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

Gilchrist, Kate ORCID: 0000-0003-1316-3493 (2022) It’s not who I want to be!: negotiating the ‘illegible’ single woman in US-UK popular culture. European Journal of Cultural Studies. ISSN 1367-5494

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Identification Number: 10.1177/13675494221120837


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.

Item Type: Article
Official URL:
Additional Information: © 2022 The Author
Divisions: Gender Studies
Media and Communications
Subjects: H Social Sciences > HQ The family. Marriage. Woman
H Social Sciences
Date Deposited: 02 Sep 2022 10:48
Last Modified: 18 Apr 2024 02:00

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