Defense Date

2021

Document Type

Dissertation

Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy

Department

Media, Art, and Text

First Advisor

David Golumbia

Second Advisor

Jesse Goldstein

Third Advisor

Karen Rader

Fourth Advisor

Myrl Beam

Fifth Advisor

Jennifer Rhee

Abstract

I define girlboss feminism as emergent, mediated formations of neoliberal feminism that equate feminist empowerment with financial success, market competition, individualized work-life balance, and curated digital and physical presences driven by self-monetization. I look toward how the mediation of girlboss feminism utilizes branded and affective engagements with representational politics, discourses of authenticity and rebellion, as well as meritocratic aspiration to promote cultural interest in conceptualizing feminism in ways that are divorced from collective, intersectional struggle. I question the stakes involved in reducing feminist interrogations and commitments to discourses of representation, visibility, and meritocracy. I argue that while girlboss feminism may facilitate individual opportunities for stability and advancement under neoliberal constraints, the proliferation of girlboss feminism as an emergent and mediated thread of neoliberal feminism plays a vital role in perpetuating the severe inequalities required to sustain racial capitalism as an oppressive political-economic and socio-cultural framework. I look to three key spaces: wellness culture, self-help coaching, and multi-level marketing to understand how feminism and racial capitalism grow intertwined via mediated formations of girlboss culture. In charting these formations, I initiate conversations that investigate the nuances and complications of feminist movement work under racial capitalism. I hope that identifying these emergent threads of neoliberal feminism provides insight on how intersectional and liberatory modes of collective struggle might remain more nimble, and generate more political power, than incarnations of feminism that reinforce an oppressive status quo.

Rights

© The Author

Is Part Of

VCU University Archives

Is Part Of

VCU Theses and Dissertations

Date of Submission

5-12-2021

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