self-fashioning and feminism

i can certainly appreciate the outraged tone of today's earlier
post, since the notion of souci de soi, consumerism, and feminism
is pretty outrageous. but let me see if i can suggest one or two
elaborations of the basic idea that will make it seem perhaps a
little more sensible.

do commodities stereotype? certainly, and that is precisely why
we should take them seriously: cultural stereotypes are
significant data, since people respond to them one way or
another. souci de soi at least lets us see how self-fashioning
functions in bourgeois institutions. foucault, so far as i can
tell, never had anything against fetishism, of either the marxist
or the psychoanalytic kind. i think this is consistent with his
general refusal to be lured into romanticism and the cult of

is this a superficial approach? yes, intentionally. i think
that some of foucault's most stimulating insights occurred when
he was cultivating a deliberate naivete. why not initially take
consumerism and advertising as they present themselves to us? if
there are "deeper" meanings, we can get to them in due course. i
think that a great difficulty with much "foucauldian" analysis is
that it begins at too great a level of abstraction -- foucault
himself began very concretely in most of his studies.

would cosmetics be a useful place to start? why not? i have
some brochures from the bodyshop that are *extremely* suggestive,
since they link "care" for animals and the environment to
one's own "style" of self-governance. this linking of "care" to
"style" seems distinctively foucauldian, though he only hints at
it in his later interviews.

finally, does this approach to souci de soi offer a "feminist"
reading of foucault's later work? well, it's a start -- i assume
that there could be no feminist critique without a basic
commitment to the argument that gender is relevant to every
theoretical and methodological understanding at our disposal.
certainly this seems like the case here. stay tuned!

alan aycock


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