FEMINISM IN POSTMODERNISM

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meaning. To simplify a complicated debate: where a ‘1970s feminist’ might see the fashion system as a 2 . movies that know they are movies.” It defines post feminism simply as “pertaining to or occurring in the period after the feminist movement of the 1970s.g. the pathological view of women has not changed. anti-essentialism). what the postmodern images of “female-ness” are so that there is a point of reference.” More concisely. We don‟t ever have to leave this cozy simulacrum where the real is more real than real life. heterosexual. white. Glenn Ward describes it as: A meeting of feminist concerns (e. Lyotard for his ideas about language games. With their analyses. I‟d like to prove that the postmodernist view of language is actually supporting a move away from patriarchy and white supremacy and therefore helping the feminist movement. Gender equality) and postmodernist attitudes (e. and all other rights of women equal to those of men.com defines feminism as “the doctrine advocating social. Dictionary. and plurality. I‟m going to explore a few specific areas of this broad topic. We‟ve got flying cars. Jacques Derrida and Jean-Francois Lyotard. Relativism.g. Postmodernism is male-centric. political. for her ability to combine apparent equality in a ‘man’s world’ … with a possibly ironic performance of female sexuality. and ivory tower supporting. in the book Teach Yourself Postmodernism.The Postmodernist era is truly remarkable – especially when it comes to media. for their ideas about language: Derrida for his deconstructionism and binary opposition. and an ever evolving sense of the self. A key figure has been Madonna. …post-feminism rejects what it sees as feminism’s hostility to pleasure. First. Then I‟ll look at two theorists. Unfortunately.

Ward gives the examples of Madonna and an American artist by the name of Cindy Sherman to illustrate the idea of changing images of “female-ness. started in the early 1980s and blossomed in the 1990s. 3 .” He makes the point that these two individuals are deconstructing some of the stereotypes of women perpetuated by mass media by toying with multiple identities and making all of these identities appear equally artificial.” Reinelt also argues that post feminism is marked by the lack of identity of the term “woman.” This lessened any concrete criticisms of women because identifying with any common properties of all women became impossible. Plus. a post-feminist will see it in terms of women’s skillful self-creation. So it would seem that post feminists are obliterating the gender line by owning what it means to be a woman – no longer is a woman‟s appearance and behavior due to oppression but confidence and her own personal desire. An article by the name of What is "Postfeminism" and Are We In It? by Janelle Reinelt claims that post feminism. that‟s my theory. The female image started with coercion by society to pursue the beauty ideal and moved to “…‟power feminism‟ that rejects an old bad feminist „hardline‟ for a kind of „seize the day‟ program that claims equality and economic empowerment are attainable for women with enough drive and self-confidence. even those of gender. According to Derrida. If the idea is that language operates because of certain rules and social constructs. it marked the loss of a narrow ideal of what woman/en is/are. as opposed to second wave or third wave.form of domination (dressing up for the male gaze). then we could potentially change the rules and change the meaning of the word making it more favorable or creating fewer stigmas around it – at least.

Evidence of this particularly evidence of the worship of goddesses along with gods . The basic premise of Shlain's book is that we are naturally wired to be cooperative. to destroy binary oppositions. nurturing. Perhaps by shifting to a less marginalized view of people we can support a more egalitarian society. In this way. culture. and among indigenous peoples today.the dominant interpretation of a word is picked at and destroyed through deconstruction which is a tool that allows us to understand the meaning of a word (Foskin). There‟s also an interesting theory about the interplay of written language and the death of matriarchy. and probably matriarchal in social organization. 4 . and is artificial (Foskin). But. While it would be extremely difficult. if not impossible. we can at least be aware of these. he argues. a culture could easily perpetuate the idea that man is greater than woman or white is better than black. Another theory of Derrida‟s is binary opposition which is when a pattern is created where one in a pair of opposites is privileged. This is acquired by habit. for example. Shlain says.is widespread around the ancient world. An author by the name of Leonard Shlain wrote a book called The Alphabet versus the Goddess. This leads to plurality: which means we acknowledge more than one meaning for a phrase or a word (Foskin). In Thom Hartman‟s review of the book. suppressing the intuitive/holistic/female side Just another example of how aspects of language that we may not even be aware of can support the suppression of women. that the universal desire or urge implied by generalized talk of sexuality is actually a male heterosexual idea (Ward).the type where the letters are not pictures of the meaning conveyed to children at an early age. we cause the abstract/male side of their brains to rise up and take over. Post-feminist critics have argued. This also means that a word like “woman” can have several different meanings. when we teach abstract alphabets .

