The Post-feminist Masquerade

On the 3/6/06 episode of their This Just In podcast, Tanner and Chris brought up some really interesting topics, and a couple of them touched on some things I have wanted to write about for a while. I will leave male genital mutilation for another day, however.

Tanner recently attended a lecture by Angela McRobbie, a cultural studies and feminism scholar at Goldsmiths University of London. She has a theory that involves what she calls the post-feminist masquerade. Tanner explains that one of the best examples of the post-feminist masquerade is the television show Sex and the City. The viewers of this show are sold the idea that the main characters are strong, independent, empowered women who are basically living the modern feminist American dream. However, when you step back and look at what the show is really about, you realize that all these women have no real independence. They are 110% hypnotized by the marketing wizards on Madison Avenue. The only thing that they are empowered to do, it seems, is spend money. They unabashedly celebrate conspicuous consumption as well as their own objectification. These characters could not be further from the radical, “fuck the man”, feminists of yore. These women aren’t burning bras; they’re paying $300 a piece for them at La Perla. This new “post-feminism” represents an utter hijacking of feminism by the very forces the real feminists were fighting against. Add “feminist”, alongside “patriot” to the list of formerly radical terms that Madison Ave. has successfully bastardized and equated with “good consumer.”

Carrie Bradshaw buys another pair of $800 Manolo Blahniks. Oprah blows her top because Hermes won’t let her in the store after close to blow a wad of cash. Young American women return from culturally rich places such as Paris or Prague and complain that their experience was luke warm because “the shopping” was not up to their standards. There is now a women’s magazine “about shopping”, as if 98% of magazines aren’t already about shopping, in the sense that half of the pages were covered in ads and the so-called “content” on the other pages is really just slightly more subtle advertisements, selling you a lifestyle of perceived wealth, beauty and a culture of mass consumption.

Tanner and Chris make the excellent point that feminism, real feminism, won women the ability to go out and get their own career and become financially independent, but women have now been duped into thinking that the way to exercise this freedom is to essentially forfeit it by becoming mindless consum-bots. I could not agree more that the truly independent, empowered women are the ones questioning the ideals put forth by media forces like Oprah and Sex and the City.

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