Feminism and Neoliberalism

On 23rd June 2016, GSRF teamed up with renowned feminist scholars to deliver a unique and timely roundtable event on Feminism and Neoliberalism. We sought to collectively explore some pressing and complex questions facing feminism today such as, ‘what is the relationship between feminism and neoliberalism?’ ‘Is feminism becoming neoliberalized?’ And, ‘how might feminism resist neoliberalism?’ Chaired by Dr Rachel Lara Cohen (City University), the seminar began with insights from Dr Jo Littler (City University) on key moments in the historical relationship between feminism and neoliberalism. Jo discussed how femininities have become increasingly individualised and shaped as entrepreneurial projects of self-management/empowerment (for example, through notions of the ‘Mumpreneur’) and how this is based on post-race/class/feminist neoliberal meritocracy. Inspiringly, the talk ends with an emphasis on the importance of mobilising campaigns and what progressive opportunities there might be at present.

Our second panellist, Dr Kalpana Wilson (LSE) talked about how feminist ideas of empowerment and agency have been transformed and used to facilitate and legitimise the intensification of women’s labour in the Global South. Kalpana brought to light the ways in which the ‘gender equality as smart economics’ approach can in fact extend oppressive gendered and racialized inequalities. Furthermore, she argued that as philanthropic capitalist organisations promote a particular kind of neoliberal, entrepreneurial feminism, this negates the role of the state in social provision.

Next, the conversation shifted to ‘Confidence Cult(ure)’ and how the commodification of character becomes a gendered technology of self. In discussing her recent work with Dr Shani Orgad, Professor Rosalind Gill (City University) explored exhortations of confidence in advertising and the work place. Rosalind argued that as women’s ‘lack of’ confidence/self-esteem is framed as their main, individualised obstacle – something in their own psyche – this ignores important structural inequalities and cultural forces.

Dr Sara Farris (Goldsmiths) discussed the convergence of certain strands of feminism with neoliberalism in continental Europe – particularly France, Italy and the Netherlands. In the form of emancipation campaigns, Sara explained how ‘white supremacist feminists’ attempt to teach racialized and migrant women – who are considered to be oppressed/in need of ‘special help’ – to become culturally integrated and therefore emancipated. Moreover, within neoliberal workfare logic, she argued that women and feminist organisations are increasingly encouraging migrant women to participate within (certain areas of) the labour market which has become a civic ‘duty’, with welfare as a ‘privilege’.

Our final speaker Dr Shani Orgad (LSE) provided examples from her current research on the lived experiences of educated professional women who have left paid employment and how their experiences relate to current/limited narratives/imaginaries of feminism. Shani revealed that despite an acute awareness of the structural inequalities that have shaped their life trajectories, her respondents ultimately perceived their decisions/choices to leave their jobs and the consequences of doing so as personal failures. Accordingly, Shani discussed possibilities for alternative versions to neoliberal feminism and for different imagined futures that resist individualisation and expose how it is the system that needs to change, not women.

Bringing the event to a close, the floor was opened up to our audience for questions which allowed for engaging discussions on diverse issues such as intergenerational feminism, neoliberalism in academia, ethical consumption, post-racism and the politics of anger. We would like to sincerely thank all five speakers, our chair and to the audience for helping to create a positive, stimulating and thought-provoking event! If you were unable to attend, not to worry, you can watch a recording here.

Feminism and Foucault

When –

Where – City University London- Room AG20 – College Building

Please book your free place here

There is a now vast literature that relates to Foucauldian themes, but which aspects of debate are most pertinent to your specific investigation? How might you mobilise them? In this lecture-plus-workshop, Professor Vikki Bell explores the possibilities for reading Foucault’s thought within feminist analyses in a way that prioritises potential directions and questions for your own projects. Topics that will be covered in the lecture include: the concept of genealogy; modalities of power; subjectivity; performativity, and the work of Judith Butler; bio-politics. In the workshop, further issues will be discussed as they arise from our discussions.

