Posts Tagged ‘postmodernism’



There’s a new blog on the block. And it’s rather good. FemDelusion is the brainchild of Dr Jamie Potter. He describes his project thus:

‘The central argument, as suggested by the title ‘femdelusion’, following Dawkins’ well-known The God Delusion, is that feminism is an ideology committed to various faith-based commitments.’

One of the first posts tackles the thorny issue of  Postmodernism and Feminism. I recommend reading the whole essay as it’s quite thought provoking. But I’ve chosen this section to feature here because it mentions me! And also sums up some of Jamie’s ideas about the problems posed by ‘postmodern feminism’.

Jamie writes:

‘A critical theoretic feminism is one that seeks to outline a narrative of sorts in order to justify the viewpoint that ‘women have it worse’, and is thus typically found alongside an egalitarian commitment. A postmodern feminism, by contrast, rejects such grand narratives altogether in favour of local, situated gestures. For a postmodern feminist, the trick is to expose the ‘false binary’ structures and ‘essentialisms’ we arbitrarily impose on complex lives that always escape such structures, and to ‘destabilise’ them. A quite literally beautiful example of postmodernist feminism is provided by Femen (especially Amina Tyler), who ‘destabilise’ the meaning of breasts as sexual display by encouraging people to associate their breasts with protest. (And… for the first time in human history… I’m not going to put up an image of their protests, even a blurry one. Although I will link to Femen’s homepage, as I think they’re really quite interesting.)

Given this inherent difference of approach, you’d be forgiven for thinking it odd that postmodernist feminists and critical theoretic feminists don’t really seem to have massive awkward barnies. Surely by now someone with the intelligence of Suzanne Moore has noticed that Queer Theory, with it’s rejection of the false male/female binary, would have noticed that much feminist theory out there is predicated on gender essentialist categories? So why is there so little observable conflict?

A longer, more detailed answer is required (and won’t be possible until I’ve droned on about critical theory some more), but to some extent, I think it can be explained simply by postmodernist feminists not being overly concerned about the possibility of critical theoretic feminist narratives dominating politically. Julia Kristeva, for instance, is quite happy using ‘total deceptions’ if they happen to serve a political agenda she favours.  This may, however, change as the political situation changes. Increasingly feminism is coming to resemble ‘the man’, and postmodernists tend not to like ‘the man’.

I find QuietRiotGrrl’s approach extremely interesting here. I’d highly recommend people give her a close look, as I think she’s a very original and interesting thinker. As you can see here, QRG explicitly attacks what I’d call ‘critical theoretic feminism’ on the basis that it is committed to the gender binary, something QRG thinks ought to be destabilised:

1) Feminism is based on an assumption that overall, men as a group hold power in society and this power, damages women as a group.

2) The above assumption, no matter what feminists say, relies on a belief in and a reinforcement of the essentialist binary view of gender (i.e. that male v female men v women masculine v feminine are real and important distinctions. That is how feminists justify their belief that ‘men’ hold power over ‘women’)

3) This means that in order to present these assumptions as ‘fact’, men are demonised by feminism as a whole. Feminism is, by its very nature, misandrist. e.g. concepts such as ‘rape culture’ and ‘patriarchy’ and ‘violence against women and girls’ and ‘the male gaze’ and ‘objectification’ rely on making out men are not decent people, in general, as a group. To be accepted as decent human beings, the onus is placed by feminists onto men to prove their worth, and to prove why they differ from the (socialised or innate) ‘norm’ of dominant masculinity.

Notice that QRG places a great deal of emphasis on the fact that feminists rely on the gender binary. She even then maintains that feminists not only rely on the gender binary, but activelyreinforce it by perpetuating narratives of male violence, domination, etc. For QRG, that this binary is ‘essentialist’ is, I suspect, enough to earn her wrath. Her commitment is first and foremost to her Foucauldian interrogation of the power dynamics of intellectual discourse, and it is her resistance to the power contained in being able to control how social actions are framed that underlies her (now) anti-feminism. She’s pretty much unique as a thinker, as far as I can tell, since she’s the first postmodernist feminist to flip. I wouldn’t be at all surprised if others started to follow, however.’