According to Wikipedia post-feminism began in the early 1980’s, though the origins, according to Hawkensworth, seem to be from as early as the 1970’s, when journalists and academics began proclaiming that feminism is dead. The basic idea behind the movement is that feminism has achieved its goals and now it is time to distance ourselves from the movement.
A more complex definition of the movement is somewhat harder to put out, as it seems to mean slightly different things to different people. Indeed, even notable post-feminist figures fall into this controversy. For instance, Camille Paglia, who is widely associated with the movement by both feminists and non-feminists alike, seems to be a post-feminist primarily in the sense that Reinelt puts out in her article, that of “claiming to be within feminism on the one hand and calling for a move beyond it on the other,” rather than because she self-identifies as such. Post-feminism has been positioned as everything from a reclaiming of traditional gender roles, an overt attempt to use the language of oppression to subvert feminism, to a way of depoliticizing feminism in order to bring it to the home (see Hawkensworth’s section on “Evolutionary extinction” for more detail).
No matter what form it may take, however, it is clear that the movement arose out of a backlash against feminism. This backlash is often ascribed to the specialization and splintering of feminism, which is seen by many post-feminists as one of the root causes for feminism’s decline. Regardless of which frame is put on it, though, this backlash carries one primary notion: post-feminism’s rise signals a world “in which feminism has been transcended, occluded, overcome” (Hawkensworth).
- FAQ: I’ve got nothing against equal rights for women, but we’ve got that, so isn’t feminism nowadays just going too far ?
- FAQ: Why “feminism” and not just “humanism”? Or “equalism”? Isn’t saying you’re a feminist exclusionary?
- Janelle Reinelt (S&F Online): What is “Postfeminism” and Are We In It?
- Mary Hawkesworth (Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society 2004, vol. 29, no. 4): The Semiotics of Premature Burial: Feminism in a Postfeminist Age
- A more positive look at post-feminism:
In raising these questions, I am only at the beginning of figuring out what a more positive kind of post-feminist account of religion and family might look like, and so have no compelling summary to offer, let alone a call to a specific research agenda. In my own work, I do want to take some feminist insights for granted. But I explicitly reject the idea that strong feminist critiques have had their day and must now give way gracefully to approaches that favor a consensual and functional, or even communitarian, interpretation of the good society. I am feeling more combative, or at least constructively critical, about theories that neatly divide society into a “public” and a “private” realm, while systematically devaluing those feminine things (religion, family) assigned to the private (cf., Warner 1999). I am not sure where it will lead, but it feels right to begin pushing back the boundaries of post-feminism by asking a different set of questions.[Penny Edgell Becker (Sociology of Religion, Winter, 2000): Boundaries and Silences in a Post-Feminist Sociology]
- Post-feminism as backlash to feminism:
What the hell is postfeminism, anyway? I would think it would refer to a time when complete gender equality has been achieved. That hasn’t happened, of course, but we (especially young women) are supposed to think it has. Postfeminism, as a term, suggests that women have made plenty of progress because of feminism, but that feminism is now irrelevant and even undesirable because it has made millions of women unhappy, unfeminine, childless, lonely, and bitter, prompting them to fill their closets with combat boots and really bad India print skirts.
- Post-feminism as a colloquialism:
It’s about deeply held political convictions, not to mention strategy. If there’s a wad of people out there extolling postfeminism and meaning “I think feminism is flawed and I’d like to see some goal-shifting, fresh tactics, and revisiting of contentious topics,” this isn’t just an issue of what’s going on in a speech group that doesn’t overlap with mine. It’s about defending feminism’s ground. Feminism is already doing the work that these (as I have come to think of them) non-evil postfeminists think comes with their prefix. And it’s beyond obvious that feminism suffers from its terrible reputation and from the vast misunderstandings that stunning numbers of people still have about it (no matter how many times it happens, I will never, ever get used to being asked if I hate men). I can’t help but see even the non-evil usage of “postfeminism” as a rejection of and attack on feminism, and an implication that the movement is finished. And that means I need to challenge it at every turn.
- The ambiguity of the prefix “post”:
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.
- tekanji (Official Shrub.com Blog): Feminism is Post-Feminist