Angela Mcrobbie and the Search for the "Real Me."

Lorenzo D. Rojas

The search for the 'Real Me' is a familiar crisis to most individuals, whether troubled, ill, lost, or not. The constant search for solid ground, some piece of familiarity, this urge to define oneself and identity, coupled with feelings of anxiety, emotional turbulence, denial and so on is a widespread phenomenon, affecting people of different age, race, gender, country, etc. And at this digital age full of media advertisements, commercial capitalism and information technology that’s almost impossible to regulate, it seems particularly harder on- but not limited to- women. This issue is an experience in modernity, as well as postmodernity. Angela McRobbie's essay, "Feminism, Postmodernism and the "Real Me,"" seeks to understand, to get to know, to have an idea about this discursive 'I.' It's an attempt to answer existential questions concerning the self with the essential search for such a person and, as she believes, by appropriating postmodernism to feminism, by approaching it from a new perspective, one can begin to answer these questions.

This video is perhaps a good example that highlights possible elements on why women nowadays are in a constant struggle to define themselves, or to define what it means to be a woman.

This site contains a number of comic strips pertaining to identity crisis:Click here to see them.

In her essay, she speaks highly of Stuart Hall as a positive appropriation of postmodernity. Unlike Gregor McLennan who simply views things with binary oppositions, of favoring one over the other, of embracing modernity and its various kinds of progress over mysticism, unreason and madness, Hall insisted otherwise. Seeing the world consisting of moving borders and shifting boundaries, intellectual or geographical, he emphasizes the importance of difference and embraces the notions of hybridity and convergence, that we can learn most when we are open, viewing things from the other side. It’s this kind of positioning that one can truly validate the discourses of those that are lost, oppressed and marginalized.

Here’s a video clip in which Stuart Hall speaks about Race. What he actually says here can also be returned to Feminism, that those of color he speaks about can also apply to women, colored or not.

Here, he substitutes a socio-historical/cultural definition of race for the biological one and in doing so, proceeds to mention how the meaning of skin color changes within context, that it’s not always fixed. The same can be said, not just about race, but of gender. What we definitely know about race (gender) is that it's reality. In order to see its effects, to see its operations, one must only look at reality.

McRobbie talks about how postmodernism as a convergence of a multitude of discourses, each opening up new possibilities for defining, positioning the self. So, what is postmodernism? Here are two clips that talk about it in an attempt to understand it, to define it.

The first clip contains a critique of modernism and notes how there are many advantageous things in our modern life, however, at the same time, there are also costs to these. Taking for example technology, it works both ways, making our lives easier on a day to day basis, yet at the same time, it’s also responsible for destroying the world. People then don't believe in the old Enlightenment ideology, thinking it's collapsing. There is thus a crisis in knowing what comes next and that is where postmodernity steps in.

What I find particularly interesting in the second clip is the brief mention of fragmentation. It was noted how a French philosopher defined postmodernity as an incredulity towards meta-narratives or simply speaking, a skeptical attitude towards all claims of truths. Meta-narratives simply mean big stories and Postmodernism says there are so many different stories, or simply the rejection of any one narrative. It suggests that it's still open to interpretation. Postmodernity is all over the world and thus you get people thinking different things. As a result, there is what you call fragmentation, where different people fall in different directions, where even one person can go into different directions.

This fragmentation is actually very familiar to what McRobbie talks about in her essay. As one person can fall off into different paths, she notes that the feminist social self that emerges in the absence of the ‘real me’ is actually constituted of fragmented identities formed in discourse by the collective, communicative aspect of all female experience, whether found in the different forms of medium or interpersonal relationships within communities.

Here’s a series of pictures created by (I’m assuming) a girl that’s accompanied by one of Natalie Grant’s songs, “The Real Me,” written after she survived her battle with Bulimia Nervosa. This is what I believe the unmasking of “The Real Me” is all about. A finding of oneself amidst all that one has gone through. Another more popular song (I unfortunately have to admit and use as an example simply because I don’t like it) is that by Demi Lovato, also aptly entitled, “This is Me.”

Now McRobbie would otherwise suggest, to actually abandon the search for one’s real identity, in favor of perhaps living with a fragmented self, that the constant reconfiguration, this continual process of reinvention can produce such empowerment. This does not necessarily mean failure, to give up in this ultimate search for relief and resolution, this fight that has been a key concept in feminism since modernity but rather, “to use Judith Butler’s words again, ‘of expanding the possibilities of what it means to be a woman’” (McRobbie 531).

Again, this universal phenomenon of the search for identity is not restricted to any race, gender or individual, and can be approached from a postmodern perspective, as it involves a viewing from the other side of modernity. This concept can help women, and even men, heterosexual or homosexual, in their search for what it means to be who they are, as they gain insights, understand experiences and learn about others to construct their unique ideas of their own lives. Postmodernism is perhaps a better way in looking towards the self, especially in a world of shifting boundaries and changing identities.

Here are some direct quotations from the essay that may be of interest…

“Postmodernism does not mean that we have to do away with the subject but rather we ask after the process of its construction” (McRobbie 527).

Quoting Judith Butler, “What women signify has been taken for granted too long… We have to instead break from the list of meanings and expand the possibilities of what it is to be a woman” (McRobbie 528).

“Feminist postmodernism does not eliminate the subject or the self but finds it in operation as a series of bit parts in the concrete field of social relations” (McRobbie (528).

“…the strength of feminism lies in its ability to create discourse, to dispute, to negotiate the boundaries and the barriers, and also to take issue with the various feminisms which have sprung into being” (McRobbie 530).

References and sources for videos:

McRobbie, Angela. “Feminism, Postmodernism and the ‘Real Me.’” Media and Cultural Studies: Keyworks. Durham, Meenakshi Gigi and Douglas M. Kellner, ed. 2nd Edition. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2006.

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