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In recent years ‘feminism’ has become popularised, slowly making its way into mainstream culture. For most, this may seem like a huge step in the right direction, and that is somewhat true, but the truth is the embodiment of only popular feminisms into dominant discourse seems to further embed gender inequality. 

Feminism embedded in popular media uses neoliberal ideas which hone in on the individual rather than the collective, employ empowerment as a selling strategy, and equate female success to economic accomplishment. Empowerment is sold as a self-centred exercise, wherein the individual is responsible for their empowerment by achieving economic wealth rather than a collective effort to improve women’s quality of life. This is known as postfeminism. Postfeminism, in its cultural sense, works to embed feminism into dominant discourse whilst also commodifying it.

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Postfeminist logic presents a series of watered-down feminisms that are “youthful” and “stylish” yet remote from more active forms of feminism like protests etc. So, by these definitions, postfeminism focuses primarily on female empowerment as being defined by women’s ability to consume; it naturalises some aspects of more ‘serious’ feminist critiques but presents commodified feminisms and the empowered female consumer. It is because of postfeminism’s preference for these methods of empowerment that only certain feminisms receive more media coverage, or are deemed more culturally valuable; in particular celebrity and corporate feminisms. Not only are these feminist manifestations more accessible to the wider public via the media but also introduce easier ways to promote ‘empowering’ consumption in order to aid identity construction; “as if seeing or purchasing feminism is the same thing as changing patriarchal structures”.

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The architecture of capitalism depends on female degradation to make a profit. The popularisation of feminism has firstly changed the way corporations sell their products or services, and secondly has had its effect on female consumption habits. If to consume is to be empowered it can be said that postfeminism is complicit with capitalism rather than critical of it, and all its gendered, classed and racialized discourses. 

Although consuming so-called ‘feminist fashion’ may sever individual ideologies – it does little for greater causes. In fact, it encourages further exploration of women through capitalist mechanisms disguised as feminism. 

Credit: The Spark Company

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