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Dangerous Dames

Representing Female-Bodied Empowerment in Postfeminist Media


Heather Hundley, Roberta Chevrette and Hillary A. Jones

This book illuminates the rhetorical work performed by contemporary representations of a specific type of postfeminist hero who has garnered a lot of cultural capital: women who are smart, capable, physically agile and fit, and proficient with weaponry and technology. Employing critical/cultural and feminist approaches, Heather Hundley, Roberta Chevrette, and Hillary Jones engage with a range of theories including intersectionality, critical race theory, postmodernism, and posthumanism to examine a range of contemporary texts, including Kill Bill, Volumes I and II; The Hunger Games films; Wonder Woman; Atomic Blonde; Proud Mary; The Bionic Woman; Deus Ex; Dark Matter; and Caprica. Contributing to a robust existing conversation about postfeminist media as well as tracing how representation has changed in recent years, Hundley, Chevrette, and Jones contend that portrayals of dangerous dames offer limitations and opportunities for audiences. Specifically, should audiences read these characters as evidence of a postfeminist apocalypse, they may heed warnings of the limited interpretations offered. Yet as more women serve as role models and gain public attention, particularly regarding their assets and abilities, they provide important equipment for living for navigating around patriarchal constraints raised by postfeminism, neoliberalism, and humanism.

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Introduction: Paradoxes of Gendered Power Relations and Representations


Power relations are gendered, organizing bodies and relationships in significant ways—sometimes with devastating results. According to a report from the United Nations, one in three women worldwide has experienced intimate partner violence or sexual violence (“The World’s Women,” 2015). An alarming 41 % of transgender youth in the United States have attempted suicide (Haas, Rodgers, & Herman, 2014). Men—especially black men—in the United States are incarcerated at disturbing rates, most frequently for non-violent crimes (Wagner & Sawyer, 2018). Mass shootings continue to increase in the United States, and 98 % of perpetrators are white males (Follman, Aronsen, & Pan, 2018). The United Nations estimates approximately 70 % of the world’s poor are women, suggesting patriarchy disproportionately impoverishes female bodies (Abercrombie & Hastings, 2016). Each of these statistics reveals the material consequences of gendering power as cis, white, and hegemonically masculine. Nevertheless, increasing access to power is something we are taught to desire and strive to accomplish.

A ubiquitous concept often associated with physical or economic strength, power aligns with masculinity because men frequently possess stronger physiques. In a patriarchal, heteronormative landscape, economic power is gendered as masculine because men are awarded higher salaries, positioning them ←1 | 2→as household breadwinners in heterosexual relationships. Furthermore, they have greater access to corporate positions of power. The top 10 wealthiest people in the United States are men, and, according to the Associated Press (2017), “the eight individuals who own as much as half of the rest of the...

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