In the network of shared ideas and assumptions, feminism is perceived as a politically and academically charged term unwelcoming to men and other general populations possessing limited knowledge on this topic. In a post-feminist climate operating within a neo-liberal social structure, female subjects are expected to perform individuality by mastering “self-monitoring practices” by investing in commodified self-care products such as “self-help guides, personal advisors, lifestyle coaches and gurus…” (McRobbie 260). Television is unfortunately complicit in promoting this apolitical self-reliant culture through the flow of advertisements inundating spectators with visuals of human subjects buying into the notion of assembling the ideal self from a package of fragmented pieces of expectations. What does it mean when media presents women as assuming more complex roles and users of social media taking those representations as the ultimate achievement for gender equity? For instance, a few months ago, an online movement where women expressed their need for feminism prompted many to share their thoughts and reflect on why more conversations are necessary. At the same time, some women argued against feminism, claiming that their autonomy and positive interactions with men was sufficient enough to make of them independent productive citizens. As Banet-Weiser writes, framing gender issues within a popular cultural framework threatens to dismiss those concerns and present them as post-feminist (207).
Examples of post-feminist ideology are visible in certain televisual genres. Sexualized advertisements become modes of post-feminist female empowerment and individualism; Victoria Secret undergarments are hidden tools of success and independence. Another slippery subject would be the commodification of feminist ideologies in the media by celebrities who capitalize on emerging fads. In fact, even bell hooks is critical of certain public personas on television and music labeling themselves as feminists because they do not necessarily adhere to hooks’ notions of what it means to be a feminist. However, to be neutral, one must consider the generational differences between the feminist movements and understand that previous efforts are not adaptable to the multiple feminisms operating simultaneously. In taking the Mary Tyler Moore show as an example, the political climate of the 1970s and the feminist movement of that time embodies a particular movement of independence and the need for recognition. In a broad address here, that feminist movement worked towards placing women within male dominated structures. Today, the feminism on television is particularly different than previously experienced in the past decades. In shows such as How to Get Away with Murder, a more complex reading of feminism presents itself in analyzing the intersections of race and class. Unlike the feminism of the 1970s, one of the contemporary approaches to feminism seeks to question the role of women in systems of power. Even today, conflicting notions of feminism unfold in the media and women are making choices in how to lead their lives and question the systems of oppression. Contemporary feminisms on television are in conflict with post-feminist ideas, but as these differences are acknowledged, the more complex conversations can there be in the public sphere.