Girlfriends and Postfeminist Sisterhood by Alison Winch (auth.)

By Alison Winch (auth.)

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Moreover, it introduces the male gaze into the intimate female space; the imagined gaze of the sexy bricky. This fantasy man is conjured up in order to strengthen What Not to Wear’s policing gaze. Men hide in the shadows of the books and are occasionally brought onto the page in order to provide reasons as to why women should transform the way they dress. The archetypal new mother, for example, is not as attractive as she once was and this ‘has a huge impact on her physical relationship with her partner which encourages a vicious circle of negative feelings’ (Constantine and Woodall, 2004, 7).

What is not legitimated by the dominant symbolic is the female libido that threatens the business logic of the self-brand. This is where slutshaming is harnessed as a powerful regulatory force. Slut-shaming in the form of female groups and the girlfriend gaze is particularly effective as a tool of control. Catherine Hakim is a pertinent example of a figure who advocates femininity as erotic capital and yet denounces female libidinal energies. She maintains that men have a higher sex drive than women and so suffer from a ‘sex deficit’ (Hakim, 2011, 6).

Ellie and Jules’ conversation plays on a tradition of bawdy female humour shared among intimate female networks that is appropriated by other recent ‘cougar’ films like Prime (2005) and I Could Never Be Your Woman (2007). Through this understanding, misogyny becomes a discourse to be mined – a tool with which to mock the male gaze, as well as to preempt critique and preserve dignity. We are supposed to laugh at the disjunction between the mediated and the real body as we recognize our own experiences of mirror-horror.

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