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Company Size Company Size: Get notifications on updates for this project. The Postfeminist Bride Postfeminism has emerged since the early s as the dominant mode of constructing femininities in the media.
This demarcation from earlier forms of feminism is particularly evident with regard to marriage and wedding discourses. Accordingly, postfeminist bridal fictions do not depict the bride as passive and waiting to be married, relying on conservative and patriarchal notions of hegemonic femininity, but as an active agent using the white wedding as occasion to act out choice, autonomy and power.
Genz argues that a characteristic of postfemininities is that they re-negotiate femininity and feminism no longer as mutually exclusive and irreconcilable categories, but as constitutive of each other Genz; Genz and Brabon.
What I term the postfeminist bride embodies this shifted understanding of feminism and femininity. The postfeminist bride is a figure that is often celebrated in terms of individual freedom, professional success and self-determination, instead of resting on traditional notions of female domesticity and passivity.
Characteristic of this figure, as with other postfemininities in popular culture, is a simultaneous appropriation and repudiation of feminist critique.
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Within postfeminist bridal culture, the performance of traditional femininity through the figure of the bride, or by identification with it, is framed in terms of individual choice, depicted as standing outside of the political and ideological struggles surrounding gender, equality, class, sexuality and race.
Instead, the patriarchal customs of the white wedding are now actively embraced by the women themselves in the name of tradition and choice.
This reflects a prevailing characteristic of postfeminism, which is a trend towards the reclamation of conservative ideals of femininity, following the assumption that the goals of traditional feminist politics have been attained. Bridal fictions indeed produce traditional femininity by positioning the cultural, social and historical significance of the wedding as a necessary rite of passage for women and as the most important framework for the constitution of their hetero sexual, classed and gendered identities.
Embodied in its ritual qualities, the white wedding symbolises the transition of women from single to belonging, from girlhood to womanhood and implicitly from childlessness to motherhood. However, instead of seeing this form of hegemonic femininity as a product of unequal, patriarchal power relations as Second Wave did, postfeminism celebrates traditional femininity in modernised versions.
Embracing conservative feminine roles e. Combining feminist informed notions of power and choice, the postfeminist wedding is constructed as an event which supposedly enables women to act out those notions, while serving as a framework for gendered identity formation and self-realisation within the boundaries of an officialised and institutionalised relationship. Instead of drawing on notions of passive femininity, these advertisements have a distinct emphasis on power and agency.
Marriage and the white wedding are clearly bracketed in a liberal framework of individual choice, underpinned by a grammar of self-determination and individualism.
Agency and power are clearly visible in all of these ads. These brides are not passive victims of the male gaze, instead they are themselves gazing. This is in accord with bridal fictions in general, where husbands are often invisible, serving as bystanders or absent others, reinforcing the ideal that this is the special day of the bride and no one else.
Furthermore, all of these advertisements remain within the limited visual repertoire that is common within bridal culture: young to middle-aged, heterosexual, able-bodied, conventionally attractive women. The featuring of the non-white bride Layla Ali is a rare occasion in contemporary bridal fictions. And although this can be seen as a welcomed exception, this advertisement remains eventually within the hegemonic and racial boundaries of contemporary bridal fictions.
Semiotically, the discussed advertisements reflect the understanding of the white wedding as occasion to perform a certain classed identity: the luscious white dresses, the tuxedos, the jewellery and make up, etc. This is also emphasised by the mentioning of the prestigious jobs these brides hold, which presents a postfeminist twist on the otherwise common depictions of brides as practising hypergamy, meaning the marrying of a spouse of higher socio-economic status.
But significantly, upward social mobility is usually presented as only acceptable for women, reinforcing the image of the husband as the provider. These advertisements illustrate quite palpably that the postfeminist bride is a complex figure.
It is simultaneously progressive and conservative, fulfilling ideals of conservative femininity while actively negotiating in the complex field of personal choice, individualism and social conventions; it oscillates between power and passivity, tradition and modern womanhood, between feminism and femininity. It is precisely this contradictory nature of the postfeminist bride that makes the figure so appealing, as it allows women to participate in the fantasy world of bridal utopias while still providing possibilities to construct themselves as active and powerful agents.
In these ways postfeminism deflects feminist criticism with regard to the political dimensions of marital femininity and thus contributes to the production of marital hegemony. But why is marital hegemony per se problematic? Hence, by positioning marriage and singledom as opposite poles on the axis of proper femininity, bridal fictions stigmatise single women as selfish, narcissistic, hedonistic, immature and unable to attract a suitable husband Taylor 20, These postfeminist exclusions are very evident in contemporary bridal fictions that feature almost exclusively young to middle-aged, white, able-bodied couples with upper to middle class identities that conform to the heteronormative matrix, both physically and socially.
By depicting weddings almost exclusively in this kind of raced, classed and gendered framework, bridal fictions associate the above mentioned values, that are seen as markers for responsible adulthood and citizenship, with those who comply with these norms.
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In these ways bridal fictions stigmatise those who are not able or do not want to get married, and, moreover, produce a visual regime that determines who is seen as entitled to this kind of socially validated identity. The fact that bridal fictions indeed play a major role in producing marital hegemony is further reflected in the increasing presence of same-sex white weddings in popular culture.
These representations, despite their message of equality for everyone, usually replicate rather than re-negotiate the heteronormative terms of bridal culture. References Bambacas, Christyana. The Bachelor, ABC, —present. Boden, Sharon. Consumerism, Romance and the Wedding Experience.
Houndsmills: Palgrave Macmillan, Bridezillas, We TV, —present. Cherlin, Andrew. New York: Vintage, Coontz, Stephanie. A History.
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New York: Penguin, Currie, Dawn. Engstrom, Erika. The Bride Factory.
Mass Portrayals of Women and Weddings. New York: Peter Lang, Fairchild Bridal Study 27 May Finlay, Sara-Jane, and Victoria Clarke. Foucault, M. Friedan, Betty. The Feminine Mystique.
Ringwood: Penguin Books, Geller, Jaqlyn. Here Comes the Bride. Women, Weddings, and the Marriage Mystique. Postfemininities in Popular Culture. New York: Palgrave, Cultural Texts and Theories. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press, Gill, Rosalind.She was unusually attractive and, Rudolf believed, was probably the reason Kurt often went there .
He was active in public life, and one of his three daughters, Marianne, was close to Rudolf in age. It became slowly obvious. Single Women in Popular Culture. He spoke slowly and very calmly and his mind was very clear.