GUERRILLA GIRLS: I don't think much of postfeminism at all because I don't think that feminism has really gotten done enough to give way to postfeminism. The goals of feminism haven't been reached. Women do not make as much money in the art world as men. They're not written about, they're not collected as much, they're not shown as much, they're not treated equally. Georgia O'Keefe's work is worth a lot, but it's still not worth as much as Jackson Pollack's or probably not as much as Marsden Hartley's or Edward Hopper's, who were her contemporaries.
KIKI SMITH: I don't think postfeminism really exists.
EURUDICE: Of course, women are not a fixed category - there're no fixed categories in postfeminism - though we're more witches than virgins and quite capable of forming fixed categories to work our magic.
DEB MARGOLIN: I don't buy postfeminism at all. The feminist backlash which promotes postfeminism involves younger women, some of whom forget that we have to work for the rights that men just take for granted all the time - and that vigilance is the price that we must pay for defining those rights and maintaining them. Some of those women just forgot that whole thing, and they just didn't see the really most disgusting parts of the work that went into changing the world we live in, such as women getting into medical school. I mean the very most basic things that a certain generation of women has taken for granted, has been gotten at the expense of the matriarchy. So there was a lull in terms of activism. Just because they suddenly had certain rights, they forgot that we were in the middle of fighting for them and that they couldn't be taken for granted. The easy way the matriarch gains women is "Well, I can get into medical school," "Well, the Yale Club will admit me," "Well, it's against the law for the boss to stick a ten dollar bill down my shirt so that he can grope me." They've never seen the underpinnings of all the work that's been done. It's our obligation to remind them of what the struggle is about and to make sure they don't forget it again. Because of the relaxation, the lack of vigilance that a generation of women has suddenly got rammed down their throats, we almost lost the right to choose, the whole abortion issue, a number of freedoms that these women have taken for granted that are being threatened. I feel like that is rallying them forth again. And so, in terms of the evolution of postfeminism, I'll acknowledge that there was certain forgetfulness that the matriarch still works for us, which led to a feminist backlash and people not liking the word "feminism."
CAE: Like feminism, post-feminism is not monolithic either in its discourse or its practice, nor can a model of it be constructed that would even solicit a majority consensus among those who identify with the general category. However, some of the primary varieties of post-feminism can be loosely identified. The way we've been talking about it mostly, so far, and perhaps the most common form of postfeminism we see practiced, is what I'd call Retrograde Post-feminism. This camp is generally made up of apologists for traditional feminine identity and role(s), and is marked by a desire to return to a gender discourse and practice with clear and rigid boundaries that are not to be transgressed. But there are other camps, like Single-Issue Post-feminists. This grouping generally has great sympathy with much of feminist critique, but believes that "mainstream" feminism has taken an incorrect turn on an issue of tremendous significance (the particular problematic issue can vary greatly). For example, those who identify with the category of "sex positive" are representative of this trend. Here it is believed that feminism, in its zeal to stop violence against women (particularly rape and sexual abuse), has surrendered the affirming policies of personal liberation and empowerment, and has instead turned to mediation by the security state (i.e., the patriarchy itself). For example, sexual harassment civil laws (often perceived as a means to better control the sexual expression of the middle class, and to persecute women and men who are not polite) and anti-pornography laws championed by some feminist contingents are viewed as being anti-sex and empowering the patriarchy. Some feminists, not wanting to be associated with such positions, have reidentified themselves as post-feminist.
MARIA DAMON: Perhaps a useful way to think of postfeminism is to assume that "post," as in "post-Romantic," "post-Enlightenment," "post-modern," "post-colonial," does not point to a complete rupture with the term that follows the hyphen so much as a genealogy that implies revision or strong family resemblance. In general, though, "post-" is a misleading prefix, though its provocative effect (as Native Americans or Canadians often say, "What do you mean, `POST'-colonial? Nobody's told us it's over.") can stir productive historical discussion. The term "third wave feminism," a term that salvages some of its own history, is perhaps more accurate, though of course there are those for whom the very denominator "feminist" is uncomfortable, not simply because it'll threaten the men in their lives, but because the word itself continues to reify a particular gendered identity.
