Weaving together analyses of culture, economics, politics and everyday life, this is a superb demonstration of why cultural studies matters, and of why McRobbie remains one of its most original and important contributors. She argues for a form of feminism that is aware of the contemporary complexities of global media culture while still attentive to political questions of identity, engagement and justice. The Afternath of Feminism is highly sophisticated and theoretically informed, yet also readable and inspiring. It is essential reading for anyone interested in contemporary cultural politics. Claire Colebrook University of Edinburgh Angela McRobbie has written a courageous and much-needed book, exploring the after-effects of the shift to neoliberalism in which young women today can appear to have everything they wanted, presented in an array of choice and empowerment.
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Has equality for women been achieved? Feminism has apparently achieved many of its aims. Some of the obvious inequalities between men and women seem to have been removed in recent decades. But have they? The full text also appears below. For a complete listing of past Social Science Bites podcasts, click here. Many people argue that all the big battles to achieve equality, have already been fought and won.
Some say that feminism has gone too far. Angela McRobbie: Hi. I wonder if you could begin by saying a little bit about your research on that topic? Angela McRobbie: Well in the last 10 to 15 years I became incredibly interested in the way in which there seem to have developed a kind of an illusion of equality. There was something very specific, something different from the previous period where it was quite easy as a feminist to point to areas where it was absolutely obvious that young women were discriminated against, and where there was obvious inequality.
And what really prompted my attention was the way in which actually quite the opposite seemed to be the case. It almost appeared as though people genuinely thought that women, particularly young women, had somehow gained equality.
And I wanted to interrogate that as a social scientist, because it felt very dubious. The very hard work, and the many battles fought by women of my generation, did begin to reap some kind of rewards.
There were many debates about negative images of women in the media, over-sexualized images, stereotypes and advertising, you know, the whole history of sociology and cultural studios and media studies — as soon as feminists began to become involved in these fields of study they were driven towards interrogating, decoding, analyzing the field of media and representation.
So it was quite clear that something had to change. And I think for feminists of my generation, somehow that work had a momentum. And it forced people in positions of power, editors of magazines, people in government to actually take some steps. The same thing then also happened, I would say, in specific fields such as education and also in law. So the whole range of key social institutions came to be challenged by feminism.
And I think that lasted for a good decade, from the mids to the mids. Then I think something different happened. So what did happen in the 90s, and how did you set about researching it? Of course there had always been a backlash, there had always been forces of opposition to feminism.
And something definitely shifted in the mids. When I was writing the book, The Aftermath of Feminism, what I was doing was constantly drawing on contemporary feminist empirical research.
And I was kind of filtering it, re-reading it, or I was drawing from a whole field of 20 years of research, for example on feminism and gender in education. So in many ways I would say that the analysis I came up with was more concerned to develop some concepts that I could develop out of empirical work.
What I like to do is to take the results, or to take the reports, and then really look at them in close detail. I suppose really you could say that that reveals my preference, or my expertise, as a kind of textual analyst. You know, I like analyzing texts, in many ways — my training originally was in English Literature primarily, and then a bit of sociology, and then cultural studies.
You know I have in my life done quite a lot of work, that could be seen as having an empirical basis. But I would say my methodology is deeply humanistic.
I like talking to people, and I like kind of doing unstructured interviews, and I like observing and immersing myself. So I think there are two answers to the question about the role of the fashion industry. And what I argued in the book is that that threshold, or horizon of authority, has been replaced by the fashion and beauty complex.
Now obviously Naomi Wolf said something similar many years ago, but I think what I do is to look at the fashion and beauty complex in more substantial, theoretical terms. My argument is drawn on Foucault and on the idea of governmentality. And how does every day governmentality work for young women? Through notions of governing the self: looking after the self, the self as a task. Nigel Warburton: Just to get this clear, are you saying that young women who have, are focusing on shaping their body and appearance and how they look to other people, are guilty of a kind of false consciousness?
That they believe that this is their choice, but actually something else is pulling their strings? And what I see this kind of orchestrated, hyper-femininity doing, is absolutely limiting the possibilities that young women have to participate in political culture. And the argument I make is that we can trace this through practices of government.
And what I argued was that we could trace the contours there of a kind of new sexual contract to young women. Gain access to employment, because there will no longer be obstacles.
And this is very helpful to the national economy on a variety of ways, because it means first of all that from a feminist perspective it means that young women will no longer be absolutely dependent on a male breadwinner. Because it gives young women a disposable income.
And then the idea of a disposable wage, which can be then spent on older items he Grazie magazine or The Evening Standard or the makeover programs recommend. So that all together I argued comprised a kind of sexual contract.
And the underpinning was locking of young women into a kind of prison of activity, without that entailing a real political, an involvement. Young women were not being invited into formal politics. And who is we? Feminism came to be kind of despised, joked, ridiculed.
I also began to recognize that there was a kind of fearfulness on the part of a younger generation of women.
They somehow feared male disapproval: it was as though the idea of sexual politics itself had got lost. And that then induced this kind of timidity or fearfulness, on the part of young women. I would say in the US by and large liberal feminism really did have a very profound impact.
In the UK it was actually socialist feminism. And so I quite like the way in which Pussy Riot have their kind of activities in Russia, and I like the way in which there were Muff Marchers against cosmetic surgery in London. I, kind of, quite like the idea of event politics, you know, the kind of dramatization of gender issues. The people who influence me most in my writing, tend to be people like Pierre Bourdieu, obviously Foucault, who was a historian and a philosopher and so on, and Judith Butler.
Do you think the kind of work that you do is of that kind? But do you think you should influence actual political policy? There have been several occasions where I have been invited into breakfast Cabinet for body image summit. And how do the kind of ideas that you develop in sociology find an audience? And find a receptive audience? I mean I think I would have worked in public policy, if I had really wanted to be somebody that was shaping legislation.
That would have been great to do that, but I think also quite frustrating as well, and easy to feel disappointed, so I prefer to be slightly kind of further back.
ANGELA MCROBBIE THE AFTERMATH OF FEMINISM PDF
Has equality for women been achieved? Feminism has apparently achieved many of its aims. Some of the obvious inequalities between men and women seem to have been removed in recent decades. But have they?
Tojatilar Consumer culture, she argues, encroaches on the terrain of so called female freedom, appears supportive of female success only to tie women into new post-feminist neurotic dependencies. From Jackie to Just 17McRobbie constructed a progressive cultural shift that reflected gains in new sexual freedoms and power for young women. Works Cited Driver, Susan. More Information Less Information. Second Edition Palgrave, She is particularly interested in the future of feminism outside of academic institutions. The Aftermath of Feminism: This new regime of mcorbbie power requires the consent and participation of young women in the rejection of feminism.