Area of Study
Arts, Humanities and Social Sciences
I begin this project by analyzing the problematic cooption of liberal feminist ideology by corporations, and their prominent representatives, for advertising and branding purposes. While this practice has a long history in the United States, beginning most pronouncedly in the aftermath of the women’s suffrage movement, the threat it presents to grassroots feminism and organized political action on women’s issues has never been greater. I argue that the current neoliberal climate of American society, along with our growing reliance on social media as a platform for political dialogue, has led modern day feminism to an impasse, even while gender inequality is still widely acknowledged and exhaustively discussed. I specifically examine the political efficacy of neoliberal feminisms evoked by Dove’s Real Beauty advertising campaign, Facebook COO Sheryl Sandberg’s Lean In campaign, and the fractured #feminism campaigns of social media. I contrast the political and social ambitions of these neoliberal feminist campaigns with first and second wave feminist activity, along with the work of recent academics. While the three campaigns I examine are unique in authorship, I argue that they are not only philosophically aligned through their common emphasis on individual self-identification and self-improvement, but also demonstrative of a “post-feminist” social climate that undermines organized feminist political activity. In addition, these iterations of neoliberal feminism strongly prioritize the experiences and concerns of middle/upper class, predominantly white women, ignoring the values of inclusion and intersectionality that have become essential to both grassroots and academic feminist discourse in recent years.
Stambaugh, Molly, "The Prophets and Profits of Neoliberal Feminism in America" (2015). Summer Research. 262.
University of Puget Sound