The concepts of psychoanalytic theories have become effective tools for understanding the main underpinnings of the feminist movement, its place in the lives of individual women, and post-feminism symptoms.
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In the 1980s and early 1990s, the feminist psychoanalytical theory was used for establishing a relationship between fashion images and the self-harming practices of young women. McRobbie (2009, p. 255) offered an alternative approach to discussing the connection between feminity and self-harm in the context of heterosexual melancholia, acclaiming that the changes in the community order had reverse effects on women. In other words, the changes in the gender regime have intensified the anxiety of invisible patriarchies. Therefore, the eating disorders and anorexia among them which were previously regarded as a result of the fashion industry can be perceived by girls as a mark of their feminity. Harming their bodies, girls can consider them normal. McRobbie (2009, p. 256) stated that fear of overweight, diets, low self-esteem, and even anorexia can be considered as ‘healthy’ signs of modern unhealthy femininity. Therefore, feminist theory’s debt to psychoanalysis is not limited to discussion of the underlying causes of particular forms of women’s oppression, but also for analyzing the post-feminism disorders.
The so-called post-feminism disorders imply the cultural production of psychopathology. Criticizing the tendencies of eroticizing the female bodies and labeling slim healthy bodies as beautiful, feminists insisted on displaying a wide array of pathologies in media and magazines. However, emphasizing the variety of women’s complaints, including those of self-starvation, low self-esteem, and self-harming practices, the media makes the female viewers think that these are the signs of feminity expected from them. Thus, the psychoanalytical theories can be advantageous for discussing the reverse side of the feminism movement in terms of its impact upon the girls’ perceptions and consciousness.
Another implication of psychoanalytic works to feminist studies is the analysis of the processes of looking at fashionable images, getting fascinated about them, and imaginary self-identification with the selected images. The psychic forces making women identify themselves with the images from fashion magazines and use certain forms of labor on the self for acting the fantasy out were analyzed to understand the underlying process. Currently, a similar approach can be used for tracking the tensions, anxieties, and complaints of modern women. The efforts of the feminist movement which resulted in increased employment of women increased the tensions they experience in their daily lives. De Beauvoir (1989, p. 697) stated that the independent women of today have to juggle their professional ambitions and sexual needs. Therefore, with the increased liberty and unwillingness of women to accept the males’ oppression, modern women have to face new challenges which can be explained through the lens of psychoanalysis.
Psychoanalytic theories have been used as effective tools or the analysis of various forms of women’s oppression and self-harm practices in the 1980s and 1990s. Currently, a similar approach can be adopted for understanding the unexpected consequences of feminism and the underlying psychic forces resulting in the cultural production of psychopathology, increased anxieties, and tension.
De Beauvoir, S. (1989) The second sex, translated by H. Parshkey, New York, Vintage Books.
McRobbie, A. (2009) The Aftermath of feminism: Gender, culture and social change. Thousand Oaks, CA, Sage Publications.