neoliberalism and its relationship to postfeminsim


2839006331_e59e3bb64d_o-1Last week I began to introduce the idea of how political ideologies may influences the choices we make when considering what we do down there.  Apologies in advance as today’s blog is theory heavy, but please bare in mind that I’m doing a masters – it goes with the territory.   For those with less time (or interest), don’t worry I will be considering celebrity culture and pornography soon and  intend to lower the tone and add loads of pictures !

Please remember to share your thoughts and feelings on this blog, it is all anonymous and very much needed to enhance existing (but limited) academic inquiry into the politics of pubes, the whys and hows.

Rosalind Gill suggests that ‘the notion of postfeminism has become one of the most important and contested terms in the lexicon of feminist cultural analysis’. However what is rarely contested is the intrinsic relationship between postfeminism and contemporary neoliberalism.  From this perspective postfeminism shares the same set of values and ideologies associated with neoliberalism, it is the voice of empowerment and a vocabulary of choice which Angela Mc Robbie suggests depoliticises feminist critique. Furthermore the female body and the representation of femininity in contemporary culture seems to promote an ideal of Anglo Western feminine beauty  being  young, slim,white and hairless women.

Gill equates postfeminism to a sensibility that is saturated by the pervasiveness of neoliberal reasoning. She notes that media texts are central in defining the evolving relationship between popular culture, femininity and feminism. She suggests that the choice rhetoric is so mainstream across all media that presents women as empowered agents, as long as they are in possession of a‘sexy body’. Through the rhetoric of choice, women are portrayed as empowered by their feminine, sexy, thin and hairless bodies in contemporary media texts and implicitly encouraged to attain these ideals. Furthermore she identifies post feminist media culture’s preoccupation with the body as a key source of female identity, idealised femininity as a result, becomes more internally focused.

McRobbie suggests that postfeminism can be explored through the notion of ‘double entanglement’ that she explains as ‘the co-existence of neoliberal values relating to gender, sexuality and family life with the process of liberation in regard to choice and diversity in domestic, sexual and kinship relations’.  Furthermore, she argues that media texts use the language of choice, notions of feminism and empowerment, whilst at the same time ignoring it and ultimately dismantling it. Latterly she points to feminism’s re-entry into the pubic cultural domain as further amplifying women by corporeal means to maintain existing dominant power relations. She identifies this as the ‘perfect’, by which she means a heightened form of self-regulation where women are on a treadmill of self doubt pertaining to their bodies; ‘did I maintain my good looks and my sexually attractive groomed body? (Mc Robbie, 2015 p.9).

Foucault’s identification of the body as a main site of power relations has proved significant for feminists when analysing contemporary methods of social control of the bodies and minds of women. Significantly, he noted that acts that seem the most innocuous, irrelevant, trivial and pragmatic practices of the self are often where the power structures are working most effectively.  Certainly I’d argue that pubic hair falls within the boundary of ‘irrelevant  and trivial’ both academically and culturally.  But why?  Why do we consider something that more and more of us continue to do as irrelevant, what is the driving force behind this choices’we are all making ?


Although Foucault fails to consider sexual difference, he provides a textured understanding of everyday practices and power relations. Under the prevailing influence of Foucault, Sandra Bartky’s detailed analysis of the female body and power relations examines disciplinary practices such as exercise and beauty regimes. She suggests that they produce a type of embodiment of feminine beauty which conforms to social norms that subjugate the women (and men arguably) that undertake these practices. Women’s willingness to perform such practices, she argues aids in greater forms of disempowerment. Susan Boro also understands female self-surveillance and regulatory practices as a form of disciplinary power. She suggests that female voluntary acts of body modification render women agents of their own subjugation.

Are we really all complying unwittingly to dominant ideals and power structures, and  making decision relating to our bodies and pubic hair because we are constantly being duped into believing it to be empowering and liberating ?  Have your say.  I think the postfeminist critique is fascinating but maybe a bit restrictive  – what about men (manscaping), and women of colour, what about the LBGTQ community ?


