20-24 Nov 2017

Angela McRobbie -- Women are the modern faces of poverty

"The slogan 'You can achieve anything' drives fear of failure as well as extreme forms of self-discipline. The vision of a perfect life ultimately leads to precariousness," claims the influential cultural scientist.

Christine Tragler
Christine Tragler Der Standard, Austria
Source: Der Standard
Angela McRobbie -- Women are the modern faces of poverty - NewsMavens
A begging woman. Image from Wikimedia Commons.

Why this story matters:

gender, economy

According to Angela McRobbie, one of UK's most recognized cultural scientists, poverty and deprivation are portrayed as "female failure" in neoliberal popular culture.

In her book “The Aftermath of Feminism”, published in 2008, she explored the theme of “top girls” -- the young, ambitious women who seem to have fulfilled all of their ambitions and consequently withdrew from the feminist fight. McRobbie has criticized this narrative as an example of neoliberal post-feminism.

Currently, she has focuses on the lives of the women who do not have a chance to climb the career ladder -- those excluded from the neoliberal promise of success. She perceives them as the modern faces of poverty. 

"The slogan 'You can achieve anything' drives fear of failure as well as extreme forms of self-discipline. The vision of a perfect life ultimately leads to precariousness," she said in an interview with “Der Standard” editor Brigitte Theissl.

What can be done to avoid this situation?

"In the UK, we are experiencing a progressive erosion of the welfare state. The political goal is to get people off the benefit system and into paid work. One way of doing this is to publicly expose those receiving social benefits -- in media and culture. Yet, this discourse not only makes the middle class look down on poor people, it also creates conflicts and hinders solidarity.”

As a result, everyone competes with everyone. “A woman, who is in the state support program and works a low paid, part-time job, turns against her neighbor, who condemns her survival on social assistance,” McRobbie provides an example of the phenomenon. Hence, she advocates for new forms of women's solidarity, beyond the boundaries of class and ethnicity.

According to McRobbie, there is hope in the millennials: “Young women are often politically active. They are willing to share their concerns in public, as the MeToo campaign demonstrated. Having said that I remain skeptical of social media activism. Of course, nowadays Facebook and Twitter are an integral part of the social movements, but we also urgently need other forms of daily political activity”.

Details from the story:

  • Angela McRobbie is a professor of communication science at the Goldsmiths College in London.
  • She is considered to be one of the most renowned cultural scientists in the UK.
  • Her best-known books are "The aftermath of feminism: gender, culture and social change" and “Be creative making a living in the new culture industries”.
  • On November 2016, Angela McRobbie gave a lecture entitled "Gender Shaming and Anti-Welfarism in Neoliberal Popular Culture". She was invited by the research association "Gender and Agency" (University of Vienna).
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