CAE: Heroic Post-feminism. Defined by its primary concern with the issue of the feminist subject. Its members tend to voice two primary criticisms, although particular points of emphasis tend to vary tremendously. First there is concern over defining the feminist subject. The belief is that thus far, all definitions of the feminist subject have excluded some populations who are female-identified. In an easy example from the early 70s, the definition of the feminist subject tended to imply a white heterosexual subject, thus excluding ethnic minorities and lesbians. (This problem has yet to be solved to the satisfaction of many minority contingents). The second criticism is that gender cannot be completely separated from other social variables, such as race/ethnicity or class. To speak about a social concern as a "women's issue" is considered a naive if not harmful reduction that tends toward the very universalization of the subject that feminism claims to resist. Consequently, this group involves itself in devising strategies of resistant social action that is not dependent on preexisting identity location. This research is in its very early stages, yet has already generated some compelling results.
Then, finally, I'd say there's another group, Utopian Futurist Cyber-fems. This category is perhaps a division of the heroic post-feminists. This contingent believes that the apparatus (i.e., the Net) and social space (i.e., cyberspace) necessary to realize subject-free social action have already been created, and that it is up to female-identified cybernauts to exploit this new possibility. The disembodied feminine mind, free of its sexist inscribed body, can now fully realize itself and its representation in the technologically mediated virtual environment. The cyber-fems are sworn enemies of all who attempt to import anachronistic flesh histories into cyberspace, and scoff at those who wring their hands with concern over the possibility of virtual rape (i.e., security state feminists). Needless to say, many cultural critics find them a tad optimistic, and slightly myopic. However, what they may lack in theoretical sophistication, they make up for in bold and insightful practice.
CAE: Well, I can imagine how I could hear the term "postfeminism" and think, "Must be a course at CMU I've never heard of." But the purpose of the university is to talk about ideas we're going to need in the future. As a concept outside of the university, we see it mostly as "back to business as usual" - a reversal. In the academic context, it can be a lot more complex. Putting the term post on something doesn't mean against what came before.
LYNN FLIPPER: I'm not exactly sure what post feminism is, but I think that Tribe 8 kind of embodies what some people would call postfeminism. That is, the whole band would all identify with this: that there is a certain way that, in the '70s, feminism was held up by a selected few artists and spokespeople and stuff that didn't represent a lot of the rest of women's communities. I think that our band started off being rebellious of an older school of feminism, and I think that it wasn't because we didn't identify as feminists, but I think that there are different generations, you know. As feminism started to evolve and was out in the public and in art, there was something to work off of, and I think that each generation sort of rebels and does her own thing while also identifying as a feminist. But I think the worst thing in the '70s was that there was a very white middle-class representation of feminism, maybe by the media more than anyone else.
ANN HAMILTON: When I was talking to my babysitter, she said she understood postfeminism as a rejection of feminism in terms of trying to make women's place outside of a patriarchal system and trying to find their own ground, and I thought, well that's it in a nutshell.
KIKI SMITH: I don't identify myself with a lot of these terms.
GUERRILLA GIRLS: Well, if you think of postfeminism more as a pluralism - just as "postmodern" represents pluralism in art - if postfeminism is a pluralistic way of viewing feminism, then perhaps it is a postfeminist time because there are different ways of viewing feminism. Like you have the women in the '70s and late '60s, and they are still vital women. They're not, like, dead and gone. And then you have people in the later '70s and '80s who didn't care about feminism at all but got to reap the benefits of feminism, and then you have the women in the '90s who are feminists but who were maybe not even born yet at that time, so their way of being feminists is not the same as the '70s way. In the end of millennium women view themselves differently than how women saw themselves in the 60s and 70s. So I see postfeminism as applicable in terms of the way people view feminism, but I don't think it's applicable if it's saying that the goals of feminism have been reached and now we're in a state of postfeminism.
EURUDICE: The traditional woman, even the feminist, is the solid anchor and unmoving rock that allows humanity to do its thing, hunt, lust, conquer, go insane, knowing it'll never be lost. That woman is the safety net, the depository of common sense, the Catholic church, the guarantee of the longevity of the species - and in other contexts the apple of contention. That woman is what we necessarily rebel against, if we're of a mind to rebel. That woman can't "win." Women's fiction hasn't yet quite overcome that womanhood, though women's theory (a safer realm, linguistically) has begun to. Postfeminism is coming in to fill the gaps.
