Gender and Language, Vol 12, No 2 (2018)

Postfeminism – for whom or by whom? Applying discourse analysis in research on the body and beauty (the case of black hair)

Ewa Glapka
Issued Date: 5 Jul 2018


This article explores postfeminism in the context of beauty consumption in the Global South. Advocating a transnational feminist perspective, it construes incorporation of postfeminism into the Global South in two senses - as the reception of a globally circulated discourse and as the embodiment(s) of it in different dimensions of lived femininity. Specifically, it examines how postfeminism is interpreted by black South African women in their beauty consumption. A combined, discursive-and-embodied approach is advanced to transcend the body/discourse binary and hence reflect on the intricate relationship between postfeminist discourse and the body in which it materialises. The article concludes by discussing the discursive dynamics of arriving at the subjective understanding(s) of the Western cultural logic of postfeminism in the cultural reality of postcolonial Africa, and by suggesting the methodology of research on discourse and beauty.



Download Media

PDF (Price: £17.50 )

DOI: 10.1558/genl.30898


Ahmed, S. (2008) Open forum imaginary prohibitions: some preliminary remarks on the founding gestures of the ‘new materialism’. European Journal of Women’s Studies 15(1): 23–39.

Baker, P. and Levon, E. (2016) ‘That’s what I call a man’: representations of racialised and classed masculinities in the UK print media. Gender and Language 10(1): 106–39.

Banks, I. (2000) Hair Matters: Beauty, Power, and Black Women’s Consciousness. New York: New York University Press.

Beasley, C. and Bacchi, C. (2000) Citizen bodies: embodying citizens–a feminist analysis. International Feminist Journal of Politics 2(3): 337–58.

Bordo, S. (1993) Unbearable Weight: Feminism, Western Culture, and the Body. Berkeley, CA: University of California Press.

Brooks, A. (1997) Postfeminisms: Feminism, Cultural Theory and Cultural Forms. London: Routledge.

Butler, J. (2013) For white girls only? Post-Feminism and the politics of inclusion. Feminist Formations 25(1): 35–58.

Byrd, A. D. and Tharps L. (2002) Hair Story: Untangling the Roots of Black Hair in America. New York: St Martin’s Press.

Coppock V., Haydon D. and Richter I. (1995) The Illusions of ‘Post-Feminism’: New Women, Old Myths. London: Taylor & Francis.

Dolan, D. (2014) In Africa, haircare becomes a multi-billion dollar industry. Retrieved on 16 May 2018 from

Dosekun, S. (2015) For Western girls only? Feminist Media Studies 15(6): 960–75.

Eberhardt, M. (2016) Subjects and objects: linguistic performances of sexuality in the lyrics of black female hip-hop artists. Gender and Language 10(1):106–39.

Eckert, P. and McConnell-Ginet, S. (1992) Think practically and look locally: language and gender as community-based practice. Annual Review of Anthropology 21: 461–90.

Erasmus Z. (1997) Oe! My hare gaan huis toe: hairstyling as black cultural practice. Agenda 32: 11–16.

Faludi S. (1992) Backlash: The Undedared War Against Women. London: Vintage.

Fanon F. (1967) Black Skin, White Masks. New York: Grove Press.

Frenkel, R. (2008) Feminism and contemporary culture in South Africa. African Studies 67(1): 1–10.

Gamble S. (ed.) 2006. The Routledge Companion to Feminism and Postfeminism. London: Routledge.

Genz S. and ‎Brabon B. (2009) Postfeminism: Cultural Texts and Theories. Edinburgh: Edinburgh University Press.

Giddens, A. (1991) Modernity and Self-identity: Self and Society in the Late Modern Age. Stanford, CA: Stanford University Press.

Gill, R. (2007) Postfeminist media culture: elements of a sensibility. European Journal of Cultural Studies 10(2): 147–66.

Gill R. and Scharff C. (eds) (2011) New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

Glapka, E. (2014) Reading Bridal Magazines from a Critical Discursive Perspective. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Glapka, E. and Majali Z. (2017) Between society and self: the socio-cultural construction of the black female body and beauty in South Africa. Qualitative Sociology Review 13(1): 174–90.

Goldman, R. (1992) Reading Ads Socially. London: Routledge.

Gordon, D. (2013) A beleza abre portas: beauty and the racialised body among black middle-class women in Salvador, Brazil. Feminist Theory 14(2): 203–18.

Gwynne, J. (2013) Japan, postfeminism and the consumption of sexual(ised) schoolgirls in male-authored contemporary manga. Feminist Theory 14(3): 325–43.

Helms, J. E. (1993) Introduction: review of racial identity terminology. In J. E. Helms (ed.) Black and White Racial Identity: Theory, Research and Practice <AQ: Please provide page range.>. Westport, CT: Praeger.

Hesse-Biber S. N. (ed.) (2007) Handbook of Feminist Research: Theory and Praxis. Thousand Oaks, CA: Sage.

Hutchby, I. and Woofitt, R. (1998) Conversation Analysis: Principles, Practices and Applications. Cambridge: Polity Press.

Ilyin, N. (2000) Blonde Like Me: The Roots of the Blonde Myth in Our Culture. New York: Touchstone.

