New Criticals

In hindsight, perhaps the exclusion of men from these texts tell us something about a shared hunger for a femme-defined space: perhaps their celebration of femininity might be interpreted as something other than an aversion to feminism: as longing for something different, for a world in which the aesthetics and practices shared by feminine subjects might be celebrated. But the vision of empowerment it proposed was one available only to the few: crucially, it proposed a world in which the reality of poverty, racism and violence had been photoshopped out.

Recent years have I think seen a marked shift in this sensibility: from a postfeminist culture of denial, to something much more hopeful, as well as a media sensibility that is more ambivalent. I don’t want to describe this as fourth-wave or as post-postfeminist, because I think the current moment might finally represent a different temporality, one that might finally transcend tropes of wave and generation. There is an invigorated sense of intensity, of immediacy in feminist critique. The terms I keep coming back to (with thanks to Eve Sedgwick) are boredom and interest; in contrast to the ennui of postfeminism, the current mode of feminist criticism is one of intense attentiveness: merging the media literacy of the fan with the anger and drive of second-wave feminism: this is a feminism aware of its history and its present, as well as intensely involved in the production of possible futures. It is as though feminism has finally found its own ‘queer time’ through a rejection of the normative linear temporalities imposed by the rhetoric of wave and generation. Seen in this way, we might even reframe postfeminism as an important experiment in negation, a necessary playing with the idea that feminism’s work might be over which has revealed just how much work is still to be done.