The term postfeminism rarely comes up in Canadian Literature. In her 1988 article, Susan Rudy calls her reading of Robert Kroetsch’s novel The Studhorse Man a postfeminist analysis. Rudy, in using this term, is imagining a kind of deconstruction of feminist identity that rejects the binary assumptions about sex, gender, and desire that she implies second-wave feminism strategically embraces.
Interestingly, Rudy later comes to regret her use of the term, and in a footnote to her Introduction to Women, Reading, Kroetch: Telling the Difference, she rejects the term postfeminism:
I now both regret and reject the label post-feminist which I used in “How The Studhorse Man Makes Love: A Postfeminist Analysis” and throughout my doctoral dissertation. Regardless of my desire to appropriate the term for feminist purposes, it continues to signify a phase “after” feminism. In my current work, I prefer to see the project of undermining binary opposition as necessarily a feminist project. (11 note 4, emphasis added)
Such an overt rejection of a previous critical term is unusual for a critic to make, and if nothing else it should serve as a reminder to be careful with reclaiming critical terms because of the potential implications of a term like postfeminism. What do you make of Rudy’s reasons for rejecting the term postfeminism? Does the term have to imply a time after feminism? Can such a time exist? Is undermining the binary oppositions between masculinity and femininity a feminist project?
Questions to consider
- What might it mean to call a novel, a work of art, or a TV show postfeminist? Is calling a creative work postfeminist implicitly a criticism of the work?
- Consider the question of gender equality in relation to postfeminism and conservative feminism. Do feminist scholars and activists have an obligation to work on behalf of men and women? Is it really fair to say that feminist activism is not for everybody?
- Throughout this chapter we have discussed postfeminism and conservative feminism as feminist positions that imply a great degree of privilege on the part of the speaker. It is not a coincidence that many postfeminist and conservative thinkers come from privileged backgrounds while many of the major voices in third-wave feminism are coming from more marginalized positions. How might postfeminism and conservative feminism be bound up with white privilege? Is saying that many postfeminist and conservative feminists exhibit white privilege a reason for rejecting these emerging critical schools?
- Rudy, Susan [Dorscht]. Women, Reading, Kroetsch: Telling the Difference. Waterloo: Wilfrid Laurier UP, 1991. Print.
- Rudy, Susan [Dorscht]. “How ‘The Studhorse Man’ Makes Love: A Post-Feminist Analysis.” Canadian Literature 119 (Winter 1988): 8–22. Print.(PDF)