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Telling Neoliberal and Postfeminist Stories: What Gets Heard in Feminist Organization Studies

Lewis, Patricia (2018) Telling Neoliberal and Postfeminist Stories: What Gets Heard in Feminist Organization Studies. In: 10th Biennial International Interdisciplinary Gender, Work & Organization Conference, 14-16 June 2018, Sydney, Australia. (Unpublished) (The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided)

The full text of this publication is not currently available from this repository. You may be able to access a copy if URLs are provided. (Contact us about this Publication)

Abstract

This paper is prompted by the question - are you a postfeminist? This is a question I am often asked when I deliver a presentation which draws on the concept of postfeminism. My response is invariably “no” often followed by the observation that “while I may not be a postfeminist I am likely governed by this discursive formation”. When writing about postfeminism I tend to make clear that it should not be treated as another version of feminism which sits alongside other feminist perspectives and therefore it is difficult to categorise an individual as a postfeminist (Lewis, 2014; Lewis, Benschop & Simpson, 2017). Instead, what is emphasised is that postfeminism understood as a discursive formation can be used as a critical concept to make visible the nature and persistence of inequality within contemporary organizations or as an object of analysis in and of itself which requires ongoing examination to shed light on its constantly evolving practices of power (Gill, 2016; Lewis, 2018). I was brought back again to this question at a feminist conference where dislike of the notion of postfeminism was expressed by a member of the audience in such a way that I had to clarify that I was not a postfeminist advocate. At the time what surprised me about having to make this clarification was that while the focus of one of the other speakers (Catherine Rottenberg) was on neoliberal feminism and mine was on postfeminism, we both treated these phenomena as forms of governance, yet nobody suggested or alluded to the idea that Catherine was a supporter of or in agreement with neoliberalism (Feminist Emergency, Birkbeck, June 2017). Understood as forms of governance, neoliberal feminism and postfeminism have posed problems for feminism by resignifying it in individualist terms. Neoliberalism gives primacy to feminist ideas that resonate with market agendas i.e. individualism, choice, empowerment and postfeminism places the onus for the achievement of equality on empowered individual (female) subjects (Burton, 2014; Gill, 2007; McRobbie, 2009; Negra & Tasker, 2014; Prugl, 2015). Thus, both neoliberalism and postfeminism seek to deflect attention away from the structural conditions that impact on individuals and perpetuate inequalities but my personal experience of responses to critical use of these two concepts varies and the interesting question is why? To address this question, I draw on the suggestion that theories and concepts can be performative – that they may ‘fulfil’ themselves through the role they play in constructing reality (Ferraro et al, 2005; Gond et al, 2015). As Runte & Mills (2006: 696) have stated: ‘theories…provide the stories by which we come to understand the world and our place within it’ and so this paper will compare and contrast the stories of neoliberalism and postfeminism in terms of what each concept does, how each concept is received and how each impacts on the feminist stories we tell within organization studies (Hemmings, 2005).

Item Type: Conference or workshop item (Paper)
Uncontrolled keywords: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism, Feminist Organization Studies
Subjects: A General Works
H Social Sciences > HM Sociology
Divisions: Faculties > Social Sciences > Kent Business School
Faculties > Social Sciences > Kent Business School > Industrial Relations/HRM
Depositing User: Patricia Lewis
Date Deposited: 14 Dec 2018 18:37 UTC
Last Modified: 30 May 2019 08:35 UTC
Resource URI: https://kar.kent.ac.uk/id/eprint/71067 (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
Lewis, Patricia: https://orcid.org/0000-0002-9842-4412
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