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“Create Opportunities for Yourself!”: Neoliberal Postfeminism in a Malaysian Women’s Magazine Melissa Yoong The University of

“Create Opportunities for

Yourself!”:

Neoliberal Postfeminism in a Malaysian Women’s Magazine

Melissa Yoong The University of Nottingham Malaysia Campus

Malaysia GDP

USD Billion

Malaysia GDP USD Billion

Global Gender Gap Index

Rankings

2006 2008 2010 2012 2014 60 70 80 90 100 110 120
2006
2008
2010
2012
2014
60
70
80
90
100
110
120
  • Global Gender Gap Index

  • Economic Participation & Opportunity

Source: World Economic Forum

Economic Participation &

Opportunity

The Glass Ceiling:

  • Female Top Managers: 9%

Low Labour Force Participation Rate: 47%

Source: World Economic Forum

Economic Participation

& Opportunity

Economic Participation & Opportunity Source: TalentCorp Malaysia

Source: TalentCorp Malaysia

Economic Participation &

Opportunity

Economic Participation & Opportunity Source: TalentCorp Malaysia

Source: TalentCorp Malaysia

Aims

Part of a larger study seeking to:

Expose of the gendered discourses and sensibilities in Malaysia that:

maintain the glass ceiling, and return professional women to the home

Discourses: “ways of seeing the world”

Gendered discourses: Discourses that position men and women in different ways

(Sunderland, 2004)

Aims

Examine the discourses of career in Malaysian media targeting a female audience

Society & Culture  Discourse

Explore how female text producers in the Malaysian media preserve gender hegemony

Data: Oct 2012-Sept 2013

HerWorld StarClove (monthly (weekly women’s women’s lifestyle magazine) section in newspaper) Capital FM (Malaysia’s only women’s
HerWorld
StarClove
(monthly
(weekly
women’s
women’s
lifestyle
magazine)
section in
newspaper)
Capital
FM
(Malaysia’s
only women’s
radio station)

Advice

articles

Key Gendered Discourses

‘Women Owe Success to Hard Work’ ‘The Lacking Woman’ ‘Women Can Have It All’ ‘Women Can’t Have It All’ ‘Busy Mother Juggling Work and Home’ ‘Work as Passion’ ‘Work as Drudgery’ ‘Motherhood as Ultimate Fulfilment’

Neoliberal Postfeminism

  • Success is within reach, if women work hard & overcome internal barriers

  • Gender equality has been achieved

  • Individual success over collective gains

  • Individualism, liberation, & autonomy

  • Distanced from notions of socio-political constraints & disadvantage

(Gill, 2007)

Extract 1

“Women must equip themselves with what it takes to successfully overcome challenges and be pragmatic in life. In today’s Malaysia, gender is not an issue.”

Tan Sri Rafidah Aziz, former Minister of

International Trade and Industry

(HerWorld June 2013, ‘Who runs the world?’)

Extract 2

Perseverance and the fact that I really love what I did helped a lot. Women need to be confident about their abilities and less critical of themselves.”

Lina Tan, award-winning film and television

producer

(HerWorld June 2013, ‘Who runs the world?’)

Extract 3

In fact, the main reasons that hinder women from reaching their highest potential are family

commitments, maternity benefits, non-existent career flexibility and the lack of practice of equal opportunity in the workforce.

However, we shouldn’t let it stop us from aspiring to achieve greatness. Take it from these women on how they beat the odds to get to the top.

(HerWorld September 2013, ‘Top of the world’)

Extract 4

Staying updated and relevant is crucial when

women go on a break

In my opinion, the

... main reason that women face difficulties in returning to work is not because of gender or status, but the lack of continuous learning. It’s important for women who are on a break to keep their knowledge relevant and skill sets upgraded.”

(HerWorld September 2013, ‘Top of the world’)

Extract 4

Staying updated and relevant is crucial when

women go on a break

In my opinion, the

... main reason that women face difficulties in returning to work is not because of gender or status, but the lack of continuous learning. It’s important for women who are on a break to keep their knowledge relevant and skill sets upgraded.”

(HerWorld September 2013, ‘Top of the world’)

Extract 5

Till today, it is still predominantly a woman’s role to manage her family and household. Our determination to have a better work-life balance is the reason why women are more than willing to accept a lower pay package.

(HerWorld February 2013, ‘Are You Still Underpaid?’)

Extract 5

employers are willing to pay a premium and

... a higher salary package but they also expect performance and results on a ‘shorter runway’ in return, which is something that it is not to (sic) easy to do when you’ve a family waiting at home for you to tend to them. The only way out is to work that runway as hard as the men.

(HerWorld February 2013, ‘Are You Still Underpaid?’)

Extract 5

employers are willing to pay a premium and

... a higher salary package but they also expect performance and results on a ‘shorter runway’ in return, which is something that it is not to (sic) easy to do when you’ve a family waiting at home for you to tend to them. The only way out is to work that runway as hard as the men.

(HerWorld February 2013, ‘Are You Still Underpaid?’)

Extract 6

List down the various things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of your work schedule. Now go do them! If you can afford it, take a long retreat at a spa or travel the world. Sign up for new classes or go back to school. Best of all, you’ll have time to spend with your kids.

(HerWorld December 2012, ‘You’re fired, now what?’)

Extract 6

List down the various things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of your work schedule. Now go do them! If you can afford it, take a long retreat at a spa or travel the world. Sign up for new classes or go back to school. Best of all, you’ll have time to spend with your kids.

(HerWorld December 2012, ‘You’re fired, now what?’)

Extract 6

List down the various things you’ve always wanted to do but couldn’t because of your work schedule. Now go do them! If you can afford it, take a long retreat at a spa or travel the world. Sign up for new classes or go back to school. Best of all, you’ll have time to spend with your kids.

(HerWorld December 2012, ‘You’re fired, now what?’)

Conclusions

1. Mutually reinforcing & conflicting gendered discourses

undermine women’s professional identities

encourage women to return to traditional role of mother

construct neoliberal & postfeminist narrative of self-determination & self- efficacy

Conclusions

2. Preserves gender hegemony in sophisticated ways

“synthetic sisterhood” (Talbot 1992)

neoliberal & postfeminist notions of freedom & choice

Selected References

Gill, R. (2007). Post-feminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility. European Journal of Cultural Studies 10, 14766.

Sunderland, J. (2004). Gendered Discourses. Basingstoke:

Palgrave.

Talbot, M. (1992). ‘A synthetic sisterhood: False friends in a teenage magazine’. In K. Hall, M. Bucholtz and B. Moonwomon (Eds.) Proceedings of the Second Berkeley Women and Language Conference (pp. 573-580). Berkeley: Berkeley Women and Language Group.

Selected References

TalentCorp Malaysia (2016). Advancing Women In The Workplace. Retrieved from www.talentcorp.com.my/facts-and- figures/advancing-women-in-the-workplace

Trading Economics (n.d.). Malaysia GDP. Retrieved from http://www.tradingeconomics.com/malaysia/gdp

World Economic Forum (2015). The Global Gender Gap Report 2015. Retrieved from: http://reports.weforum.org/global-

gender-gap-report-2015