I’ve seen the term “Post-feminism” used, especially by our vapid corporate media.

  13. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe August 27, 2007 at 8:13 pm |

    Google “postfeminism” and “Camille Pagalia” together, and you get 726 hits.

    I rest my case.

  14. Bitter Scribe
    Bitter Scribe August 27, 2007 at 8:14 pm |

    Whoops. Camille Paglia, of course.

  15. lurker
    lurker August 27, 2007 at 8:20 pm |

    I’ve heard the term and I don’t like it. I’ve come across it in academic circles where it was used to talk about the multiplicity of feminism(s) and all the social justice movements that came out of feminism but weren’t making their connection to feminism explicit (environmentalism and prison abolition movements that you mentioned, for instance). Personally, I would rather these movements acknowledged their debt to feminism and had a more pronounced feminist agenda. I get that we are all post-positivist and postmodern and poststructural and whathaveyou these days, but these terms are about progress, change, and flux. “Postfeminism” when used in this context is about backing off instead of pushing for a wider recognition of feminist history and importance of feminism to social justice movements.

    And the other meaning is even less credible. Whoever is using it in that sense can get back to me about feminism having achieved its goals when I can walk outside after dusk without looking over my shoulder.

  16. traitor2thesisterhood
    traitor2thesisterhood August 28, 2007 at 12:10 am |

    I don’t know. I could see if someone was introduced to feminism through something like the monster “Something I never really understood…” thread, they’d probably run away screaming. I can see why a lot of women would have entirely logical reasons to be “postfeminist” rather than “feminist”. Who needs that kind of shit and grief over your appearance and identity, especially from your so-called “sisters”?

  17. orlando
    orlando August 28, 2007 at 5:27 am |

    All this consensus is freaking me out…
    I’ve come accross the term used in the way Lurker describes, similarly, in academic circles, and for academic reasons I don’t think anyone should use it. The problem lies in the ambiguity of the prefix “post”, because post can mean since something commenced OR since something concluded. So, while technically a “post-feminist society” could mean a society since feminism began to be an influence, there will always be people who think you mean since feminism ended.

  18. FAQ: What is “Post-feminism”? « Finally, A Feminism 101 Blog

    […] [Lisa (Feministe): Hi There. Plus, Postfeminism: Innocuous Descriptive Term or Crock of Antifeminist Poop?] […]

  19. Spatterdash
    Spatterdash August 28, 2007 at 5:59 am |

    The very phrase “postfeminist” implies that feminism is over, its work is done. Feminism is portrayed as outdated and no longer an issue – we’re equal, sexism is dead, let’s go buy shoes! It allows people to enjoy the benefits of 20th century feminism whilst still buying into sexist ideas; all in all, just a fancy word for ‘sticking your head in the sand’.

  20. Lillet Langtry
    Lillet Langtry August 28, 2007 at 9:36 am |

    “Postfeminist” = “crock o’ shit”.

  21. foresmac
    foresmac August 28, 2007 at 11:02 am |

    Who doesn’t like shopping? And big cocks?

  22. jeffliveshere
    jeffliveshere August 28, 2007 at 11:54 am |

    I think that, if there is any merit to the idea of coming up with some new term(s) to better describe the feminism(s) of today, “postfeminism” is going to be so loaded down with (mostly created) ambiguity so as to be not very worthwhile. I think it’s still valuable, in some cases, to keep trying to show some self-described post-feminists that they are, in fact, feminists.

    Whenever somebody uses the term “postfeminist”, one might ask, “What do you mean by that?” If the answer is along the lines of “Feminism has done it’s work, and we should move on,” then I’m going to disagree…

  23. StealthBadger
    StealthBadger August 28, 2007 at 1:57 pm |

    Post-feminism = crunchy stale wheat feminism with a sugar coating? @.x;


    *goes back to work*

  24. orlando
    orlando August 29, 2007 at 4:02 am |

    traitor, I don’t think “logical” would be the best word for someone who (hypothetically) discounts the vast amounts of valuable work being done by feminists beause of the occasional, inevitable spat. There’s no point in demanding that people be posthuman.

  25. Linda Carson
    Linda Carson August 29, 2007 at 1:18 pm |

    Oh, I’m home at last. Hello, family, nice to meet you.

    And the important questions are really, “Who’s going to produce the bumper stickers?” and “Does Lisa want a percentage?” Because I will make that project happen just for the privilege of putting such a sticker on my portfolio, my laptop, and my glorious feminist butt. May I have your permission to create a cafe press something-or-other for bumper stickers, pins, mugs, baby tees (the pinker the better) or other suitable swag, and donate the profit-such-as-it-is to something suitable-and-international?

  26. Jennifer
    Jennifer August 29, 2007 at 2:41 pm |

    I’m with “pile of poop” myself.

    Maybe we need a new term for certain people: “in-denial feminists.”

  27. Deborah Siegel
    Deborah Siegel August 29, 2007 at 4:26 pm |

    Lisa, love your post. Jill, love this blog. And I’m looking forward to Amanda’s book (and Lisa’s book too!)! Imogen, thanks for the shout out re Sisterhood, Interrupted.

    Another vote here for crock of poop. Not worth reclaiming. Not even a little bit. Because mostly, it’s confusing. How do younger women (ie, especially those who aren’t already comfortable with the word or idea “feminism”) jump on board and continue the fight for equality when they (we) are constantly told—by the media, by each other, and sometimes by our elders—how good we already have it, and that we’re already living in a postfeminist world?

    As a sidenote, funny how history repeats itself. We’re not the first generation to be called “postfeminist” prematurely. Nor, I’m sure, will we be the last. The word “postfeminist” was first uttered in 1919—just a few decades after the coining of the word “feminist”—by a group of female literary radicals in Greenwich Village who rejected the feminism of their mothers, one year before women won the right to vote! Go figure.

    Much more on all this in Chapter 4 …(which is called “Postfeminist Panache”!)

  28. dejah
    dejah August 30, 2007 at 12:49 pm |

    I responded to the Salon Broadsheet commentary that was spawned by this blog on the team blog Mama Needs a Book Contract with my own definition of post-feminist and why I identify that way.

    Read it if you will.


  29. brightbluelizard
    brightbluelizard September 4, 2007 at 2:30 am |

    No, I don’t think your friend’s argument holds water. Those who don’t know their history are doomed to repeat it. However, I DO think that your friend’s argument highlights a problem in feminism: that it seems to academic & “out of touch”. I think in order to sum up our stance sometimes we need a coherent & thorough argument less than a pithy response like the one on (scroll down to the bottom to see a picture of a cute embryo).

    What can I say? People these days have no attention span :0

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