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Beautiful and Bad Women: Media Feminism and The Politics of Its Construction in Taiwan
Unformatted Document Text:  2 the present on behalf of the future” (Siegel 58). Hence, it is important to understand what power gets served in this premature declaration and mass circulation of the passing of a feminist age. If the writing of history is an act of intervention, then, investigating the writing of popular historiographic discourse is an intervention to open up new spaces for feminist dialogue, to forge continuities between the past and the present, and to move feminism to the plural. Identity formation, in this case, the formation of a feminist subject, is usually grounded in history. In this paper, I use Joan Scott’s notion of “fantasy echo” to explore the relationships between the formation of a popular feminist subject and the writing of the history of popular feminism. However, in talking about fantasy as a mode of historical writing, Scott does not discuss the role of the institutions involved in the writing of history. Because I am dealing with feminist discourses that are constructed and distributed in popular media, particularly in women’s magazines, 2 it is important that I put this “fantastic history” that popular media create in the context of cultural production, including the production of women’s magazines as cultural commodities, women’s movements, and the socio-economic forces that constitute the present context. My argument is, the history of popular feminism in Taiwan adheres to two contradictory stories—beautiful and bad. Beautiful feminism is grounded in feminine specificity while bad feminism locates its essence within a discourse of sameness between men and women. These two seemingly contradictory rhetorical strategies coexist in order to construct a global female subject for capital production and consumption. In constructing this new feminist subject, Western second–wave feminism and domestic Taiwanese women are assigned to the past, while American postfeminism is designated as “our” feminism. This selective appropriation of western feminism has to be explained within the larger context of neocolonialism. The first part of this paper discusses Joan Scott’s notion of “fantasy echo” and Fabian’s allochronism in order to get at the politics of writing history and the formation of identity. The second part explores the image of the beautiful-and-bad woman and the new feminism she represents. It also investigates how the history of popular feminism is written along the two axis of sexual difference and sameness. The third and fourth parts investigate the contradictory relationships between western feminism and popular feminism and discuss the politics of translation. The last part tries to situate this new feminism within the context of global media production and women’s movement. 2 The material under analysis are: international women’s magazines from 1985 to 2001 (mostly from Non-no, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Bazzarr), national best sellers (Beautiful and Bad women’s Key to Success and A Manual for Women Who Want to Be Beautiful and Bad) and newspapers (Mainly, United Dauly News)

Authors: Yang, Fangchih.
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2
the present on behalf of the future” (Siegel 58). Hence, it is important to understand
what power gets served in this premature declaration and mass circulation of the
passing of a feminist age. If the writing of history is an act of intervention, then,
investigating the writing of popular historiographic discourse is an intervention to
open up new spaces for feminist dialogue, to forge continuities between the past and
the present, and to move feminism to the plural.
Identity formation, in this case, the formation of a feminist subject, is usually
grounded in history. In this paper, I use Joan Scott’s notion of “fantasy echo” to
explore the relationships between the formation of a popular feminist subject and the
writing of the history of popular feminism. However, in talking about fantasy as a
mode of historical writing, Scott does not discuss the role of the institutions involved
in the writing of history. Because I am dealing with feminist discourses that are
constructed and distributed in popular media, particularly in women’s magazines,
2
it
is important that I put this “fantastic history” that popular media create in the context
of cultural production, including the production of women’s magazines as cultural
commodities, women’s movements, and the socio-economic forces that constitute the
present context.
My argument is, the history of popular feminism in Taiwan adheres to two
contradictory stories—beautiful and bad. Beautiful feminism is grounded in
feminine specificity while bad feminism locates its essence within a discourse of
sameness between men and women. These two seemingly contradictory rhetorical
strategies coexist in order to construct a global female subject for capital production
and consumption. In constructing this new feminist subject, Western second–wave
feminism and domestic Taiwanese women are assigned to the past, while American
postfeminism is designated as “our” feminism. This selective appropriation of western
feminism has to be explained within the larger context of neocolonialism. The first
part of this paper discusses Joan Scott’s notion of “fantasy echo” and Fabian’s
allochronism in order to get at the politics of writing history and the formation of
identity. The second part explores the image of the beautiful-and-bad woman and
the new feminism she represents. It also investigates how the history of popular
feminism is written along the two axis of sexual difference and sameness. The third
and fourth parts investigate the contradictory relationships between western feminism
and popular feminism and discuss the politics of translation. The last part tries to
situate this new feminism within the context of global media production and women’s
movement.
2
The material under analysis are: international women’s magazines from 1985 to 2001 (mostly from
Non-no, Elle, Marie Claire, Cosmopolitan, Vogue, and Bazzarr), national best sellers (Beautiful and
Bad women’s Key to Success and A Manual for Women Who Want to Be Beautiful and Bad) and
newspapers (Mainly, United Dauly News)


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