For Brooks the term ‘post-feminism’ ‘is now understood as a useful conceptual frame of reference encompassing the intersection of feminism with a number of other anti-foundational movements including postmodernism, post-structuralism and post-colonialism’ (Brooks 1997: 1).
Other critics would argue that the ‘post’ prefix added to modernism, structuralism or colonialism seems to unproblematically connote the ‘going beyond’ both spatially and chronologically that has occurred in modern theory; yet Brooks asserts that post-feminism used in this theoretical context signifies feminism’s maturity.
Either of these definitions seems possible and the notion of superseding or going beyond has been widely utilised in popular culture, and to some extent in academic discourse.
Given that ‘feminism’ remains within the term post-feminism, albeit problematised by the prefix of ‘post’, this illustrates that ‘feminism is portrayed as a territory over which various women have to fight to gain their ground; it has become so unwieldy as a term that it threatens to implode under the weight of its own contradictions’ (Whelehan 2000: 78).
This means that the critic's focus begins to include or even to center on the gender, race, nationality, and social class of the writer, the critic, the reader, or characters within a work.
The way a work is shaped by its cultural contexts and the way in which cultural contexts shape the work are key subjects of study.
Ann Brooks’s version of post-feminism puts ‘woman’ under erasure; of course one could argue that this denies any political agency to a feminist who cannot lay claim to that identity, ‘modernist’ as it is, suggesting as it does a retreat to the self and ultimately the individualist framing of identity so favoured by enlightenment liberalism.
The category ‘woman’, no matter how unsatisfactory as a means to summon up the wealth and diversity of women’s experiences and identities, allows at least a space to lay claim to a wealth of shared experiences (gendered pay differentials, the impact of sexual violence, the relationship of nation to gender for instance) which permits a collective oppositional response to injustices against women.
For critics who are still happy to call themselves ‘feminist’ without any prefixes, such a model of feminism does not readily allow for an acknowledgement of some highly productive shifts in feminism since the 1970s.
Feminist politics has not remained static, and many of the central issues, so radical in the 1970s, are now accepted as part of mainstream politics.