He meant to escape the confines of conventional. Truth is not universal: it‟s personal. Roe.Lyotard stressed the importance of emotions and sensations when deriving the meaning of something (Foskin).” Another example is women‟s adaptation of the word “bitch. Lyotard also stated that truth is a language game we play with ourselves so the foundation of truth depends on the rules of the game (Foskin). According to the professor of the Native American Perspectives on Conquest class at Colorado State University. Therefore we can change the rules and hence change the truth. This is such an important concept when we think about the meanings society has placed on our words and how we can destroy them and create our own. We can own our words – they will no longer own us. puritan thought – and in my opinion paved a way to a less patriarchal system of thinking. she says the word takes on a new meaning when this happens: what was once painful gradually becomes acceptable and then funny. Granted. Lyotard seemed to define truth by what truth is to each one of us based on our experiences. However.” It used to be incredibly loaded and hurtful but now it‟s practically a compliment. This is my personal favorite analysis of language because it supports the individual and moves away from a marginalized view of people. Dino Felluga summarizes her theory: 5 . the word woman wouldn‟t be any different from the word man. using the words of the oppressors freely in the oppressees own speech is the mark of internalized oppression. the implications of internalized oppression are nothing but negative but the benefit of this process is that the word loses certain negative effects. and no color would hold privilege over another. The best example is the African American community‟s adaptation of the “n word. Dr. It would lead to a world where racial slurs wouldn‟t hurt anyone. that our reality is just the flow of individual intensities. Another very interesting Post Structuralist philosopher is Judith Butler who wrote about an idea known as performativity.

Butler is making the argument that gender is only a social construction and our repetitive acts. In my opinion. our ideologies have "real" consequences for people) but that does not make them any less artificial. gender is not a role that expresses or disguises that interior self. anything really. and incredibly powerful. By enacting conventions. such as language. It‟s accessible to everyone. but that "reality" nonetheless remains a social construction …. we can use those same tools to deconstruct and reconstruct said genders. by embodying those fictions in our actions. and to what end? And who is hearing it and excluded from it? Post feminism can absolutely lead America to a more progressive era and I believe language is the key. It stars Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson. It‟s the repetition of norms that enables a subject and constitutes the temporal condition for the subject. an older movie star with a sense of emptiness. In the act of performing the conventions of reality. for whom. we do make them "real" to some extent (after all. constantly evolving. this theory makes every single one of us sound dismally autonomous. we make those artificial conventions appear to be natural and necessary. It‟s about Bob. 6 . is what‟s constructing it. The way this applies to gender is to think about whether the “self” is sexed or not. we "incorporate" that reality by enacting it with our bodies. To illustrate my theory that language is the foundation of defining gender – well. One very important thing to remember when it comes to language is who is speaking. we enact that reality. Butler understands gender as an act – that it has no relation to “truths” about the body but is only ideological.By endlessly citing the conventions and ideologies of the social world around us. in the performative act of speaking. but in this case gender – I analyzed the movie Lost in Translation. And maybe we are but if she‟s identifying the tools with which we use to construct our genders. Maybe it‟s even possible to eliminate gender altogether.

I thought because this movie has a woman as a director. And Charlotte spends quite a bit of her screen time in underwear and a tank top. She rarely wears make up and when she does it‟s very light. is divorced. and Bob is quite a bit older than Charlotte. and unhappily married. Lost in Translation is so traditional that there‟s no guesswork regarding the motives of the characters and the plot runs like clockwork. I would say this is degrading to women but Charlotte‟s character is somewhat ambiguous in her gender definition. Plus at the age of 32. It‟s a very traditional movie by which I mean it‟s your typical “boy meets girl” story. In fact. Charlotte is. generally the women are wearing skirts. Charlotte who he has an “affair” with. her hair is often unkempt even when she‟s in public. identify their gender in terms of behavior and appearance. or maybe not surprisingly. In analyzing how the characters. Everything about her character says that she owns who she is. in my opinion. Surprisingly. and has two children with her current boyfriend. sometimes a skirt). the first thing I noticed was that almost all of the female characters wear skirts – even the ones who have very little screen time. while there. This is important because her background is going to impact the way gender is portrayed. it would be more progressive and break out of the gender stereotypes – I was wrong. the less traditional.who goes to Japan to shoot a commercial and. and her clothing style changed to suit her situation/mood (sometimes pants. but her relationship with her new husband 7 . she became the youngest woman ever to be Oscar-nominated as Best Director for this movie: Lost in Translation (Wikipedia). even her gender. She is the third woman in history and the first American woman to be nominated for a Best Director Academy Award. meets a much younger. She‟s the daughter of two directors. saving grace of gender identification which I will explain in detail later. the opening scene is a close up of her posterior and thighs wearing only her underwear and a tank top. The director‟s name is Sofia Coppola. mainly Charlotte and Bob.

