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Über dieses Buch

This collection of essays considers the ways in which feminism is still an important issue in twenty-first century society. Looking at various forms of literature, media, and popular culture, the book establishes that contemporary images of femininity are highly contested, complex, and frequently problematic.



1. Introduction

This edited collection explores many aspects of just what it is to be female in the twenty-first century. By studying the social, cultural and technological changes that have influenced this, these essays contextualize feminism and femininity in a range of global locations. Although this collection of essays will examine developments in femininity in the early part of this century, there are many links back to the emergence of second wave feminism nearly half a century before, and the huge technological and social changes of the twentieth century that continue to influence women’s lives, such as in the obsessive attention paid to the sexualized female body. While we can refer to the early twenty-first century as being part of the ‘postfeminist’ era, we can also see traces of an emerging new or ‘fourth wave’ feminist period coming through the use of Web 2.0 as women join up online to raise their voices to campaign for greater equality. In this collection, we will examine how women are open to ever-increasing scrutiny of their bodies and behaviours through the affordances of mass media, and while some exploit such attention for commercial gain, such as celebrities and artists, others find themselves open to humiliation, ridicule and even threats of physical violence such as found on Twitter.
Angela Smith

2. ‘Strange Borrowing’: Affective Neuroscience, Neoliberalism and the ‘Cruelly Optimistic’ Gendered Bodies of CrossFit

The history of representation of the female athlete has been cyclic, from the ‘babes’ and ‘muscle molls’ of the early twentieth century to the ‘hotnesss’ quotients assigned in the twenty-first (Heywood and Dworkin, 2000). What has remained fairly consistent is that traditionally feminine athletes are idealized, and more ‘masculine’ athletes denigrated, with a few notable exceptions in the 1940s, 1990s, and within a specific athletic culture in the present — that of CrossFit, a 10,000-plus global network of affiliated gyms or ‘boxes’ as they are called within the subculture to mark their back-to-basics, low-tech approach to fitness. CrossFit as a training methodology is a multidisciplinary physical practice where men and women train together in a high-intensity programme run by a coach who takes a small group (anywhere from 5 to 20 people depending on location) through a prescribed set of exercises that includes running, gymnastics, Olympic lifting and powerlifting, rope climbing, tyre flipping, plyometrics, and pretty much anything else that can be imagined. The current representational demographic, though somewhat varied, has become more conservative since the 1990s, but CrossFit marks one emergent cultural site that creates an alternative reality where body expectations and ideals tend to be non-normative, and ‘real’, functional bodies are idealized.
Leslie Heywood

3. Big Sister TV: Bossiness, Bullying and Banter in Early Twenty-first Century Make-over Television

Make-over television shows became one of the defining genres of early twenty-first century television across the Western world. From their small beginnings in 15-minute slots on daytime TV in the late 1990s, by the end of the first decade of the twenty-first century they had come to dominate primetime TV and even have their own devoted network and cable channels. A common feature of all of these shows has been the prevalence of female subjects to be ‘made over’. As Rosalind Gill (2007) has observed, the body is promoted as integral to female identity, and thus is a site for postfeminist attention where a woman’s pursuit of beauty engages both her consumer power and her self-governance. If, as Angela McRobbie (2009) attests, postfeminism is linked with vocabulary of ‘freedom’, ‘choice’ and ‘empowerment’, then these shows are underpinned by the assumption that the participants have made the ‘wrong’ choice, and thus are in need of stern guidance if they are ever to achieve the ‘empowerment’ that postfeminism promotes through the female body. What characterized these make-overs is the use of bullying, bossy tactics by the hosts and tears by the subject as they progress on their ‘journey’ to a better, more stylish self. This chapter will suggest that, while the bullying of the earlier shows has diminished, there nevertheless remains an underpinning strategy of humiliation that is accompanied by a more dissipated sense of belligerency throughout such shows as the female body continues to be open to surveillance.
Angela Smith

4. Boredom and Reinvention for the Female Gaze Within Personal Fashion Blogs

Focusing on the work of three prolific personal fashion bloggers, themanrepeller (Leandra Medine), stylebubble (Susie Lau) and thestylerookie (Tavi Gevinson), within the context of metamodernism, this chapter will explore how the genre of personal fashion blogs are part of both the cause and potential solution to the characteristics of metamodernism. Boredom (with reference to Phillips’s definition of it being connected to ‘a wish for a desire’ (1993, p. 71)), reflecting the pace of Web 2.0, twenty-first century fashion production and the emotional response to the pendulum swings of metamodernism is explored as a motivating state (supported by enabling technology) that has facilitated the activity of frequent reinvention by young western personal fashion bloggers in terms of the identity they express in the public online domain. This demonstration of fluctuating and flexible identity is manifested in using social media to control and export self-produced images that are constructed for the female rather than male gaze (Rocamora, 2011, p. 410).
Jennifer Anyan

