Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

Postfeminism à la française? online workshop

MS Teams
Friday 14th May 2021 (09:30-15:15)
Email Katherine Shingler
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Online conference photo

"A reasonable request" by Francisco Anzola is licensed under CC BY 2.0

French and Francophone Studies, University of Nottingham, and Nottingham French Studies are hosting an online seminar.

Organiser: Diana Holmes (University of Leeds and special professor, University of Nottingham)

Speakers: Pauline Delage (CNRS), Polly Galis (University of Bristol), Douglas Morrey (University of Warwick), Jasmine Cooper (Cambridge University), Mary Harrod (University of Warwick)

Workshop outline

The concept of postfeminism has been developed mainly within Anglophone Cultural Studies not to suggest that the need for feminism is now in the past, but rather to gain a critical grasp on the ways in which the neo-liberal societies of the twenty-first century have incorporated feminist gains into new, normative, ‘empowered’ models of femininity stripped of feminism’s political charge. Feminist scholars such as Rosalind Gill, Anita Harris, Angela McRobbie, Diane Negra identify the ideal postfeminist female subject imagined in part through popular culture as the ‘Can-Do Girl’ (Harris): ambitious, confident, professionally successful, sexually liberated and expert, her well-disciplined body matching the aesthetic standards of contemporary femininity. Twenty-first century femininity therefore imposes a complex, demanding and deeply contradictory set of imperatives.

To what extent is this analysis applicable to France? France can be said to be experiencing a particularly acute crisis of gender relations, as the President (at least in theory) makes the equality of the sexes one of his primary goals, thus acknowledging that it is far from achieved, while the nation retains its long and deep tradition of commitment to a binary notion of gender that eroticizes and aestheticizes women, and sees the seductive interplay between the sexes as part of the fabric of national well-being. France has long portrayed itself as the country where romantic and erotic love are understood and highly valued, yet #Balance ton porc, the French #MeToo, has revealed the extent to which sexual inequality and indeed violence are widespread. At the same time, the French take on gender identity has long had some national specificity, and intersects in particular ways with France’s long, slow process of dealing with the heritage of colonialism.  

Workshop aims

The aim of this workshop, and of the special issue of Nottingham French Studies that will result from it, is to ask in what ways the concept of postfeminism can illuminate contemporary gender relations in France, and notably in French culture, and to interrogate the concept’s relevance for feminism in the current moment.

 Questions to be addressed include:

  • What is the situation of French feminism in the face of what could be termed a postfeminist backlash, and in the context of declared governmental commitment to sex equality?
  • Does a postfeminist ideal of femininity pervade popular culture in very much the same ways as elsewhere in the neoliberal West, or does it take specific French forms?
  • To what extent is the postfeminist model of femininity white, heterosexual and young in France, and what are the implications for minority ethnic and older women?
  • How does the issue of transsexual identity play out in a postfeminist climate?
  • What does French “high” culture have to say currently about gender and more specifically about postfeminist identities?
  • If the ideal has changed for feminine identity, along market-driven neoliberal lines, what are the implications for masculinity?


Download the provisional programme (MS Word)

Department of Modern Languages and Cultures

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Nottingham, NG7 2RD

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