Feminism rebranded: women’s magazines online and ‘the return of the F-word’

Laura Favaro, Rosalind Gill


In recent years feminism has gained spectacular levels of visibility, notably among young women and in the media, especially online. This article makes a novel contribution to a growing discussion about ‘the new cultural life of feminism’ (Diffractions, 2016), and in particular the ‘mediated feminist landscape’ (Banet-Weiser, 2015) and its ‘new luminosity in popular culture’ (Gill, 2016) by bringing to the conversation the voices of those very individuals doing the mediating, providing such luminosity. Drawing on 68 in-depth interviews with the producers of women’s online magazines from the UK and from Spain, we examine the range of ways in which these professionals define and dis/identify with feminism, as well as explain, applaud or critique the emergence of a ‘new feminism’ promoted by their publications. In general terms, the analysis shows that the talk of women’s magazine producers constitutes a heterogeneous discursive terrain filled with ambivalence and ideological dilemmas. Additionally we show how the recent interest in feminism by these media is deeply but not only ideological, necessarily but not simply commercially-driven, and involved in simultaneous practices of de-stigmatising as well as depoliticising the movement. We suggest that in its transition into popular media feminism is ‘rebranded’ in such a way that both opens up and closes down possibilities, in a contradictory dynamic of regulation and adaptation that is characteristic of ‘cool capitalism’ (McGuigan, 2009).


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