Center for the Study of Language and Society (CSLS)

Lectures and Workshops
Center for the Study of Language and Society

The Commodification of Women’s Empowerment: Language and Postfeminism

Wednesday, 2019/05/01, 10:15

The Forum Language and Society is a series of guest lectures on sociolinguistic topics. Doctoral students of the GSH are credited with 0.25 ECTS per guest lecture attendance. CSLS MA students are credited with 1 ECTS after visiting 6 guest lectures.

Event organizer: Forum Language and Society
Speaker: Michelle M. Lazar (National University of Singapore)
Date: 2019/05/01
Time: 10:15 - 11:45
Locality: F022
Lerchenweg 36
3012 Bern
Characteristics: open to the public
free of charge

Contrary to the ubiquitous narrow, stereotypical representations of women in the media, a postfeminist discourse popularized by the media has now become quite commonplace in many metropolitan societies. Gender-equal and pro-women representations currently abound in mainstream media, which suggest that sexism and feminism have become passé. In fact, a reversal in hetero-gender relations is implied, where it is seemingly becoming a women’s world, with a celebration of all things feminine.  

In this talk, I discuss a central figure of postfeminist femininity in commercial beauty advertising termed ‘power femininity’, and outline the various iterations of this commodified empowerment: as ‘empowered beauty’, ‘knowledge as power’, ‘self-agentive power’ and ‘sexual power’. Adopting a critical discourse perspective, I aim to show, how issues concerning gender, ideology and power far from having disappeared, have become more complex and subtle in contemporary media discourse, and have contributed to the rise of a culture of ‘post-critique’, in which it has become harder to articulate critique. I shall conclude by considering some implications and suggestions for critical language awareness and education in this climate of critical inertia.