Sunday, January 29, 2012

What Not to Wear & Postfeminism

In Rosalind Gill’s chapter on postfeminist media culture, she presents a variety of different ways to interpret postfeminism. In short, postfeminism is a response to Second Wave feminism, stating that even though women are equal to men on paper (equal rights, equal opportunities, etc.), we are still oppressed in society. We are not truly equals, and this is what postfeminists are aiming to bring into discourse. No matter what lens you are looking through (Gill offers a theoretical-based approach, a historical approach, and an antithetical approach), it is clear that postfeminist themes of “continuing inequalities and exclusions” are showing up everywhere across different forms of media (Gill 255).

One theme from the reading that many women could probably relate to is that of self-surveillance and discipline. Women are constantly being told how to look and how to act, especially in the company of men. Even when there are not men present, women still feel the need to monitor themselves and project themselves as the “perfectfeminine woman.

If women do not adhere to this norm, they feel (or are supposed to feel) shame through humiliation (Gill 263). The TLC show "What Not to Wear" is the perfect embodiment of this theme. If you aren’t that familiar with the show, here is a clip, “Best Makeovers of 2011”, to give you a taste of the format. When you watch, pay attention to how hosts Stacy and Clinton point out the "problem" that the women have, and how a makeover is the solution.

"Frumpy,” self-conscious and insecure women are humiliated through secretly recorded footage, taught how to dress “appropriately,” made “better” through professional wardrobe, hair and makeup makeovers, and finally accepted by Stacy, Clinton, the woman’s friends and boyfriend/husband, and ultimately the rest of society. Stacy and Clinton help the women “discover” the happy, confident, ‘more successful’ versions of themselves.

This show, like other makeover programs, is a constant reminder of how women – consciously or subconsciously – are monitoring and regulating themselves to adhere to the “requirements of the performance of successful femininity” (Gill 261). If you have trouble self-monitoring, self-regulating, and adhering to societal standards, however, don't worry - Stacy and Clinton may be right around the corner ready to help put you back in your place!

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