Feminism, Ethics, and History, or What is the “Post” in Postfeminism?

Misha KavkaUniversity of Auckland
Vol. 21, No. 1 (Spring 2002), 29-44

Taking up the question of being out of time as implied by the still-prevalent term postfeminism, this essay argues that the “post” of “postfeminism” indicates both an end to feminism and a platform for new feminist debate precisely because it provides a focal point for the meaning, usage, and constituency of feminism today. What this paradox tells us, in fact, is that feminism has no end, just as the multiple trajectories of feminism mean that it has had no clear beginning. The essay delineates feminism’s time as a utopian and ethical history (the latter in its pragmatic as well as universalizing forms) rather than a temporal history. To say that feminism occurs in ethical history is to stress that it is both materialist and driven by a concern with justice, that it happens as much in history as it is motivated by ideas that do not constitute and cannot be contained by linear history.

Mary Wollstonecraft Sojourner Truth Margaret Atwood Abigail Adams Amy Tan H.D. Simone de Beauvoir Zora Neale Hurston Frances Burney Virginia Woolf

"The white saxifrage with the indented leafe is moste commended for the breakinge of the Stone."

— Turner, Herbal, III, 68 [1568]