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"Femininity in crisis": The troubled trajectory of feminism in Laura Hird's Born Free and Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon

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    Rights statement: ©Jones, C. (2015). "Femininity in Crisis": The Troubled Trajectory of Feminism in Laura Hird's Born Free and Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon. Contemporary Women's Writing.

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Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)385-400
Number of pages15
JournalContemporary Women's Writing
Issue number3
Early online date13 Aug 2015
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2015


This essay traces a trajectory between the diminution of the radical objectives of second wave feminism and the rise of postfeminism in two contemporary novels by Scottish writers. Laura Hird's Born Free (1999) and Jenni Fagan's The Panopticon (2012) illustrate the shrinking of radical feminist ideals to a sexual revolution appropriated by the individualism, consumerism and competitive market-focused ideology which characterises neoliberal postfeminism and sustains misogynist social structures. Informed by critiques of postfeminism by commentators such as Angela McRobbie and Rosalind Gill, the essay finds Hird's end of century pessimistic vision of female defeat allayed to some extent in Fagan's gothic-tinged narrative of a marginalised outsider evading neo-patriarchal containment. The texts demonstrate a damaging disorientation in contemporary femininity produced by what McRobbie terms the postfeminist gender settlement.

    Research areas

  • Feminism, Postfeminism, Laura Hird, Jenni Fagan

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