Genz, Stephanie. (2009). Postfemininities in Popular Culture

By Kornfield, Sarah | Women's Studies in Communication, Spring 2012 | Go to article overview

Genz, Stephanie. (2009). Postfemininities in Popular Culture


Kornfield, Sarah, Women's Studies in Communication


Genz, Stephanie. (2009). Postfemininities in Popular Culture. London, England: Palgrave MacMillan, 2009. 1+218 pp. $90.00 (hardcover). ISBN-13: 978-0-230-55150-3.

Western culture popularly understands feminism and femininity as opposites. The concepts are interconnected, yet society often portrays them as incompatible, forcing women to choose between feminist and feminine identities. Challenging this false duality, St6phanie Genz argues that for many women lived experience is a complicated patchwork and integration of feminism and femininity. Genz's 2009 book, Postfemininities in Popular Culture, begins to develop the terminology and theoretical constructs with which to describe, contextualize, and critique the lived experiences of these conflicted identities.

Drawing on current postfeminist scholarship, including work by Dow, Inness, McRobbie, Gill, and Whelehan, Genz argues that the conflicting but intertwined concepts of feminism and femininity can be reunited and that postfeminist entertainment performs the first stumbling attempts at expressing these new postfemininities. While Genz uses the terms feminism and femininity in a traditional manner, her definitions for postfeminism and postfemininity are technical. Genz defines postfeminism as theory, entertainment, and/or practice occurring after second-wave feminism and harboring "within itself the threat of backlash as well as the potential for innovation" (24). Then, arguing that second-wave feminism significantly changed the feminine landscape, Genz coins postfemininity to "depict the paradoxes of contemporary femininity," referencing both "traditional narratives of feminine passivity" and the more "progressive scripts" of women's empowerment (17). Just as postfeminism is simultaneously liberal and conservative, postfemininity is both traditional and progressive, expressing the "manifold layers" of feminine experience (17).

Organized into two parts, with several chapters each, Postfemininities in Popular Culture explores the constructions of femininity, first within prominent feminist writings and then in popular culture. By putting feminist theory and popular culture into direct conversation, Genz provides a representational history of femininity from the 1960s to the present. Analyzing feminist writings in the first part of the book, Genz explores four historical stages of feminist thought: (1) liberal feminism, exemplified by Friedan's The Feminine Mystique; (2) radical feminism, exemplified by Millet's Sexual Politics; (3) the 1980s' backlash, exemplified by Friedan's reactionary work, The Second Stage; and finally (4) girl power in the 1990s, exemplified by third-wave feminism's focus on girls, media, and consumer culture. This first section successfully demonstrates the different configurations of gender and femininity that these feminist theories entail. Genz's work carefully argues that feminism has a fluctuating relationship with femininity, and that different feminist theories alternately renounce, embrace, or attempt to redefine femininity.

The second part explores media portrayals of femininity. Again, Genz works historically, tracing the popular representations of women from the 1960s to the present. …

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