Ann Braithwaite


Since the publication of Susan Faludi’s book in 1991, the terms “backlash” and “postfeminism” have come to be widely used in many feminist analyses to critique—and then usually dismiss—representations of both women and feminism throughout media and popular culture. This paper revisits both of these concepts, exploring some of the debates about the definition, meaning, and scope of feminism that both of these terms (often unwittingly) raise and then shut down. It argues that while seemingly useful ways to talk about popular representations, these concepts also replay many of the central (and often contentious) debates in feminist thinking, especially around what gets defined as ‘feminism,’ under what contexts, and for what purposes. Ultimately, it argues that these terms, as they are now most commonly used, deny the possibility of multiple meanings and layers of feminist theorizing and politics, refute the saturation of feminist ideas throughout the broader culture in ways and places in places not originally thought possible, and refuse the changes in feminism that are the locus of so much contemporary dispute. If women’s studies and feminism is to successfully make the transition to other generations, other times, and indeed this other millennium, then the ubiquity of concepts such as these, and the exclusive thinking they ultimately point to, must be re-examined and challenged.

Author Biography

Ann Braithwaite, Assistant Professor, Coordinator Women’s Studies, University of Prince Edward Island