Inckle, K. (2010) Telling tales? Using ethnographic fictions to speak embodied ‘truth’. Qualitative Research 10(1): 27–47.

Iqani, M. (2015) A new class for a new South Africa? The discursive construction of the ‘Black middle class’ in post-Apartheid media. Journal of Consumer Culture 17(1): 105–21.

Lara, A. (2010) Cimarronas, ciguapas, and senoras: hair, beauty, race, and class in the Dominican Republic. In R. E. Spellers, and K. R. Moffitt (eds) Blackberries and Redbones: Critical Articulations of Black Hair/Body Politics in Africana Communities 113–27. Cresskill, NJ: Hampton Press.

Lazar, M. (ed.) (2005) Feminist Critical Discourse Analysis. Basingstoke: Macmillan.

Lazar, M. (2009) Entitled to consume: postfeminist femininity and a culture of post-critique. Discourse and Communication 3(4): 371–400.

Lazar, M. (2014) Recuperating feminism, reclaiming femininity: hybrid postfeminist I-dentity in consumer advertisements, Gender and Language 8(2): 205–24.

Magubane, Z. (2004) Bringing the Empire Home: Race, Class and Gender in Britain and Colonial South Africa. Chicago, IL: University of Chicago Press.

McCall, L. (2005) The complexity of intersectionality. Signs 30: 1771–1800.

McCracken, G. (1995) Big Hair: A Journey into the Transformation of Self. New York: Overlook Press.

McNay, L. (1992) Foucault and Feminism: Power, Gender, and the Self. Cambridge: Polity Press.

McNay, L. (1999) Gender, habitus and the field. Theory, Culture and Society 16(1): 95–117.

McRobbie, A. (2007) Top girls? Cultural Studies 21(4): 718–37.

McRobbie, A. (2009) The Aftermath of Feminism: Gender, Culture and Social Change. London: Sage.

Mercer, K. (1994) Welcome to the Jungle: New Positions in Black Cultural Studies. London: Routledge.

Molina-Guzmán, I. (2010) Dangerous Curves: Latina Bodies in the Media. New York: New York University Press.

Negra, D. (2008) What a Girl Wants: Fantasizing the Reclamation of Self in Postfeminism. London: Routledge.

Nnaemeka, O. (ed.) (1997) The Politics of (M)othering: Womanhood, Identity and Resistance in African Literature. London: Routledge.

Nyamnjoh, F. and Fuh, D. (2014) Africans consuming hair, Africans consumed by hair. Africa Insight 44(1): 52–68.

Nyamnjoh, F., Durham, D. and Fokwang, J. (2002) The domestication of hair and modernised consciousness in Cameroon: a critique in the context of globalisation. Identity, Culture and Politics 3(2): 98–124.

Parameswaran, R. (2004) Global queens, national celebrities: tales of feminine triumph in post-liberalization India. Critical Studies in Media Communication 21(4): 346–70.

Patton, T. (2006) Hey girl, am I more than my hair? African American women and their struggles with beauty, body image, and hair. NWSA Journal 18(2): 24–51.

Pinho, P. (2006) Afro-aesthetics in Brazil. In S. Nuttall (ed.) Beautiful/Ugly: African and Diaspora Aesthetics 266–89. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Posel, D. (2010) Races to consume: revisiting South Africa’s history of race, consumption and the struggle for freedom. Ethnic and Racial Studies 33(2): 157–75.

Potter, J. (1996) Representing Reality. Discourse, Rhetoric and Social Construction. London: Sage.

Tate, S. (2007) Black beauty: shade, hair and anti-racist aesthetics. Ethnic and Racial Studies 30(2): 300–19.

Tate, S. (2013) The performativity of black beauty shame in Jamaica and its diaspora: problematising and transforming beauty iconicities. Feminist Theory 14(2): 219–35.

Taylor, P. C. (1999) Malcolm’s Conk and Danto’s colours; or, four logical petitions concerning race, beauty, and aesthetics. Journal of Aesthetics and Art Criticism 57(1): 16–20.

Thompson, C. (2009) Black women, beauty, and hair as a matter of being. Women’s Studies: An Inter-Disciplinary Journal 38(8): 831–56.

Tyler, I. and Gill, R. (2013) Postcolonial girl: migrant audibility and intimate activism. Interventions: International Journal of Postcolonial Studies 15(1): 78–94.

Weitz, R. (2015) Feminism, post-feminism, and young women’s reactions to Lena Dunham’s Girls. Gender Issues 33: 218–34.

Wetherell, M. (1998) Positioning and interpretative repertoires: conversation analysis and post-structuralism in dialogue. Discourse and Society 9: 387–412.

Wetherell, M. (2008) Subjectivity or psycho-discursive practices? Investigating complex intersectional identities. Subjectivity 22: 73–81.

Wolf, N. (1990) The Beauty Myth. London: Vintage.

Woodward, K. (2015). Embodied Sporting Practices Regulating and Regulatory Bodies. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan.

Zeisler, A. (2008) Feminism and Pop Culture. Berkeley, CA: Seal Press.


  • There are currently no refbacks.

Equinox Publishing Ltd - 415 The Workstation 15 Paternoster Row, Sheffield, S1 2BX United Kingdom
Telephone: +44 (0)114 221-0285 - Email:

Privacy Policy