I’m doing a three-part blog series on Postfeminism, the Millennial Diva, and a final piece that intersects Postfeminism and the Millennial Diva. I’m doing this three-part series to bring understanding on both forms of feminist thought, examine how they affect women, and lastly how the two intersect. I hope everyone enjoys the series!
Feminism is the social and economic disadvantages that women began to fight for beginning in the 1840s, with a strong focus on being treated equally as the man. Postfeminism starts around the 1980s when women start to reject some of the ideas of feminism and pick up terms such as anti-feminism or enlightened sexism to describe themselves. Postfeminism thought and theory include feminist and anti-feminist themes.
Dr. Rosalind Gil identified the key elements of the Postfeminist age in her article entitled, Postfeminist Media Culture: Elements of a Sensibility. She identified the following themes: the notion that femininity is a bodily property; the shift from objectification to subjectification; self surveillance, monitoring and self-discipline, individualism; choice and empowerment; the makeover paradigm; and the resurgence of ideas about sexual difference.
Notion that Femininity is a Bodily Property:
This notion of femininity as a bodily property means to base your femininity on your body, which means you view your body as something that gains you things such as social status, job positions, and an overall source of power. Gil said, “In today’s media it is possession of a ‘sexy body’ that is presented as women’s key (if not sole) source of identity.” The body is under constant ridicule, monitoring, remodeling, in order to reach a certain level of attractiveness.
The society we live in is very sexualized, Gil points out how women are responsible for producing themselves as desirable for heterosexual relationships, sexual pleasers for men, protecting themselves from pregnancy and STDs, defending their sexual reputation, and of course taking care of men’s self-esteem. Young girls are targeted sexually when stores offer belly/crop tops, shirts with sexual messages, and etc. It sets them up to play into the narrative of my body has to look like this, because this is what boys think is cute, which leads them to become women who believe their body is the only object that will get them somewhere.
The Shift from Objectification to Subjectification:
In the past women have been sexual objects who were mute, passive, and objects of the male gaze. In Postfeminsim, you see a shift from women being the objects of men to “willing” subjects. Gil said, “Women are not straightforwardly objectified but are presented as active, desiring sexual subjects who choose to present themselves in a seemingly objectified manner because it suits their liberated interests to do so.” This means that women internalize the male judging gaze, and turn it into a policing narcissistic gaze, that in reality may be worse than objectification. When women become sexual subjects, they’re more than likely mimicking women who heterosexual men fantasize about. Gil points out how porn shapes some of this, because women in pornography always want sex, are willing to have it when and wherever, and are willing to try anything sexually.
Now, think about this, women are super liberated about their sexual activity in 2017. Most women will proudly talk about how much “D” they can take, being down for orgies, allowing men to put semen on their faces, or down their throats. For the record nothing is wrong with the way you enjoy sex, BUT it should be because it’s something you truly enjoy, and not something you’re doing to keep a sexual partner. Let’s face it a number of women do these things because men have watched them in porn, and decided that he wants the same thing to be done to him. You see, women not doing it because they own their sexual freedom, they’re doing it because they’re expected to do it. In reality, they’re not “willing” subjects, they’re just objects who own what they do.
Self Surveillance, Monitoring and Self Discipline:
Monitoring and surveillance for women simply means to make sure you look good at all times, carry yourself with “class”, and etc. Gil mentions how the intensity, extensiveness, and psychological mindset of transforming have turned self surveillance into a bigger issue as it relates to post feminism. This can be seen in women’s magazines where you see body shape, muscle tone, hair color, sexual practice, and etc. In the magazines you see that these problems are considered to need constant monitoring and pampering.
Gil said, “This labor must nevertheless be understood as ‘fun’ or ‘pampering’ or ‘self indulgence’ and never be disclosed. Magazines offer tips to girls and young women to enable them to continue the work of femininity but still appear as entirely confident, carefree, and unconcerned about their self presentation.” Women and young girls are trained to think that their bodies need constant work and to mask this, it is seen as they’re just self indulging in pampering themselves. Self indulging yourself to the beauty standards of someone else and not truly yourself.
Individualism, Choice and Empowerment:
It is very common to hear women in today’s society say they did something because it pleased them. Women in 2017 like to be seen as an individuals, who make their own choices, and are empowered without the forsaken “f” (feminism) word. Why is this a bad thing you ask? You’re a woman, and you make your own choices, and you’re empowered without the “f” word. This choice idea has driven a number of women in our society to get plastic surgery they don’t need, all because they may have watched a reality show such as the Housewives of Atlanta and heard one of the cast members say they had a plastic surgery, because they wanted to and it’s their choice because it’s their body.
Gil wants all of you individual, choice making, empowered gals to consider this, “If women are just pleasing themselves, and following their own autonomously generated desires, the resulting valued ‘look’ is so similar — hairless body, slim waist, firm buttocks, etc?” Why does pleasing yourself so heavily resemble the same standards that men set for the ideal woman? Let me guess, you’re going to leave him wanting more because you’re going to make a choice on how far the date will go, and this is why you’re an empowered women. Through your choice and empowerment you’re still working to earn something based on a man’s standard.
The Makeover Paradigm:
Ladies, what is your favorite thing to do when you’ve been through a life crisis? You decide to get yourself a makeover to create a new look, which you feel is just a better reinvention of yourself. Gil argues that it started with food,homes, or gardens, but has now involved into clothing, work, dating, sex, cosmetic surgery, or rasing children. Women will openly admit to plastic surgery because they feel as if it helped them feel like a better person after a life tragedy. These surgeries usually make their bodies more acceptable in society such as nose jobs, boob jobs, buttocks implants, Botox, new teeth, just about anything so fans can stop criticizing them.
You can find the famous makeover paradigm in reality television series such as any of The Real Housewives series. The women may go through a divorce, a bad relationship, miscarriages, and feel the need to remake themselves by getting surgery or changing their lifestyle. For example, if you look in magazines, best dressed shows, worst dressed shows, you can see where women are ridiculed for being too fat or too thin. Women begin to remodel themselves to be the perfect woman, which may mean getting plastic surgery. I remember when I was in middle school there were great number of plastic surgery shows on E! and MTV where you would see majority women making their bodies over.
The Resurgence of Ideas About Sexual Difference:
This is simply the sexual difference between men and women. Postfeminisnt women believe that men are men, which means they are going to naturally say and do certain things. This opens the door for rampant misogyny on the foundation that a man is just being a man. Gil said, “At another, discourses of natural gender difference can be used to freeze in place existing inequalities by representing them as inevitable and — if read correctly — as pleasurable.” Long story short, don’t make excuses for men based on the simple fact that they are men. Excusing all male behavior gives men a pardon when they rape, abuse, assault, or take jobs from women. Seriously would you say, “It’s okay Rob raped Sue, he was just being a man?” That is unacceptable and does not make logical sense.
As you can see Postfemisnim is tangled web of anti feminism and feminism theory. Women are at stake of high abortion rates, higher risk of STDs, losing jobs to men, being paid less than men, and that is just to name a few aspects they lose out on. It’s easy to reject feminism, and that is okay. The issue comes when you willingly partake in behavior that still oppresses women, but instead of men oppressing women you add a helping hand when you develop a false sense of empowerment. This empowerment that’s based on someone’s standard of empowerment and not your own. You have to shake off everything society tells you, and when you do that, you will truly have true empowerment.