postmodernism, feminism, postmodernisms, feminisms, mass culture, postfeminism, postfeminist, feminist, postmodernist, postmodern, Tania Modleski, Nancy Fraser, Linda Nicholson, Seyla Benhabib, Angela McRobbie, Feminism/Postmodernism, Femi


In 1988, Linda Nicholson and Nancy Fraser published an article entitled "Social Criticism Without Philosophy: An Encounter Between Feminism and Postmodernism," arguing that this essay would provide a jumping point for discussion between feminisms and postmodernisms within academia. Within this essay, Nicholson and Fraser largely disavow a number of second wave feminist theories due to their essentialist and foundationalist underpinnings in favor of a set of postmodernist frameworks that might help feminist theorists overcome these epistemological impediments. A "postmodern feminism," Nicholson and Fraser claim, would become "the theoretical counterpart of a broader, richer, more complex, and multilayered solidarity, the sort of solidarity which is essential for overcoming the oppression of women" (35). Interpreting "Social Criticism" through a feminist cultural studies model in which texts are understood to be simultaneously constituted by and reflective of their own sociopolitical spaces, I argue that the construction of Nicholson and Fraser's "postmodern feminism" is, first and foremost, neither a postmodernist critique nor a means of overcoming the pitfalls of essentialism and foundationalism. Instead, the construction of this theoretical paradigm can be shown to be complicit with postfeminist discourses, wherein an implicitly patriarchal discourse of postmodernism is called upon to repair the deficiencies of feminisms, deficiencies that postmodernisms, in some ways, helped to bring into view. To provide a conceptual backing for these claims, I move toward an examination of mass culture, surveying the similarities between "Social Criticism" and the film What Women Want. Such a comparison, I suggest, facilitates a better understanding of how "Social Criticism" can be shown to be imbedded in a postfeminist narrative structure in which feminisms are relegated to a discursively subordinate gendered position in relation to postmodernisms. Finally, in what I find to be the most important aspect of this thesis' inquiry, I ask what it means to build a "broader, richer, more complex, and multilayered solidarity" by disavowing second wave feminisms in favor of postmodernisms. I conclude that, in using postmodernisms as a panacea for feminist theories, Nicholson and Fraser curtail what might have been a rigorous interrogation of and direct engagement with second wave feminist theories that would also attend to the phallogocentric underpinnings of postmodern theories. To underline the potential consequences, I turn to a set of televisual and filmic texts including Sex and the City, Desperate Housewives, and The Devil Wears Prada to gauge what their "postmodern feminism" might represent in practice rather than what it entails as philosophy. This juxtaposition of these two differently defined and yet overwhelmingly similar postmodern feminisms, I propose, underscores the potential that Nicholson and Fraser may have instituted a postmodern feminist methodology in which it is possible that feminisms might emerge not as discourses essential for "overcoming the oppression of women" but rather as discourses that can be critiqued into oblivion.


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Graduation Date



Campbell, James


Master of Arts (M.A.)


College of Arts and Humanities



Degree Program









Release Date

April 2009

Length of Campus-only Access


Access Status

Masters Thesis (Open Access)