4 thoughts on “neoliberalism and its relationship to postfeminsim

  1. Love your post, loads of info, I think I have the jist of it and difficult to form a single opinion!
    I feel Media / culture is the leader which tells women and men how to conform to dress / groom. But then are we grooming, (including looking after our body hair) for to make ourselves feel good or to feel more empowered or sexually attractive…yes to all….?
    I guess these are all grooming rituals which vary through out each culture aimed to make us feel and look good and ulimately to attract a mate / partner. This should be seen as a good thing i.e. we need to have a standard in our culture to know what is acceptable or not with regard to appearance in society, however money making Media has taken over and therefore our ideals have been taken to extremes.
    As far as post feminism is concerned, the feminist message these days seems to be more about equality between men and women and realising our own core values. As humans we will always judge by looks first.
    A thought that has just come to mind is, if I was a feminist leader trying to inspire and make a change to society and I had to choose between two images, I would rather be a larger well dressed lady with a trimmed pubes (I’m not into the bald thing) than a slim, well dressed lady who does not trim her pubes. (I give the option of slim and larger lady as Media dictates we can only be happy / successful when slimmer). This comes down to how confident I feel after shaving my legs, armpits and pubes. I feel more confident with less hair but why?? Is it ALL down to the Media? How long has the media had control of our looks for? Since WW2…? There must be other influences….? Will stop now as rambling…..xxxx

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  2. Hey Nic, I do believe that the post feminist discourse is very interesting and enlightening, but I also find it very pessimistic in some ways. I feel like it’s trying to police women in some ways and tries to impose on them certain ways of doing things. I mean, it does kind of feel very elitist to me.
    However, it’s undeniable that the media and companies are still imposing dominant ideas on how women (and now men) should groom themselves, dress, behave etc in the name of empowerment and choice when nothing about marketing does really leave you a choice.
    I do feel like the discourse about body hair has evolved in the last few years, with more millennials speaking out about the fact that they have hairs on their bodies, whether it be armpits, legs, pubes, nipples or belly. However, this is a discussion that happens through certain media outlets that might not be considered fully mainstream (Dazed, Vice…) and that is targeted to a crowd that is somewhat educated about these matters.
    I tried to have many conversations with my friends about their body hairs and a lot of them are very reticent about just opening up about it. One of them was worried that taking the pill would make her grow nipple hair and she just couldn’t deal with that, the other one claims to be “afraid of hairs” and just HAS to get rid of everything. I tried confronting her about the fact that maybe, it was because she was influenced by what she sees in magazines and what she reads about hairs in magazines but at the idea of being manipulated by medias she was offended.
    The sad thing is, even if we’re conscious of it, and we’re not scared of our body hairs, our private and public selves are two very different people.
    My private self doesn’t give a flying fu*k about hair (armpits, legs, nipple, pubes and anywhere else) and I have never felt less feminine or confident with my body for it. And neither have my boyfriends (or one night stands for that matter). However, when I go outside, I will suddenly feel extremely self conscious about them, trying to hide my legs in the tube because we can see a bit of hairs on my ankles, shaving my armpits if my sleeves are a bit short, or trimming by pubes to go to the swimming pool.
    And that feeling of being two different people is very weird, I’ll be saying to my friends “Who cares about hairs? they’re so much work, we need them, they’re here for a reason, they’re not disgraceful it’s natural and fu*k the patriarchy!!” but on my way home, I’ll be pulling up my socks so no one notices them….

    I am not sure whether this is helpful at all. Sorry I went on for a bit. I’ll come back later with some more thoughts! x


  3. Having skim read your blog (sorry short on time) I agree the trend of removing hair is part of the post feminist neoliberal zeitgeist, However its roots are much deeper (no pun intended) than that. I work as a GP and therefore am daily exposed to multiple varied female pudenda. There are groups of women who completely remove all pubic hair from a huge variety of cultural and ethnic backgrounds of all age groups. Muslim Turkish women over the age of 60 for example will all have shaven nether regions. It seems fairly obvious that there would be a correlation between the degree of gender inequality in a traditional culture and whether women shave their mons pubis but I wonder if there is any research evidence on this?


    • Lor, thanks for your comment today. Actually one of my next blogs is about religion and pubic hair – I know that hair plays a very significant role in a variety of cultures world wide (and historically). when you have more time take a look at the post on pubic hair history as it touches upon some of this. I met with an Iranian woman this week, who I plan to interview next week and her stories were fascinating. We briefly talked about Iran pre revolution (when it was a secular society) and post as Islamic. She said that it was very normal for older Iranian women to have completely bald mons but it tended to relate to a perception of cleanliness. I will look for some academic literature and get back to you. I do know however that the Islamic faith (as stated by the profit Mohamed) encouraged both men and women to remove all of their pubic hair. I honestly think you could write a book about pubic hair practices. It really is an untapped area of academic research. Thank you so much for commenting and I look forward to hearing from you again – time permitting of course.


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