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Postmodern feminism confronts and rejects essentialist practices, understandings and explanations of society as established in and by modernity. Merged with postmodern theory, this form of feminism challenges claims of a unified subject, such as one common definition of ”woman”; and instead recognizes differences, of having all views and voices recognized. The combination of postmodernist thought and feminism allows for a questioning of essentialist approaches within and outside of feminism. The belief that there is a universal understanding of ”female” and ”male” is rejected; gender is viewed as fluid, temporary, and perhaps, non-existent. Central to postmodern thought is the importance of recognizing that all things being studied occur in specific historical, cultural and political moments.
Postmodern feminist theorists critique the fixed binary structure of gender and the impact this structure has on social, political and cultural institutions. Constructions of gender are viewed as multiple, through a variety of lenses, integrating in the complexities of race, ethnicity, class, sexual orientation, age and other differences. Our concepts of what gender and sexuality are, are actually social constructions and therefore there is no true meaning. Reality is seen as a fabrication.
By shifting from a dualistic approach to multifaceted examinations, the subject/object split in essentialism is challenged. One of the tasks of postmodern feminists is to reconstruct conceptualizations of the subject/object split into recognizing a recreation of self that has endless revolutionary potential. The push to move beyond dualistic thinking is far-reaching, particularly within academe. Postmodern feminist theorists have challenged and changed definitions of science and knowledge; seeking to move marginalized groups from the position of subject, that which is being studied, to more central positions, where they are advancing knowledge.
- Butler, J. (1999) Gender Trouble: Feminism and the Subversion of Identity. Routledge, New York.
- Nicholson, L. (ed.) (1990) Feminism/Postmodernism. Routledge, New York.