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‘It’s not who I want to be!’: Negotiating the ‘illegible’ single woman in US–UK popular culture

Gilchrist, Kate R; (2022) ‘It’s not who I want to be!’: Negotiating the ‘illegible’ single woman in US–UK popular culture. European Journal of Cultural Studies 10.1177/13675494221120837. (In press). Green open access

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Abstract

Drawing on analysis of media representations and interviews with 25 single women, this article argues that the single woman is abjectified in US–UK popular culture through processes of instability and incoherence, which construct her as a threat to heteronormative femininity and recentres the coupled norm. Yet there are moments of contestation within media portrayals, where her ‘illegibility’ allows for a troubling of the gender binary and opens up spaces for working with and against such oppressive structures. Drawing on Butler’s heterosexual matrix, I show that singledom is produced here as a non-normative heterosexual practice, which radically destabilises femininity and heteronormativity. This article examines not only how single femininity is being culturally delegitimised, but also how single women in the United Kingdom experience such delegitimisation. Through complex processes of what José Esteban Muñoz calls ‘(dis)identification’, the women work with, alongside and against representations of normative coupled femininity. They also tactically work with portrayals of the single woman to self-reflexively construct alternative single feminine subjectivities. Yet more troublingly, even in moments of resistance, the single women make painful identifications with their abject positioning.

Type: Article
Title: ‘It’s not who I want to be!’: Negotiating the ‘illegible’ single woman in US–UK popular culture
Open access status: An open access version is available from UCL Discovery
DOI: 10.1177/13675494221120837
Publisher version: https://doi.org/10.1177/13675494221120837
Language: English
Additional information: This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution 4.0 International License. The images or other third-party material in this article are included in the Creative Commons license, unless indicated otherwise in the credit line; if the material is not included under the Creative Commons license, users will need to obtain permission from the license holder to reproduce the material. To view a copy of this license, visit http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/4.0/
UCL classification: UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education > UCL Institute of Education > IOE - Culture, Communication and Media
UCL > Provost and Vice Provost Offices > School of Education
UCL
URI: https://discovery.ucl.ac.uk/id/eprint/10156354
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