ANN HAMILTON: These terms become a peg. And then they become very limiting, and then it becomes the experience of the work, rather than something that allows you to open up to the experience of the artwork. When you make work, you're actually trying to make people focus on, not the way things are made, but what their own experiences is of it. If they think of the work through labels, they close off a lot of other things.
MARIA DAMON: I myself struggle with my own "positioning" from day to day, context to context. Whenever I start to feel kvetchy about my economic inequity vis a vis the men in my workplace, I also am aware that even though most men have more than most women in the world, I have more than most men in the world-a LOT more than most people in the world, tout court. I sometimes see this as obscene, and sometimes see it as "everytime I get a raise, I'm striking a blow for women everywhere," etc. The dilemmas of reproductive and relationship issues are there, too: is there a nobility in staying outside the economy of reproduction and cohabitation, foregoing the obvious social or economic advantages of coupledom (hetero and, less obvious but there nonetheless, same-sex)? How much, or what, for that matter, does it really mean to adopt the position of the outsider in order to maintain a "legitimate" perspective of social critique?
DEB MARGOLIN: I just think it's an artifice. The whole word and all that it implies is artificial. And I don't know what that means for postfeminism. The whole idea of defining something by what it comes after is like calling middle-age crisis postadolescence. Well, what does that mean? To me, it has no substance. Maybe I would accede to the word if I lacked imagination, and if there were no further oppression. Those two conditions would have to be met for the word to mean anything to me.
LYNN BREEDLOVE: I haven't been to college for about 10 years, since I've noticed the term cropping up. To me it's kind of a vague term, but what it implies to me is that somehow feminism ended in the recent period. That I disagree with. Feminism started hundreds of years ago. Women have been writing essays on women's rights and fighting for women's rights for a long time. This started with women in the upper class, and then it started in the '60s to move into the middle class.
EURUDICE: We're no longer interested in special favors and Cosmo advice and sensitive men. We take our power and equality for granted and focus on the pleasures of being alive in the millennium. But postfeminism is in no way antifeminism. It is the fruit of feminism in many ways, it sprouts out of it, and however playfully it may treat its progenitors, it doesn't lose sight of history. Because, yes, gender is still an issue at large. It's merely our choice and our freedom not to treat it as one. We're inevitably building new history as we play on.
DEB MARGOLIN: The evolution has to do with people being phobic of women's rights.
CAE: "Post" feminism, itself, well, sounds like something that wouldn't be feminism. And I do feel suspicious when I hear the term used by a lot of people because I don't regard feminism as something that needs to be transcended. We never got to feminism. The problem is that . . . It seems that in popular terms feminism came to be regarded as women are better than men. I never got that impression; it meant that women should be equal to be in every respect or opportunity. Forget biology and talk about human rights. Mainstream postfeminism seems a matter of "Wait a minute. We were wrong. Maybe men really do have better this or bigger that." I don't want to hear any arguments of evolutionary history. I'm afraid I'm about to hear this when a lot of people mention postfeminism.
GUERRILLA GIRLS: I still think it's a form of backlash, especially in the art world, you know, in the work place, I'm not even talking about emotional strengths, I'm talking about how on a very practical level that what you're worth and how you're treated as a human being. The fact that you're a woman immediately gets you treated as less than what you're worth if you're compared to your male counterparts at the same level in their career development as woman in the art world, and yet the woman across the board gets less - less money, less fame, less notoriety, less everything - and in the art world, you can't sue for discrimination because it's a totally arbitrary thing we have. The business says, "That's not my thing, it's just what the market will bear." There's no standard.
ANN HAMILTON: Still, I'm much more removed from an academic context than I used to be, and I always shy very much away from labels. To emphatically enlist myself behind one term or another hardly works. Working too much in categories. And I don't really understand the term well enough to respond to it. It's like everyone is always asking me, "Are you postmodern?" It's the same thing. I go, "Will someone really tell me what that is?"
EURUDICE: I don't know what the "popular" definition of postfeminism is. I'd like to know if it's been on the cover of Newsweek yet. My "definition" is that postfeminism is our reaction to a couple of generations of feminists arguing amongst themselves about the definition of feminism, about nature vs. nurture, and bad men vs. bad patriarchy. We no longer care to pass the blame. We proclaim our womanhood, rejoice in it, and that's about it for a definition. It's an open ballroom, among other metaphors.