This event is directed at PhD students and ECRs, we recommend the following readings and to come along with questions/points for discussion to make sure everyone gets the most out of this event!

Bell, V (2007) The Promise of Performativity: Theory and/as Political Ethic. In: Bell, V. Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. Oxford: Bloomsbury: 11-28.

Bell, V (2007) Performativity Challenged? Creativity and the Return of Interiority. In: Bell, V. Culture and Performance: The Challenge of Ethics, Politics and Feminist Theory. Oxford: Bloomsbury: 97-120.

Butler, J (1997) Subjection, Resistance, Resignification: Between Freud and Foucault. In Butler, J. The Psychic Life of Power. Stanford: Stanford University Press: 83-105.

Butler, J (2004) Violence, Mourning, Politics. In: Butler, J. Precarious Life: The Powers of Mourning and Violence. London: Verso: 19-49.

Foucault- Lecture on bio-politics: 17th March 1976 from Society Must be Defended: Lectures at the College de France 1975-6


About the speaker: Professor Vikki Bell

Vikki Bell is Professor of Sociology and Director of the Unit for Global Justice in the Sociology Department at Goldsmiths, University of London. She studied Social & Political Sciences at Cambridge and gained her PhD at Edinburgh University in 1992. She has taught across all levels at Goldsmiths since she joined in 1993, and has convened the MA Critical & Creative Analysis. She has been a Visiting Scholar at Berkeley, University of California, Yale University, University of Buenos Aires and the International Institute for the Sociology of Law (Oñati, Spain). Vikki is the author of four monographs, including Culture and Performance (Bloomsbury, 2007). Widely published in peer-reviewed journals, she has addressed questions of ethics, aesthetics, subjectivity and politics across the social sciences and theoretical humanities. Recently her work has explored cultural-aesthetic aspects of transitional justice in Argentina, where her research has been funded by the Arts & Humanities Research Council and, in 2015-7, by the Economic & Social Research Council. The most recent publication from this project is The Art of Post-Dictatorship: Ethics & Aesthetics in transitional Argentina (Routledge, 2014). This work has recently extended to include Chile.

Feminist and Queer Methodologies Workshop

On the 2nd of Dec, we were lucky to hold a feminist and queer methodologies workshop run by Dr Róisín Ryan-Flood. It proved to be a hugely popular event – with all spaces quickly filling up and a great turn-out on the day.

Róisín delivered an engaging lecture on feminist research ethics and epistemology, considering issues such as power relationships in research, the politics of representation and reflexivity. We also heard a fascinating story from her own research on the question of keeping participants’ secrets and when to choose silence over voice – a theme explored in her co-edited book (with Rosalind Gill) Silence and Secrecy in the Research Process: Feminist Reflections. 

In the second part of the workshop, all attendees had a chance to consider the ethical issues surrounding their own research and reflect on these together as a group. We left feeling inspired and very thankful for Róisín’s insights and interest in our work!


A huge thank-you to everyone who made it such a great event, and especially to Róisín!

Online Misogyny and Sexual Harassment GSRF Event

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On June 17 2015, the GSRF organised a seminar to discuss the topical issue of online misogyny and harassment. We heard from three diverse and interesting speakers researching in this area: Dr Olga Jurasz (Open University), Mark McGlashan (Lancaster University) and Carl Miller from Demos (see below for speakers’ details). The seminar was chaired by Laura Thompson, who is studying at City University for a PhD on the sexual harassment of women over online dating services.

We had a lively discussion on a number of topics, including the role of the law and community policing in addressing online misogyny. Discussions also took place on Twitter using the hashtag #GSRFmisogyny. Here are just some of the Tweets from the event:

We look forward to furthering our Twitter engagement at future events. You can follow us at @GSRF_City.


