Examining the self-representation of hijab fashion bloggers as a postfeminist phenomenon: discourses of empowerment and their limitations
In the last decade, hijab fashion bloggers on Instagram have gained remarkable levels of popularity among young Muslim women. While scholars have recognised the importance of describing and celebrating the empowering sides of hijab fashion as a subculture, hijab fashion bloggers’ online selfrepresentations remain understudied from an intersectional feminist and cultural studies perspective. To evaluate the emancipatory value of these images, particularly in relation to Islamophobia, I argue that hijab fashion blogging should be studied as a postfeminist phenomenon. Drawing on academic discussions about self(ie) empowerment, microcelebrity, popular feminism, meritocracy, the beauty industry, self-Orientalism and more, I provide a detailed insight into the limitations as well as the appeal of postfeminism for Muslim women in an Islamophobic context. Based on semiotics and discourse analysis, I perform a visual media analysis of more than 20 bloggers’ representations of femininity and empowerment in over 160 Instagram images. My research shows that these bloggers rebrand veiled Muslim femininity as empowered, entrepreneurial and beautiful—which are also three areas of postfeminism’s undoing of feminism. As a result, in a bid to hyper-counter Islamophobic stereotypes, hijab fashion bloggers (subversively) challenge certain inequalities by (problematically) reproducing other inequalities, such as returning to normative femininity. Additionally, by conducting a small audience study, I demonstrate that young Muslim women in the UK both enjoy and problematise hijab fashion content. Ultimately, my findings help reshape our understanding of the ways in which hijab fashion bloggers’ self-representations relate to empowerment in a feminist, postcolonial and critical sense of the word.
|Publicly Available Date
|May 30, 2023