As Beyoncé explained in her hit single “***Flawless”, a feminist is one that “ believes in the social / Political, and economic equality of the sexes”. It would naturally make sense, then, that a postfeminist world would be one in which this social, political and economic equality is achieved. In their introduction to the anthology, “Interrogating Postfeminism”, Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra defined postfeminism as:
“Postfeminist culture works in part to incorporate assume or naturalize aspects of feminism… postfeminist culture emphasizes educational and professional opportunities for women and girls; freedom of choice with respect to work, domesticity, and parenting; and physical and particularly sexual empowerment” (Tasker)
The question here to evaluate would be whether or not this postfeminist culture that we have begun to breed in America is a true postfeminist culture. Tasker and Negra do not seem to think so, and I agree with them. It is important to note that the success of feminism, this equality in every area of life, is what gives way to the rise of postfeminism. Therefore, postfeminism is not the enemy, and it is not something to resist. What I argue is that postfeminism is not viable in the current system in America, and I do not think it is viable for at least 200 years for a few reasons, the main reason being that we must reach full equality for everyone— yes, although feminism targets the uplifting of those who identify as female, it also seeks to empower men who are unfortunately victims of the patriarchy. This desire to reach full equality will be discussed later on in the post.
To begin, Tasker and Negra note that: “Postfeminist fictions frequently set aside both evident economic disparities and the fact that a majority of women approach paid labor as an economic necessity rather than a “choice”1. It is historically accurate that women enter the workforce in high volumes when it is an economic necessity, and the United States faced economic crisis with the recession in 2008. This recession pushed women out of the home because it was absolutely necessary. It is no longer possible for lower to middle class families to survive on just one person’s salary, and therefore both man and woman need to work in order to support the needs of a growing family.
Is the growing work economy actually a sign of a postfeminist landscape? I don’t think so. I remember that we were taught in my history classes that after World War 2 ended, women returned home— as the economy heals, women are not leaving the workforce in mass exodus. One thing I have noticed is that there is a resurgence of the fantasy of being ‘stay at home’ mothers in media produced for women, indicated by shows such as Desperate Housewives and the entire Real Housewives series. This is maybe indicative of the fact that we are living in a situation where women are not able to fully choose. However, the current society in America takes the fact that many women ARE working to mean that economic inequality is solved, and thus, the need for feminism is also eradicated— which is far from right.
While I do truly appreciate and encourage the thought of a majority of women participating in the workforce, there are still problems present in that women still are faced with a huge pay gap. The United States Department of Labor reports that there is only a $2000 difference between the lowest overall average earnings made by men, and the highest overall average earnings made by women. It is important that we work to breach this pay gap, because further studies made by United States Agency of International Development show that women tend to spend more on their communities (i.e., their children’s education, food, and healthcare). As we have discussed within the seminar, we know that these areas need to be invested in and improved, and it is only by giving women the proper wages to do so that we will begin to see improvement by way of investment.
How do we remedy this pay gap? The answer for some may be simple: through legislation. However, the fact of the matter is that bills proposing equal pay have gone through Congress more than once and are voted down every time. I think this reflects a larger problem at hand: representation. While women outnumber men in the general population of the USA (>50%), they still only represent a little less than 20% of Congress. The overall well-being of the female population is not being considered or cared for from a female perspective in congress. Bills supporting Planned Parenthood and equal pay laws are legislative moves that greatly benefit women in the long run, but often lack support in Congress.
This is why I think a better answer rather than legislation, is representation. We desperately need more women in Congress and in other job fields as well. As representation grows, legislation that benefits the majority of women will pass more and more, not even simply because of the sheer increase in votes, but also because women will be able to inform their fellow legislators of the female perspective, something that is wildly lacking from popular politics that dominates the media.
Lastly, I think that more women should continue to break ‘glass ceilings’ in all areas: in STEM, in business, in art, in entertainment… and as women occupy these fields, we will begin to see a “flowering” of young and powerful women that realize their own agency, and in turn begin to see a society that is full of media, art and legislation that fully reflects the very nearly half of the population that identifies as female. The way I am envisioning it, this will set into place a domino effect, as more representation = more societal understanding and knowledge of the female position— or so one should hope.
This leads me to the question of intersectionality. It comes as no surprise that the dominant idea of western feminism is one of ‘white’ feminism, that is, a type of feminism that seems to only take into account the trials and tribulations of white women. It is a whitewashing type of feminism that inherently silences and does not take into account the fact that latina women and black women are far behind white women when it comes to social progress. For instance, I know I grew hearing that the difference in pay was 77 cents made by a woman was a dollar made by a man. However, this is only pertaining to white women and men. According to the Center for American Progress, the wage gap for hispanic women compared to non-hispanic white men was 54%, while the wage gap for black women compared to non-hispanic white men was 64%.
This is not the only instance in which women of color are far behind white women, and a lot of this is manifested in societal stereotypes surrounding women of color. Hispanic women are often seen as housemaids or inherently ‘sexual’ creatures, such as Consuela from the animated series “Family Guy”; black women are often thrown in three categories, as explained in the video by Franchesca Ramsey entitled “3 Black Female Stereotypes that Need to Die”. Women of color were systematically discriminated against in history, and until all women of every racial identity are liberated, we cannot claim full equality.
This reminds me of a quote from Lilla Watson, an activist, academic, and artist. She says “If you have come to help me, you are wasting your time. But if you have come because your liberation is bound up with mine, then perhaps we can work together.” I feel as though this describes the certain position that the fight for gender equality is currently in. Women in general will never reach total equality in our society until we recognize all components of our “femaleness”— and while the problems posed by racial differences are obviously the most glaring, this also encompasses sexual differences (i.e., those of our community that are bisexual, transgender MTF, nonbinary but female presenting, or lesbian), class differences (what problems face poor women that well-off women do not face?), and international differences (what challenges do women in other countries face? This could encompass access to healthcare, education, and sexual/reproductive autonomy, among other things). This is why I think a postfeminist world is not viable for at least two hundred years. It is a complete and total liberation of all women, everywhere; feminism will grow across the globe slowly, not spread like wildfire. Unfortunately, it takes a lot of work on the part of those who are already enjoying some success on the front of gender equality (i.e., the Western world) in order to liberate our fellow humans.
(I realize that this view sounds a lot like the traditional mindset of colonialism. I would like to make it clear that my goal is not to colonize and force a western idea of feminism on societies in other countries. I don’t have all of the answers yet, but what I am hoping is that we should be able to help our fellow humans reach full liberation while maintaining their own customs and ideas. Is that possible? I would think so. Is it viable? Perhaps not, and perhaps that is why the fight for gender equality is going to span over hundreds of years.)
Either way, we should not rest until we see a complete and total liberation of women, which will in turn benefit all humans of the Earth. Allowing any pocket of the world to maintain traditional patriarchal views is a threat to other liberated areas, we cannot allow or rest until these attitudes and behaviors are completely eradicated.
 Yvonne Tasker and Diane Negra, “Interrogating Postfeminism”