Postfeminism in Media Culture

Image Source: Pinterest

Rosalind Gill’s article proposes that postfeminism is not a movement, but a sensibility that accentuates individualism, choice, and empowerment characteristics.   To unpack postfeminist characteristics in media culture, Gill tentatively delves into an array of features that influence postfeminism sensibility.   The three features that will be chronologically discussed in this blog post are feminity as a bodily property; individualism, choice, and empowerment; and self-surveillance and discipline.

The first noticeable feature of postfeminist media culture focuses on the representational practices of the body, which is superior to a social, structural, or psychology one.  This notion implies that women’s source of power and identity depends heavily on the body image on the media.  For example, a female Instagram user might post photos while at the gym indicating that self-care is essential for physical, emotional and personal health.  Indeed, most female social media users have beautiful figures and controlled postures - which might be the essential representation for portraying women's success in media culture.  Micro-celebrities, such as bloggers and media influencers, have the burden of keeping up healthy lifestyles and body images to represent their interior lives.  More than ever, the cultural obsession with celebrity/micro-celebrity influences the weight of evaluation on the women’s bodies by both men and women.

The second element in the site of postfeminism is illustrated in the notions of personal choice, self-determination, and empowerment.  In the western media culture, the stress on making decisions, being oneself, and taking control are relentlessly discussed in talk shows, news, and reality TV.  Examples of empowered women can be found on all social media platforms.  Successful female bloggers often prove themselves as equal to men; they are businesswomen, content-creators, and mothers/wives.  To further exemplify this women empowerment idea, an Instagram post by Bea Johnson (@zerowastehome) informs that she is on the cover Notícias Magazine sharing her story on the zero waste journey (Figure #1).  Bea is a role model for many young followers to become more independent, successful, and eco-friendly.

Figure #1 - Image Source @zerowastehome

Transitioning from the stress on personal choice, the crucial third point of postfeminism sensibility explores the performance of monitoring and surveying the self.  If traditional magazines focus on the contingent character of femininity – stressing on the vigilance of creating flawless makeup and chic fashion statements, modern media culture concentrates more on the transformation of the self.  The normative requirement of women, not men, is to self-survey and work on the self.  For instance, social media influencers disclose their body transformation tips by publishing post-workout photos of muscle-toned bodies alongside a link to their Youtube channel.  Followers seem incredibly interested in others' journeys of transformation.  This is an illustration of how self-surveillance plays a vital role in the work of femininity.  Instead of receiving advice solely from family members and close friends, media culture invites opinions from people across the world - who we have never met in real life.  In a self-oriented culture, the self acts as a focal point to be evaluated, observed, and disciplined under the public eye of mass media.  

Referring to Jessalynn Marie Keller’s article on virtual feminism, the author also notices the connections between the notions of feminist activisms and the modern blogging communities.  Although female bloggers produce a diversity of feminist activism, they all strive to highlight gender inequalities, especially in formal politics and citizenship rights, in their own way.  For example, female bloggers express their authentic voices and challenge gender norms through writing and reposting each other’s feminist projects.  Creative influencers embrace social media to create new opportunities for their voices to be heard, expand fresh understandings of community, and even form a sense of feminism within themselves. 

Collectively, Gill and Keller both recognize the mutual reflection of feminist characteristics and neoliberal ideology in postfeminist sensibility.  Neoliberalism is denoted as regarding individuals as “entrepreneurial actors” who create a place of empowerment, rationality, and self-surveillance.  Media culture has considerably transformed postfeminist sensibility to a new understanding of community and activism.  In a culture that immersed with self-transformation, feminist scholars continue to seek for further analysis of the contemporary articulations of gender in media culture.

Reading materials:
Jessalynn Marie Keller, “Virtual feminism”

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