Toronto Metropolitan University
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Challenging ideas of female empowerment on Instagram using McRobbie's theory of post-feminist disarticulation inside popular culture

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posted on 2022-10-20, 18:36 authored by Christine Gow
Given the recent resurgence of feminist topics within popular media, the purpose of this MRP is to interrogate the theory of post-feminist disarticulation put forth by Angela McRobbie in The Aftermath of Feminism in order to understand fashion’s role in the disarticulation of young women in a contemporary context. By examining how the post-feminist tropes identified by McRobbie have evolved in the last decade alongside the rise of app-based social media and neoliberal feminism—more specifically, how prominent female influencers use fashion and beauty to disseminate post-feminist rhetoric from within their feeds on Instagram (IG)—this MRP will contribute to the literature on fashion and post-feminism within the digital economy. With this research, Iintend to shed light on how fashion and beauty influencers are effectively acting as double agents of the patriarchy by interpellating new generations of young women into. In McRobbie’s seminal text, she argues that institutional gains made by feminism in the 1970s and 1980s are, in this century, being undermined by what she describes as a new form of gender power: a regime that co-opts young women into spearheading their own process of disarticulation by leading them to believe equality has been achieved through education, employment, and notional sexual freedom. Disarticulation is defined by McRobbie as “a force which devalues, or negates, and makes unthinkable the very basis of coming-together (even if to take part in disputatious encounters), on the assumption widely promoted that there is no longer any need for such actions” (26). These ideas are disseminated through popular media sources—at the time of her research, these included TV, film and fashion magazines—and serve as a substitute for feminism iby subverting ideas of agency and choice with an individualistic discourse centred around consumer culture, self-management, self-enterprise, and self-transformation. McRobbie posits that while these concepts appear to offer the possibility of freedom and change in the status of young women, they are simply new tools for groups seeking to re-establish unequal gender and power hierarchies (2). These forces, she explains, are part of a patriarchal system of economic power and domination, despite appearing as progressive forms of governmentality (2). After McRobbie, within this MRP these forces will be collectively referred to as ‘the new regime’. This MRP seeks to test and explore the limitations of McRobbie’s framework by examining how this process is currently playing out on hyper-visible IG fashion feedswith a million followers or more. A theoretical interrogation of her existing framework will be updated and applied to IG in order to analyse how influencers use fashion and beauty concepts to participate in the disarticulation of other women. While McRobbie’s research looks at how consumer culture limits our so-called female freedoms by entrenching women in post-feminist neurotic dependencies, my research will focus on fashion and beauty’s role in solidifying new post-feminist tropes that serve to stabilize the traditional hierarchy of gender power.





  • Master of Arts


  • Fashion

Granting Institution

Ryerson University

LAC Thesis Type

  • MRP