Postfeminism: What It Is And What It Contributes To The Gender Issue


Under the name of Postfeminism a set of works are grouped that assume a critical stance towards previous feminist movements, while claiming the diversity of identities (and the freedom to choose them), beyond heterosexuality and the sex-gender binarism.

Postfeminism emerged between the end of the 20th century and the beginning of the 21st century, and has had an impact not only on rethinking the feminist movement itself, but also on expanding the ways of identifying and relating in different spaces (in relationships, the family, school, health institutions, etc.).

Below we review some of its background, as well as some of the main proposals.

Breaks with previous feminism and some antecedents

After several decades of struggles that had been important to advance equal rights, feminism pauses and realizes that, to a large extent, these struggles had focused on grouping women, as if ‘woman’ were an identity and a fixed and stable subjective experience

From there, many questions arise. For example, what makes someone considered a ‘woman’? Is the body sexual? Are they the practices of sexuality? While we have fought in the name of ‘the woman’, have we also reified the same binary structures that have oppressed us? If gender is a social construct, who can be a woman? And how? And, before all this, Who is the political subject of feminism?

In other words, Postfeminism was organized under the consensus that the vast majority of previous feminist struggles had been based on a static and binary concept of ‘woman’, with which many of its premises were quickly oriented towards essentialism. little critical. It then opens a new path of action and political demand for feminism based on rethinking identity and subjectivity.

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Poststructuralism and feminism

Under the influence of poststructuralism (which reacted to the structuralist binarism and which pays more attention to the latent aspects of the discourse than to the language itself), the subjective experience of speaking beings was put into play for feminism.

Poststructuralism had paved the way for a “deconstruction” of the text, which was ultimately applied to think about (sexual) subjects, whose identity had been taken as pre-established.

That is, Postfeminism asks about the process of identity construction not only of the sexual subject ‘woman’, but of the relationships themselves that have been historically marked by the sex-gender binarism.

Thus, they take into consideration that said system (and even feminism itself) had been based on heterosexuality as a normative practice, which means that, from the outset, we are installed in a series of exclusive categories, whose purpose is to configure our desires. , our knowledge and our links to binary and often unequal relationships.

Faced with a dispersed and unstable subject, feminism, or rather feminisms (already in plural), also become processes in permanent construction, which maintain a critical position towards feminisms considered ‘colonial’ and ‘patriarchal’, for example, liberal feminism.

The plurality of identities

With Postfeminism, the multiplicity of signifiers that mean that there is no uniqueness in “being a woman”, nor in “being a man”, being “feminine”, “masculine”, etc. are finally uncovered. Postfeminism transforms this into a fight for the freedom to choose an identity, transform it or experience it, and make one’s own desire recognized

Thus, it is positioned as a commitment to diversity, which tries to vindicate different experiences, and different bodies, desires and ways of life. But this cannot occur in the traditional and asymmetrical sex-gender system, so it is necessary to subvert the limits and norms that have been imposed.

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Feminists themselves recognize themselves as constituted by different identities, where nothing is fixed or determined. The identity of sexual subjects consists of a series of contingencies and subjective experiences that occur in accordance with the life history of each person; beyond being determined by physical traits which have been historically recognized as ‘sexual traits’

For example, lesbian and trans identity, as well as female masculinity, take on special relevance as one of the main struggles (which had gone unnoticed not only in patriarchal and heteronormative society, but in feminism itself).

Queer theory and trans bodies

Society is a space for the construction of sexuality. Through speeches and practices Desires and bonds that largely legitimize heterosexuality and gender binarism are normalized as the only possible one. This also generates spaces of exclusion for identities that do not fit its norms.

Given this, Queer Theory vindicates what had been considered ‘rare’ (queer, in English), that is, it takes sexual experiences that are different from heteronormative ones – peripheral sexualities – as a category of analysis to denounce abuses. , omissions, discrimination, etc., that have delimited ways of life in the West.

Thus, the term ‘queer’, which used to be used as an insult, is appropriated by people whose sexualities and identities had been on the periphery, and becomes a powerful symbol of struggle and vindication.

For its part, the movement of intersex, transgender and transsexual people, questions that masculinity has not been an exclusive thing of the body of the heterosexual man (the body sexed as masculine); nor is femininity something exclusive to the female sexed body, but throughout history, there have been a great multiplicity of ways of living sexuality that have been beyond the heterocentered system.

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Both Queer Theory and trans experiences call for the diversity of identities of biological bodies, as well as the multiplicity of sexual practices and orientations that had not been provided for by heterosexual regulations

In short, for Postfeminism the fight for equality occurs from diversity and from the opposition to the dissymmetrical sex-gender binarism. Their commitment is to the free choice of identity against the violence to which those who do not identify with heteronormative sexualities are systematically exposed.