How have divisions in society transformed over time? The answer is complex and the following book is an essential research in being able to compare contemporary society to dystopian society. This book, Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present, is an excellent resource in addressing the complexity of social theory today. In my research, I focused on Chapter 3, entitled Post-feminism, which defines the post-feminist theory and how it differs immensely from previous feminist thought and theories. Post-feminism is defined as the notion of women having power, but not losing their “femininity”, which stems from the idea feminists lose femininity. In literature, as in dystopias, this provides “a critique of previous assumptions of the self, the social, the political, history, the text, knowledge, and ‘the West’”(Browning, 65). I found this theory and source especially useful and interesting in investigating feminist elements in recent dystopian literature.
This chapter uses concrete examples of post-feminist theory in literature and in television. One key piece used in supporting their claim is that of the series Star Trek: Voyager, which is set in the twenty-fourth century and explores the role of a post-feminist woman as starship captain. Tough leadership and courage characterize protagonist Janeway, though she doesn’t lose her “femininity” in this role, highlighting the post-feminist depiction of this character.
This chapter is a useful tool in identifying the social context in recent years of feminism, and its portrayal in literature. In my project, I am using this to argue the content and focus of women’s roles and depiction in this post-feminism period. Novels like my independent reading book The Selection, feature strong independent female leads, who are still able to embrace their femininity and stand up for female power and fight oppression, while not losing this aspect of themselves, a key factor in the post-feminist period.
Another useful chapter in this book include Chapter 33, entitled Social inequalities: coming to terms with complexity. This section argues that social divisions such as “class, gender, ethnicity, race, age, religion, and sexual orientation [are] intertwined to produce multifaceted and intricate forms of social hierarchy”(Browning, 478). This section would be useful for anyone curious about the divisions and inequalities within a society and comparing that to their independent reading novel or other dystopian societies.
Browning, Gary K., Understanding Contemporary Society: Theories of the Present. London, Sage, 2000.