Confidence culture and the remaking of feminism

Journal: 
Issue: 
Spring/Summer 2017
10.3898/NEWF:91.01.2017

In this article we explore how confidence works as a technology of self, exhorting women and girls to act upon themselves, and how it is reconfiguring feminist concerns. Our analysis demonstrates how the confidence cult(ure) has materialised in three different sites: discussions about women in the workplace; texts and practices promoting ‘confident mothering’; and contemporary sex and relationship advice. We show that confidence acts as a disciplinary technology of self which is addressed almost exclusively to women and is articulated in highly standardised terms which disavow any difference between and among women. It is an individualising technology which demands intense labour, places the emphasis upon women’s self-regulation and locates the source of the ‘problems’ and their ‘solutions’ within a newly upgraded form of confident subjectivity, thus rendering insecurity and lack of confidence abhorrent. We then discuss how the confidence culture is deeply implicated in the new luminosity of feminism, and argue that it contributes to the remaking of feminism in three central ways: by continuing and promoting elements of postfeminist sensibility, yet through celebration rather than repudiation of feminism; through an inclusive address that expunges difference and the possibility of its critique; and by favouring positive affect and outlawing ‘negative’ ‘political’ feelings. We argue that this move, which calls forth a new kind of a ‘cool’ ‘feminist’ subject, is simultaneously political, psychological and aesthetic.

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New Formations 91: Righting Feminism