3 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 10 November 2010
This is an absolute must for anyone interested in Feminism. This book speaks to me, giving me greater insights into my concerns and issues. Suitable for anyone with a basic to advanced knowledge in social theory on gender and feminism.
6 of 27 people found the following review helpful
Angela McRobbie's thesis is that feminism has "been absolutely incorporated into political and institutional life" where it has been stripped of its essence and regurgitated to give females the impression they are no longer excluded from the influence of patriarchy but are empowered and have choice. Building on Gramsci's theory of hegemony, as expounded by Stuart Hall and the intellectual comedians from the unlamented Centre for Contemporary Studies at Birmingham, McRobbie claims feminism has been displaced by patriarchy's scheming offer of notional equality and participation in consumer culture and civic society. McRobbie admits her analysis tends towards conspiracy theory but sets out to provide evidence to prove her point.
In an outburst of self-criticism worthy of the confessions of the Old Bolsheviks she bemoans her former adherence to the theories of de Certeau. Feminist practice and theoretical responses to cultural change divided the feminist movement over issues such as freedom of expression and pornography. Feminism, according to McRobbie, has been "replaced by aggressive individualism, by a hedonistic female phallicism in the field of sexuality and by obsession with consumer culture." She confesses an over-optimistic view of New Labour's commitment to women's issues admitting, "I even briefly held out some hope for the so-called third way agenda." McRobbie's incredulity underlines her naivety but fails to pierce the armour of false consciousness with which she fends off any possibility that she is disseminating nonsense.
McRobbie shuns fieldwork in favour of survey changes in film, television, popular culture and women's magazines. It's as if she believes that these instruments of expression are meaningful representatives of culture whereas in practice they are avenues of indulgence. It's like blaming teenage violence on video games. The omission of field work makes it much easier to identify irrelevant trends as a conspiratorial imposition on the unwitting female participant in her own gender emasculation. In making this point McRobbie bastardises the English language with artificial constructs of discourse.
Her practical references fail to discern that Helen Fielding's Bridget Jones is no match for Jane Austen's originality nor even that both represent a narrow element of society. Her claims that post feminism represents the re-stabilisation of gender relations absorbed and refashioned by patriarchy would be funny were it not for the fact that she appears to believe it. To regard McRobbie's rantings as setting, "a new agenda for gender studies and cultural studies" is pretentious although it probably makes her feel good and adds to her bank balance.
McRobbie's disassociation from mainstream society,is heightened by her ideological commitment to pseudo-socialist analysis which has proved so ineffective in the real world. The language of struggle, international capitalism and class, are archaic and discredited. McRobbie's connection with the real world appears not to stretch beyond the aspiring intellectual elite she meets in her role as a Professor of Communications. Sadly, her book provides more obfuscation than communication. Critical or radical feminism, which flourishes in academic gender studies,is unable to say anything to modern young women that they do not know already. Academic feminist authors are part of a mutual admiration society talking in a meaningless language which excludes reality by a process of self-renewal.
McRobbie is opposed to "the respectable version of feminism" which she identifies as "gender mainstreaming". This proposes there has been a shift away from autonomous feminist activity into involvement with the state and civil society. This, coupled with a decline in socialist-feminism activity, has been subsumed in the human rights agenda and demands for collective and individual action in respect of issues such as domestic violence. Feminism, as elsewhere in the socialist tradition, tended to split and has been replaced by new alliances and coalitions providing political programmes in an era of globalisation. The inevitability of progress has re-emerged to replace the inevitability of social revolution. McRobbie claims feminism has been undone by patriarchy's skillful technocratic-managerial strategy of gender mainstreaming. The alternative - that feminism was a false ideology which failed empirical testing - does not seem register with her. One is left with the impression that she shuns empirical testing as part of her denial of feminism's failure.
McRobbie is critical of third wave feminism which she regards as anti-feminist but the logical extension of post feminist thought representing a backlash against an older generation of feminists. Patriarchy has re-established its dominance by seducing females into a new sexual contract which substitutes choice for prohibition. This does not empower females it enslaves them, an enslavement masked by greater visibility and increased participation in society. Third wave feminism represents the displacement of feminism rather than its fulfilment. The industrial-military complex has been replaced by the beauty-fashion complex, the former responsible for the arms race, the latter for the normalisation of gender melancholia such as anorexia, depression, self-mutilation, low self-esteem. Women remain the oppressed half of society.
McRobbie seems to believe modern women are told feminism is dead and her classroom remains a contact zone for the solidarity required to prevent its extinction. That young women have sufficient intelligence to come to their own conclusions about the relevance, or otherwise, of feminism seems to have by-passed her and like all by-passes has left a once busy thoroughfare empty, desolate and in terminal decline. This is definitely a book for those who enjoy sociological jargon, meaningless word play and flights of imagination. For anyone (male and female) living in the real world and meeting real people on a daily basis it represents another unworthy attack on the rain forest. Three stars.