From A Woman’s Right to Choose to ‘A Woman’s Right to Shoes’: The Commodification of Feminism and the Politics of Choice from Fear of Flying to Bridget Jones’ Diary

Megan Behrent


In Volume 6, Issue 1
Special Issue: Consuming Gender


Abstract

This essay looks at the transformation of the first-person fiction narratives from the feminist movement in the age of postfeminism. It explores the trajectory from feminism to postfeminism and the shift from a collective to a purely personal understanding of liberation as lifestyle politics, “power” feminism, and individualism gain ground. Central to this transformation is the commodification of the feminism itself as the politics of choice signal a broader shift to neoliberal ideology in which the rhetoric of choice is used to undermine radical demands for rights that emerged from the political movements of the 1960s and 70s. I argue that the triumph of postfeminism has its roots in the contradictions inherent in the personal politics which were dominant within the movement.
          To explore this trajectory, I look at feminist and post-feminist bestsellers from the 1970s and 1990s as emblematic of the politics of each period. Bridget Jones, in Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary (1996), is perhaps the post-feminist heroine par excellence. Nonetheless, Bridget Jones is a child of the protagonists of feminist fiction past. I analyse Fear of Flying by Erica Jong as an emblematic (and extremely popular) early feminist text that helped to pave the way from feminism to postfeminism.


Keywords: postfeminism, the novel, commodification, Bridget Jones, Erica Jong

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