'Feminism rules! Now, where’s my swimsuit?' Re-evaluating Feminist Discourse in Print Media 1968-2008




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Media, Culture and Society



Peer reviewed



More than forty years after the Second Wave feminist movement emerged in the Western world, it is frequently claimed that feminism is “dead” or redundant, and that we now live in a “postfeminist” society. Although such claims are regularly refuted by a range of academics and activists (Baumgardner and Richards, 2001; Lumby, 2011; McRobbie, 2007; National Organisation for Women, 2011; Smith, 2003; Redfern and Aune, 2010; Tasker and Negra, 2007; Thornham and Weissmann, forthcoming; Valenti, 2007; Walby, 2011; Walter, 2010), it is worthwhile interrogating the extent to which feminism is discussed in popular and political contexts. In light of the persistent and longstanding “backlash” against feminism in Britain and the United States (see Faludi, 1992; Author Removed, 2011a), is it reasonable to assume that discussions of feminism and discourses utilizing feminist concepts, language and critiques are absent? Furthermore, what does the presence – or erasure – of discourses of feminism tell us about its standing today, and how might such discourses have shifted over time? In answering these questions, this paper traces the emergence of, and changes in the ways feminism has been discursively constructed in British and American newspapers during two periods – 1968-82 which I define as the “height” of the Second Wave in both countries, and 2008, a period marking 40 years after the movement began gaining momentum. Through analysing four British (The Times, Daily Mirror, Daily Mail, The Guardian) and American (The New York Times, Washington Post, Chicago Tribune, Washington Times) newspapers, I argue that not only has there been an erasure of feminist activism from our newspapers over time, but that discourses of feminism have become both de-politicised and de-radicalised since the 1960s, and can now largely be considered neoliberal in nature – a problematic construction for those seeking collective social change.



Feminism, postfeminism, second-wave feminism, discourse analysis, Britain, United States, representation, newspapers


Mendes, K. (2012) ‘Feminism rules! Now, where’s my swimsuit?’ Re-evaluating Feminist Discourse in Print Media 1968-2008. Media, Culture & Society, 34 (5), pp. 554-570


Research Institute