Event Synopsis:

Online spaces such as blogs, forums and Twitter are invaluable resources for feminist communities. However, due to its nature, the Internet also expands the space available for misogynistic discourses to spread and be heard and – as the cases of Caroline Criado-Perez and Mary Beard demonstrate – provides an outlet for ‘trolls’ to enact vitriolic attacks on women who publicly voice their opinions. Whilst encouraging progress has been made in increasing public and corporate awareness, we still have much to learn about this problem and about how we can start to tackle it. This seminar will discuss new research into the online harassment of women and explore how academic work can start to answer some of these questions. Topics up for discussion include: what methods can we use to track harassment on large social media platforms? What is the role of the law in addressing cyber-hate against women? What would a more ethical Internet look like and how might this be achieved?


Olga Jurasz (Open University):  “Online Misogyny and Social Media: A Challenge for (Legal) Regulation”

Olga Jurasz is a lecturer in law at the Open University Law School. Her main research interests are public international law, human rights and legal regulation of gender-based violence. She has been recently working on a collaborative project addressing gender, cyberviolence and law.

Carl Miller (Centre for the Analysis of Social Media, Demos): “Researching Misogyny on Twitter”

Carl Miller is the Research Director of the Centre for the Analysis of Social Media at Demos. It is the first British think tank unit dedicated to researching and understanding the digital world.  He develops new ways of understanding social media as a new part of social and political life. He wrote a weekly column on digital politics for The Sunday Times and is a social media commentator for Sky.  He is a Visiting Research Fellow at King’s College, London.


On May 8, the GSRF co-organised the 8th annual event for the Language, Gender and Sexuality Special Interest Group of the British Association of Applied Linguistics (BAAL). The event was hosted at City University and chaired by Lia Litosseliti and Rosalind Gill. It was a fantastic day with a diverse line-up of speakers engaged with various academic disciplines, the women’s sector, and feminist activism.

The event was titled “Deconstructing sexism: What can we learn from different approaches and disciplines?”, guided by the general interest in building bridges – both theoretically and methodologically speaking – between gender and language studies, and feminist cultural studies, sociology and social psychology, while also considering activism in this area. A key aim was to explore how we might learn from each other to better deconstruct, comprehend and resist contemporary gender ideologies and permutations of sexism.

The event also aimed to open discussion about how we might advance innovative interdisciplinary approaches to the complex workings of power and ideology in discourse and reinvigorate intersectional feminist politics. Speakers addressed these questions at all three levels of theory, empirical research and feminist practice/activism. There was plenty of lively discussion throughout the day and on Twitter via the hashtag 

See below for the full list of speakers. You can also click here for the full event programme and abstracts 



PAUL BAKER (Lancaster University): ‘A woman who knows her place’: Heterosexual Men Seeking Relationships and Sexist Discourse
STEPHANIE DAVIES-ARAI (No More Page 3, and author of ‘Communicating with Kids’): Page 3 – Sexual Harassment and the Myth of Empowerment
ELISABETH KELAN (Cranfield University): ‘I’ve never encountered that’ – Accounting for Sexism in Modern Workplaces
JULIA LONG (Anglia Ruskin University) and JODIE WOODWARD (Women’s Sector): Consent or Dissent? Reinforcing Heterosexuality in Programmes Addressing Men’s Violence Against Women
SARA MILLS (Sheffield Hallam University): The Struggle for Sexism
LYNNE SEGAL (Birkbeck College, University of London): Feminist Mutations: Possibilities & Pitfalls when Tackling Sexism
STEPHANIE TAYLOR (Open University): Avoiding Trouble? A Narrative-Discursive Approach to Sexism and Women’s Identity Work 



Special thanks goes to Gabriella Caminotto and Laura Garcia-Favaro for all their hard work in making the day such a success!


BDSM and Popular Culture GSRF Event

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This was a session organized by the Gender & Sexualities Research Forum (GSRF) at City University London on October 22 2014. Speakers Ummni Khan and Meg John Barker provided some fascinating insights into how BDSM is often constructed in mainstream sex advice and fictional narratives like the Fifty Shades of Grey series.


