chapter  12
43 Pages

Feminism and Post-feminist Theory

In a university where I worked some years ago, an email exchange amongst colleagues rapidly and dramatically threatened to bring some promising academic careers undone. The precise details I have long since forgotten, but the core of the matter concerned what people then called a ‘gender incident’ – a matter which had arisen upon nothing more and nothing less than the hasty deployment of words (issuing from a colleague’s email), and which then attached itself to powerful emotions throughout this university department. This served to divide and antagonize various members of staff. Along the way, several staff noted for their reconciliatory talents tried to intervene in the dispute. Yet each further email only seemed to make matters worse, as if dragging language away from whatever connections to social things and events it might once have had. Such was the play of emotional forces operating inside this heated exchange of language that confusion abounded, no one could agree or take up any single, consistent viewpoint in relation to the incident. Established patterns of meaning within this academic department were thrown into question. Plus which, the original parties to this dispute were going through absolute contortions in order to defend themselves against certain misunderstandings and possible transgressions of gender politics. Each email, or at least this according to memory, began: ‘What I meant to say was . . .’