The Relationship between Postfeminism and Power Politics
Margaret Atwood’s, Bodily Harm, details the descent of a Canadian woman named Rennie from normalcy to physical, emotional and psychological disturbance. Rennie undergoes a partial mastectomy after being diagnosed with breast cancer, suffers the disintegration of her romantic relationship with Jake and finds herself entrenched in the political upheaval of the Caribbean island St. Antoine. Rennie lives rather apathetically; she does not care about integrity in her work or about love in sexual relationships. Perhaps unwittingly, Rennie consents to Gayle Greene’s definition of postfeminism, which asserts that women should “achieve in the workplace” but also “be sexy, seductive, deferential, dress fashionably, consume endlessly, and make themselves marketable”. Although Rennie subscribes to the ideology of postfeminism through her career and romantic relationship decisions, she eventually discovers the dangerous link between postfemism and the promotion of sadomasochistic power politics. The slippery slope between postfeminism and power politics manifests itself through Rennie’s lack of integrity in her journalistic career and through her romantic relationships with Jake, Paul and Daniel.
At the onset of Bodily Harm, Rennie describes her early college years. During her beginning career in academia and journalism, the ideals of intellectual and professional honesty resonated deeply with Rennie. Essentially, Rennie aligned herself with the second wave feminist movement’s emphasis on the female mind instead of the female body. Rennie recalls her previous dedication: “once she had ambitions, which she now thinks of as illusions…But that was 1970 and she was in college. She decided to specialize in abuses: honesty would be her policy.” (Atwood 55) After facing rejection in the work force, Rennie settles for writing about fashion and lifestyle pieces. Rennie’s resignation of her dream symbolizes...
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