Ummni Khan

Perverts In The Spotlight: How SM Subculture Becomes Palatable Pop Culture

While sadomasochism (SM) may be considered taboo, pop culture has frequently represented SM dynamics and desires in its narratives.  Yet SM’s entertainment and ideological function is not uniform.  In fictional narratives, SM has been deployed for various and divergent reasons such as to increase suspense, amplify erotic tension, warn of its corrupting influence on ‘normal’ people, reveal the damaged mental state of a character, add a comic element to a scene, advertise its naughty pleasures and moralize against its seductive allure.  From 9 /12 Weeks to Fifty Shades of Grey, this interactive workshop will map out SM as an evolving and ambivalent signifier.  While the significance of SM is not stable, we will explore which SM arrangements are depicted as acceptable – and even desirable – and which are rendered abject and beyond the pale.

Ummni Khan (M.A., J.D., LL.M., S.J.D.) is an Associate Professor at Carleton University in the Department of Law and Legal Studies.  Her research focuses on the construction and regulation of stigmatized sexual practices, with a particular focus on BDSM and sex work.  Her book, Vicarious Kinks: Sadomasochism in the Socio-Legal Imaginary (2014), examines the ways that criminal regulation of consensual SM rests on problematic ideological claims that engage with psychiatry, anti-pornography feminism, and pop culture. She is currently a visiting scholar at Columbia University’s Centre for Gender and Sexuality Law.

Meg John Barker

BDSM and Consent in Sex Advice

With the increasing cultural awareness of BDSM (Bondage and Discipline, Dominance and Submission and Sadomasochism), particularly following the popular Fifty Shades of Grey series, mainstream sex advice media has begun to include considerations of kinky practices. This presentation explores the ways in which BDSM and kink are presented in sex advice, in comparison to other sexual practices. One notable feature is that consent is often emphasised in relation to BDSM sex when there is little mention of it in relation to other kinds of sex. The presentation explores the different constructions of consent across general sex advice (books and websites) compared to sex advice and discussion emerging from BDSM and kink communities themselves.Dr. Meg John Barker is a writer, academic, counsellor and activist specialising in sex and relationships. Meg is a senior lecturer in psychology at the Open University and has published many academic books and papers on topics including non-monogamous relationships, sadomasochism, counselling, and mindfulness, as well as co-editing the journal Psychology & Sexuality. They are involved in running many public events on sexuality and relationships, including Sense about Sex, Critical Sexology, and Gender & Sexuality Talks. Meg’s 2013 book Rewriting the Rules is a friendly guide love, sex and relationships, and they blog about these matters on www.rewriting-the-rules.com. Twitter: megbarkerpsych.

For our last event of the 2014 academic year, we had Carolina Matos and Simidele Dosekun deliver two fantastic talks on gender politics and postfeminism from a global perspective.  The event marked the end of a successful first year for the Gender and Sexualities Research Forum, and the discussion and talks at the wine reception afterwards generated plenty of ideas for new event topics for the coming year.  See the event flyer for more information about the speakers’ fascinating research.


First GSRF Event

In our very first GSRF event on March 25 2014, Lia Litosseliti gave a talk on “Gender and Language: Around the Field in 40 Minutes”. The talk was followed by discussion, and then we all exchanged interests and ideas over a glass of wine and nibbles.

Lia Litosseliti is Senior Lecturer in Linguistics, Language and Communication Science at City University London. Lia has been teaching and writing on gender and language/ discourse for nearly 20 years. She is the author of the books Using Focus Groups in Research (2003) and Gender and Language: Theory and Practice (2006); editor of Research Methods in Linguistics (2010); and co-editor, with colleagues, of Gender Identity and Discourse Analysis (2002), Gender and Language Research Methodologies (2008) and Gender and Language in African Contexts (2013). She is 2012-14 President of the International Gender and Language Association (IGALA)/ Past President of IGALA 2014-16, current Associate Editor of the Gender and Language journal, and reviewer in this area for a range of funding bodies and journals.

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