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Resisting popular feminisms: gender, sexuality and the lure of the modern

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This article tracks discursive and political use of gender and sexual equality in nationalist and popular accounts of feminism, focusing on the ways in which such discourses produce a particular linking of time and space in the articulation of ‘the Modern’ in both colonial and postcolonial contexts. It further explores the increasing popularity of feminism in some media and celebrity contexts that have historically been so hostile to it, asking for care in tracking how and under what conditions feminism is cited as ‘universally desirable’ in light of this history. I suggest that feminism is partly reframed in this way insofar as it is newly sutured to femininity rather than masculinity, but also to singular rather than multiple or intersectional understandings of women’s oppression. A related claim of this article is that this shift of affective association with feminism is only possible when that singular cause of gender oppression is firmly understood as sexual oppression. I will be suggesting that if feminism is understood primarily or even only a fight against sexual oppression by men then the oppositional gendered roles that allow for its tethering to nationalism remain intact yet simultaneously obscured. In conclusion the article calls for an appreciation of feminism as a minority pursuit attentive to multiple power relations and histories.
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Keywords: Affective solidarity; femininity; feminism; nationalism; sexual violence

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Department of Gender Studies, London School of Economics, London, UK

Publication date: July 3, 2018

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