I think that Charlotte and Bob define themselves more traditionally.g. However. Bob is often wearing a suit and he has an unhappy relationship with his wife. The men in this movie hold higher job positions (e. playful. What they do and how they act is ideological/traditional – there‟s history behind their 8 . As far as language goes. Bob exemplifies this role when he takes Charlotte to the hospital and tells her to get in the wheelchair for no other reason than to be funny.defines her as a passive aggressive wife who is often left alone in the hotel room while he is at work. Bob is in Japan to shoot a whiskey commercial – this fact alone defines him as a man because whiskey companies know their biggest demographic is men and their appealing to that demographic. Or when he grabs her hand and runs across the street shouting. the photographer is a Japanese man while his assistant is a woman. I think Judith Butlers theory of performativity works best when analyzing these characters. All too often in the media men take on a loud. the talk show host is a man while the translator is a woman. One example of this is one of the last scenes where Charlotte tells Bob that she‟ll miss him when he leaves and he doesn‟t say anything. Bob is a well paid actor. and Charlotte doesn‟t even have a job to speak of). Bob‟s wife seemed to portray the nagging woman while Charlotte‟s husband portrayed the negligent man. she was the one to make the first move with Bob by sending a drink to him at the bar. She‟s very open with her emotion which is indicative of females and Bob is more closed off which is indicative of males. But Bob and Charlotte themselves are more static and fit less into gender stereotypes. humorous role which very few women have been able to tackle because it‟s not seen as acceptable yet. Another example of typical gender roles established through language is Bob‟s “comedian” role.

behavior. I think the movie was generally supporting current gender construction but I still believe it is possible to tear down the patriarchal norms of society. Language is subjective. and shifting towards plurality. emotional. These traits lay the groundwork for gender construction – and therefore deconstruction. 9 . repetitious. Their language defines them as not-out-of-the-ordinary man and woman because their language is … well … not out-of-the-ordinary.

3 February 2005.BIBLIOGRAPHY 1. 2010.reference.org/wiki/Sofia_Coppola>. Web. CO. Felluga. Postmodern Language."Sofia Coppola.” Dictionary. Janelle.wikipedia. 8. 13 May 2010. Native American Oppression. Class Lecture. 7.edu/sfonline/ps/reinelt2. Professor Kevin. <http://www. <http://en. 4. 3. Fort Collins. 6. Lost in Translation. Dino. “feminism. Foskin. Sofia Coppola. Colorado State University.edu/guidetotheory/genderandsex/modules/butlerperformativity.Thom Hartmann's Independent Thinker Review. 25 Mar. 5.com/browse/feminism>. <Dictionary.barnard." Wikipedia. 2003. “What is "Postfeminism" and Are We in It?” Public Sentiments 2. Hartmann. CO.com http://dictionary. 25 March 2010." Introductory Guide to Critical Theory.1 (2003). Web. <http://www. 13 May 2010. BuzzFlash. Dir. 25 March 2010. Focus Features. Class Lecture. 25 February 2010. Bubar Dr. Fort Collins. "Modules on Butler: On Performativity.” The BuzzFlash Blog.htm>. 2. 3 March 2010. Inc. Colorado State University. Reinelt.html>. Roe. Web.com. DVD. 28 Nov 2003. 10 . Purdue U. Random House. "The Alphabet Versus the Goddess: The Conflict Between Word and Image" -.purdue. Thom.com Unabridged.

Also. meaning. behavior. and plurality.ABSTRACT My paper is about feminism in post modernism (which is also the title). directed by Sofia Coppola. Teach Yourself Postmodernism. The concepts of Derrida that I use specifically are deconstructionism and binary opposition. I discuss how the language. and clothing define gender identity. 11 . The movie I chose to analyze was Lost in Translation with Bill Murray and Scarlet Johansson.” Derrida‟s and Lyotard‟s concepts of language and how these concepts construct a view of language that could create a society that is more accepting of diversity. Judith Butler‟s performativity theory helps to show how language is only a repetitive process by which to define gender with. The three main points I discuss are post modern images of “female-ness. There are also examples from Glenn Ward‟s book. to define post feminism. The concepts of Lyotard that I use specifically are language games.