5. In Full View: Involuntary Porn and the Postfeminist Rhetoric of Choice

This chapter analyses how the concept of ‘choice’ is deployed in the discourses on, and relating to, involuntary porn websites. These sites host images of (mostly) women engaged either in sexual activity with a partner or in sexualized self-presentations. The comments above demonstrate the focus on ridiculing the victims of involuntary porn, presenting the violation of their privacy as somehow their own fault. Although most images on these sites have been taken with the subject’s consent,1 the public sharing of such material is undertaken without their knowledge, either by an ex-partner (hence the alternative term ‘revenge porn’) or by someone hacking into under-protected web-based photo albums. The first site to host such images as a specific act of revenge, Is Anyone Up? (now closed), moved beyond the unauthorized sharing of personal material to combine images with the subject’s personal information, such as Facebook, Twitter and LinkedIn profiles, as well as their workplace information. Numerous websites subsequently emulated this model, either for money (Is Anybody Down? charged women to remove their images) or for entertainment at humiliating others (Pink Meth, You Got Posted, Texxxan and My Ex among others).
Anne Burns

6. Miranda and Miranda: Feminism, Femininity and Performance

Ground-breaking feminist work on women and television comedy in the 1990s addressed its potential for subversive, unruly performance, largely focusing on North American stars such as Lucille Ball and Roseanne Arnold (Mellencamp, 1992; Gray, 1994; Rowe, 1995). This chapter, however, is concerned with how British class identities intersect with the femininity and feminism of a contemporary comedy star and her eponymous sitcom — Miranda Hart and Mirand? (BBC, 2009–2014).1 If Hart is an ‘unruly woman’ (Rowe, 1995) she successfully mobilizes discourses of upper middle class Englishness as a means of mitigating the threat of unruly femininity in television comedy. In British comedy, class is always in play, and Mirand? has come under public scrutiny for its ‘middle class’ constituency (Cook, 1982; Lockyer, 2010; Frost, 2011). Shortly after his appointment as controller of BBC1 in 2011 Danny Cohen commented that too many sitcoms were about middle class people:
Sources say that he feels the Beeb is ‘too focused on formats about comfortable, well-off middle-class families whose lives are perhaps more reflective of BBC staff than viewers in other parts of the UK’, and that we need more of ‘what he describes as “blue-collar” comedies’. (Leith, 2011)
Rosie White

7. Flexible Femininities? Queering Kawaii in Japanese Girls’ Culture

While Japanese subculture — especially what is called ‘kawai? (cute) culture’ — currently receives global attention, it has been studied most frequently in the context of Japanese anime/mang? or its appropriation by Japanese contemporary artists (Ngai, 2005), and very few readings of kawai? highlight another ‘root’ of this phenomenon: Japanese girls’ culture. This paper will investigate the complicated relationship between the particular modes of feminine gender performance in Japanese girls’ culture and its politics of bodily flexibility. What this paper aims, however, is no? to define what the concept of kawai? is; rather, this paper intends to shed light on the way in which the media images of kawai? have been visualized as ‘the flexible’ in today’s socioeconomic context, and to explore what is at stake when such ‘non-normative’ or ‘unusual’ femininity comes to gain the desirable status of ‘flexible body’.
Makiko Iseri

8. ‘Whatever it is that you desire, halve it’: The Compromising of Contemporary Femininities in Neo-Victorian Fictions

Much has been written about the progressive nature of neo-Victorian fiction. The films and literature that comprise the genre have been championed by those feminist scholars and queer theorists who regard it as an effective means of revealing hidden histories, illuminating the problematic gender politics of the past and exposing the tyrannies of patriarchy. Indeed, the form could be considered uniquely well-suited to explorations of these issues and to an ongoing deconstruction of the tensions that exist between the past and present, regressive and progressive agendas, traditionalism and radicalism. One of the most notable aspects of neo-Victorian fiction is that many of its characters, whether they embody the constituent archetypes of the Victorian milieu or are manifestly resistant to them, provide opportunities to either decry traditionalism or vaunt radical femininities, new masculinities and a range of non-normative sexualities. In particular, the representations of femininities found in these fictions prove to be markedly more diverse and more complex than established Victorian stereotypes, with Roland Barthes’s idea of the doxological Victorian increasingly questioned, challenged or critiqued through their progressive characteristics.1 Jeanette King (2005) talks of neo-Victorianism as an ‘opportunity to challenge the answers which nineteenth-century society produced in response to the “Woman Question” ‘ and this challenge is widely acknowledged as a crucial facet of the genre (2005, p. 6).
Karen Sturgeon-Dodsworth


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