Does Difference Make a Difference? Gender

Pink ...Lady Gaga... RuPaul ... Schoolhouse Rock... Gaga Suffrage












The Three Waves of Feminism:

Feminism's First Wave -- The Women's Suffrage Movement

Late 19th Century/Early 20th Century Anti-Suffrage Postcard















Feminism's Second Wave -- The Women's Liberation Movement of the 1960s and 1970s











"Real Woman Chained to Amerika-Dolly" -- Protest Against Miss America Pageant, 1968

Constructing popular perceptions of who and what a "feminist" "is" in media cultures.
















Third Wave Feminism: 1980s and 1990s

"Girl Power"


















Judith Butler, Gender Performativity



Judith Butler as Gendered-Lego-Construct

From biological sex (male and female), to cultural gender (masculine and feminine), to culturally coded and prescribed desires (hetero-normativity). Cultural ideas and ideals influence our ideas about biological sex, making our ideas about gender and sexuality seem "natural" and "common-sensical" when they are in fact they are produced by culture and are socio-historically contingent. Gender, for Butler, is "performative," it is "constituted by the very 'expressions' that are said to be its results" (p. 25)









Butler's Key Ideas:

-- Nothing in identity is fixed; it changes through time and from place to place













-- Identity might best be understood as the social and cultural baggage we carry that is packed with things we have previously expressed or which have been said about us and who we are presumed to "be"















-- There is not really an "inner self" that is given or essential even though we come to believe this is the case because of the repetition of discourses on the self












-- Gender, like other aspects of identity, is a performance, but not necessarily a conscious one














-- Our ideas about gender, including our own performances of gender, are reinforced through repeitition

















-- The binary distinction between masculinity and femininity is a social construction built on the binary division between men and women













-- While seeming to be "natural," based on biological differences, this division is socially constructed, repeating the story of these differences and the meanings they will take on














-- These stories naturalize gender inequalities and elide their cultural origins















-- We should challenge traditional views of gender and disrupt the ways these feed into ideas about sexual identities by making "gender trouble"



















Butler's argument is heavily influenced by the work of Foucault and, in particular, the critique of the idea of a core or essence to identity. She argues that there are no "invariable or fixed properties" which define what a "woman" or a "man" is. Hers, then, is an anti-essentialist approach to gender.

Essentialism: "is most commonly understood as a belief in the real, true essence of things, the invariable and fixed properties which define the 'whatness' of a given entity" (Diana Fuss, Essentially Speaking [1989]: xi).











Marlene Dietrich

"Gender is not passively scripted on the body, and neither is it determined by nature, language, the symbolic, or the overwhelming history of patriarchy. Gender is what is put on, invariably, under constraint, daily and incessantly, with anxiety and pleasure, but if this continuous act is mistaken for a natural or linguistic given, power is relinquished to expand the cultural field bodily through subversive performances of various kinds" (Judith Butler, ‘Performing Acts and Gender Constitution', 1990: 282).













Carmin Miranda

Compulsory Heterosexuality (Adrienne Rich): The idea that culture and society, in its institutions and expressions, prescribes heterosexuality in both women and men and that anyone who does not fit the prescription is deemed "abnormal" or "pathological" in heterosexist culture.
















Post-Feminism? Some would argue that, in the early 21st Century, the goals of feminism have been largely achieved. Others argue that the goals of feminism have been flattened out and repackaged, not to achieve the goals of gender equality but, rather, as an operation of a (capitalist? partriarchal?) hegemony that seeks to minimize conflict.

Riot Grrrls








Rosalind Gill, Post-Feminism as Sensibility

Gill asks: “what is distinctive about contemporary articulations of gender in the media”? 148







It is contradictory, an “entanglement” of both feminist and antifeminist themes, Gill identifies several themes that characterize the postfeminist sensibility:






1. Femininity is a Bodily Property













Images of Women in Sport




























































"While the strong, muscular, fit bodies of the Olympic women arguably offer a refreshing alternative to the constant stream of emaciated bodies we see in popular media, I argue that we also need to be cautious with claims that these ‘real’ bodies offer a radical and empowering template for young women.” Kim,

British Triathelete Victoria Pendleton










How does this compare?









How about this?








2. Shift from Objectification to Subjectification

















Diet Coke, “Gardener”






3. Emphasis on Self-Surveillance, Monitoring, and Discipline


























4. Focus on Individualism, Choice, and Empowerment

































5. Dominance of a Make-Over Paradigm























6. The Self as a Work in Progress













7. Resurgence of the Ideas of Natural Sexual Difference














8. Marked Sexualization of Culture












9. Emphasis on Consumerism and the Commodification of Difference









10. Elision of Inequalities (such as race, class, gender, ethnicity, ability, and sexuality)











The Post-Feminist as Character in Neoliberal Fantasy?

“[I]t is clear that the autonomous, calculating, self-regulating subject of neoliberalism bears a strong resemblance to the active, freely choosing, self-inventing subject of post-feminism” 164





What is Neoliberalism?

Rule of the market;

Cutting public expenditure on social services;



Individualization instead of community or "public good";

Consumption as a practice of self formation;









Evolutionand A Girl's Self-Esteem and Real Beauty Photoshop Action










Compare to U by Kotex Campaign

Apologyand Help Me Choose

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