Beyond Repudiation: The Affective Instrumentalisation of Feminism in Girlfriendly Spaces

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As a mediated sensibility, Gill, McRobbie and Angela have argued that postfeminism is held together by an incorporation of feminist ideas, in order to position feminism as ‘past’, a positioning which contributes to the production of highly individualised subjectivities. This article highlights an emerging modality of feminine subjectivity in which feminism is affectively incorporated, but, rather than being repudiated, it is deconstructed and instrumentalised to fit within norms of girlfriendship. To draw attention to how this discussion may open a more nuanced understanding of the relations between feminist and postfeminist subjectivity, I explore a set of blogs hosted on Tumblr that are situated within ‘girlfriend’ culture. In these blogs, young women articulate humorous reactions to everyday situations based on assumptions of common, feminine experience. I suggest that girlfriendliness, as an emerging normative condition of youthful femininity, constructs an instrumental relation to feminism requiring the discerning, selective performance of traits suggesting an acceptance of certain feminist ideas. Rather than proceeding to a repudiation of feminism per a classically postfeminist sensibility, feminism is dismantled into an affective plasticity that is flexibly incorporated to show individual value, creating ‘likeable’ and resilient femininities. This article draws attention to shifts in the regulation of femininity that occurs on the plane of the affective, calling for an expanded analytical approach that more broadly problematises the instrumentalisation of feminism as a technology of subjectivity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)240-258
Number of pages19
JournalAustralian Feminist Studies
Issue number93
Publication statusPublished - 3 Jul 2017
Externally publishedYes

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