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<nettime> postfeminism
Steven Kurtz (by way of Josephine Bosma) on Fri, 20 Jun 1997 22:44:56 +0200 (MET DST)


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<nettime> postfeminism


(when I asked Steve Kurtz to explain to me what postfeminism is,
this is the answer I got. For those that don't know: CAE stands
for Critical Art Ensemble. This piece of writing is one little
piece of the puzzle maybe that in the end could shed some light
on the question of what feminism is or could do in our times. J.)

CAE did discuss this issue at length when we did work
for the Postfeminist Playground and the Black Ice issue
on Postfeminism.

Here is a sample that may be of interest to you:

What is post-feminism?

This is a treacherous question that at best evokes a rather fuzzy
answer. Like feminism, post-feminism is not monolithic either in
its discourse or its practice, nor can a model of it be constructed
that would even solicit a majority consensus among those who identify
with the general category. However, some of the primary varieties of
post-feminism can be _loosely_ identified:

1 Retrograde Post-feminists. This camp is generally made up of
apologists for traditional feminine identity and role(s), and is
marked by a desire to return to a gender discourse and practice
with clear and rigid boundaries that are not to be transgressed.

2 Single-Issue Post-feminists. This grouping generally has great
sympathy with much of feminist critique, but believes that
"mainstream" feminism has taken an incorrect turn on an issue of
tremendous significance (the particular problematic issue can vary
greatly). For example, those who identify with the category of
"sex positive" are representative of this trend. Here it is
believed that feminism, in its zeal to stop violence against women
(particularly rape and sexual abuse), has surrendered the affirming
policies of personal liberation and empowerment, and has instead
turned to mediation by the security state (i.e.,the patriarchy itself).
For example, sexual harassment civil laws (often perceived as a means
to better control the sexual expression of the middle class, and to
persecute women and men who are not polite) and anti-pornography
laws championed by some feminist contingents are viewed as being
anti-sex and empowering the patriarchy. Some feminists, not wanting
to be associated with such positions, have reidentified themselves as
post-feminist.

3 Heroic Post-feminists. This camp is primarily concerned with the
issue of the feminist subject. Its members tend to voice two primary
criticisms, although particular points of emphasis tend to vary
tremendously. First there is concern about over-defining the feminist
subject. The belief is that thus far, all definitions of the feminist
subject have excluded some populations who are female-identified. In
an easy example from the early 70s, the definition of the feminist
subject tended to imply a white heterosexual subject, thus excluding
ethnic minorities and lesbians. (This problem has yet to be solved to
the satisfaction of many minority contingents). The second criticism
is that gender cannot be completely separated from other social
variables, such as race/ethnicity or class. To speak about a social
concern as a "women's issue" is considered a naive if not harmful
reduction that tends toward the very universalization of the subject
that feminism claims to resist. Consequently, this group involves itself
in devising strategies of resistant social action that is not dependent
on preexisting identity location.

4 Utopian Futurist Cyber-fems. This category is perhaps a division of
the heroic post-feminists. This contingent believes that the apparatus
(i.e., the Net) and the social space (i.e., cyberspace) necessary to
realize subject-free social action has already been created, and that
it is up to female-identified cybernauts to exploit this new possibility.
The disembodied feminine mind, free of its sexist inscribed body, can
now fully realize itself and its representation in the technologically
mediated virtual environment. The cyber-fems are sworn enemies of all
who attempt to import anachronistic flesh histories into cyberspace,
and scoff at those who wring their hands with concern over the
possibility of virtual rape (i.e., security state feminists). Needless
to say, many cultural critics find them a tad optimistic, and slightly
myopic. However, what they may lack in theoretical sophistication, they
make up for in bold and insightful practice.

--CAE


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