Last 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 ?