Complicity in Contemporary Feminist Discourse

Student thesis: Doctoral Thesis


Feminism is no longer considered to be pro-woman on the basis of a homogenous female identity or experience. Where previous feminisms relied upon notions of sisterhood based on shared struggle, contemporary feminisms acknowledge the multiple subjectivities of a neoliberal postfeminist society. There have been various shifts across feminist discourse that necessitate research on complicity. Firstly, the continual move from various types of essentialism in feminism, to a broader understanding and incorporation of intersectionality, opens up space for the existence and articulation of a range of subject positions beyond ‘man’ and ‘woman’. Secondly, the pervasiveness of postfeminist and neoliberal discourses and representations across contemporary culture require a nuanced unpicking of what various practices and incarnations of ‘feminism’ mean, or could mean. I suggest that paying attention to complicity – including our own – enables this. This work poses the question, ‘Complicit with what?’ and looks at a range of pop-culture case-studies in order to apply complicity as a theoretical tool - or way of seeing. Covering subjects like corporate feminism, cultural appropriation, beauty practices, and domesticity, this research considers our ‘foldedness’ with one another, and how we can lessen complicity by acknowledging its existence.
Date of AwardJul 2018
Original languageEnglish
SponsorsDepartment of Employment and Learning
SupervisorKatherine Byrne (Supervisor) & James Ward (Supervisor)


  • complicity
  • feminism
  • pop-culture
  • neoliberalism

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