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The term postfeminism (alternatively rendered as post-feminism) is used to describe reactions against contradictions and absences in feminism, especially second-wave feminism and third-wave feminism. The term postfeminism is sometimes confused with "4th wave-feminism", and "women of color feminism" (e.g. hooks, 1996; Spivak, 1999). However, by definition feminism strives for gender equality, whereas postfeminism must in some way move past or "transcend" the absolute need for gender equality – something which neither theorists' definition does.

The ideology of postfeminism is often recognised by its contrast with a prevailing or preceding feminism. Postfeminism strives towards the next stage in gender-related societal progress, and as such is often conceived as in favor of a society that is no longer defined by gender binary and gender role. A postfeminist is a person who believes in, promotes, or embodies any of various ideologies springing from the feminism of the 1970s, whether supportive of or antagonistic towards classical feminism.

Postfeminism can be considered a critical way of understanding the changed relations between feminism, popular culture and femininity. Postfeminism may also present a critique of second-wave feminism or third-wave feminism by questioning the second wave or third-wave's binary thinking and essentialism, their vision of sexuality, and the perception of relationships between femininity and feminism.

Second wave feminism is often critiqued for being too ‘white’, too ‘straight’, and too ‘liberal’, and resulting in the needs of women from marginalized groups and cultures being ignored. However, since intersectionality is a product of third-wave feminism, the references to such as postfeminist are open to challenge and may be more properly considered feminist. Postfeminism, also linked with post-structuralism and postcolonialism, not only critiques the modernist aspect of second wave feminism, but also challenges imperialist and patriarchal frameworks.

  • Feminism, Ethics, and History, or What Is the "Post" in Postfeminism? Misha Kavka Tulsa Studies in Women's Literature Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring, 2002), pp. 29–44.


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