Sarah Banet-Weiser is Professor and Director of School of Communication at the Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism at the University of Southern California. She is the author of The Most Beautiful Girl in the World: Beauty Pageants and National Identity; Kids Rule! Nickelodeon and Consumer Citizenship; and Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture. She is the co-editor of Cable Visions: Television Beyond Broadcasting and Commodity Activism: Cultural Resistance in Neoliberal Times. She is currently finishing a book on popular feminism and popular misogyny, Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny in an Economy of Visibility.
The Call and Response of Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny
In this paper, I examine what I call the “call-and-response” between popular feminism and popular misogyny as they are expressed online. The wide circulation of popular feminism means that there is another popularity that we need to contend with: popular misogyny. The dynamic of popular feminism—where the popular provides a cultural context for political practice—is mirrored in popular misogyny. This mirror, though, is the fun-house kind, where it mimics the operation of popular feminism but flips and distorts the politics. I argue that these affective statements online transfigure feminist activism as well as misogyny. These forms of feminism and their transfigurations register affectively, and ambivalently, as hate, anger, joy, passivity, uncaring, and too caring. In fact, some of the dominant themes of contemporary feminism have been transfigured into the staples of misogynistic positions. That is, feminist activism and politics have circulated, often not in the name of feminism, but in the service of conservative, misogynistic ends, and it is this dynamic that is discussed in this paper.