Neoliberal feminism and the future of human capital

Catherine Rottenberg

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

66 Scopus citations

Abstract

This article examines the contemporary embrace of feminism by the mainstream media and among high-powered women. I begin by showing that not only is a neoliberal variant of feminism on the rise but that this feminism is producing a new form of neoliberal governmentality for middle-class women, one based on careful planning and smart self-investments in the present to ensure enhanced returns in the future. Providing two representative examples—the glorification of college hookup culture and the new technology of egg freezing being offered as part of corporations’ benefits packages—I demonstrate how upwardly mobile middle-class women are being encouraged to invest in their professions first and to postpone maternity until some later point. By encouraging these women to build their own portfolio and to self-invest in the years once thought of as the most fertile, I further suggest that neoliberal feminism is increasingly interpellating middle-class women as human capital. Yet, given that reproduction continues to present a stumbling block in this conversion process, reproduction and care work are increasingly being outsourced to other women deemed disposable because not properly responsibilized. Hence, the emergent neoliberal feminism not only forsakes the majority of women by splitting female subjecthood into the few worthy capital-enhancing female subjects and the disavowed rest, it also facilitates the creation of new and intensified forms of racialized and class-stratified gender exploitation.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)329-348
Number of pages20
JournalSigns
Volume42
Issue number2
DOIs
StatePublished - 1 Dec 2017

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Gender Studies
  • Arts and Humanities (miscellaneous)

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