Created By: Floweramon on April 22, 2013 Last Edited By: Floweramon on April 24, 2013

Corset Feminism

Work of fiction trying to be feminist by denouncing things that are ALREADY unpopular

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(rewrites of this first draft are welcome) Corset feminism is when a work of fiction tries to make itself more feminist-friendly by denouncing certain practices and/or beliefs that are commonly known to be anti-feminist. Most writers/studios use this as a cheap/easy way to try and get brownie points for talking about the struggles women faced in society at different times, and many fans/critics will praise the movies for talking about "serious" issues.

The problem is that these ideas are rarely revolutionary/shocking. No one (or at least the majority of a modern audience) is going to argue that foot binding was cruel, that arranged marriages shouldn't happen, or that a woman should be allowed to get an education. So a movie presenting the idea that "Corsets were restrictive and women shouldn't have to wear them" is not feminist in any meaningful way.

Most commonly seen in historical fictions that try to be relevant to the time it's set in while still relating to the modern audience.

To be an example, it should be a modern movie that is meant for an audience where the issue they bring up is nonexistent (ie. corsets for a modern American audience)

See also Of Corset Hurts, Real Women Don't Wear Dresses, Straw Feminist, and Does Not Like Men




  • A recurring thing in Pirates Of The Carribean is that wearing a corset is painful and tight for Elizabeth. She even passes out in the beginning from lack of breath.
  • In Tim Burton's Alice In Wonderland, Alice's big conflict in the beginning is the arranged marriage that she is reluctant to follow through with. In the end, not only doesn't she, she becomes a business-owner.

[[folder:Western Animation]]

  • Corpse Bride, Victoria's mother is constantly making little quips at Victoria that more or less serve to let the audience know what a controlling bitch she is.
    "Get that corset laced properly. I can still hear you speak without gasping."
    "Music is improper for a young lady. Too passionate."
    "What impropriety is this?! You shouldn't be alone together!"
  • In Mulan2 , the title character makes a fuss about the emperor's daughter's going through an arranged marriage and the movie is basically spent trying to get them out. What's most egregious about this is Mulan was perfectly willing to go through with an arranged marriage in the first movie (she just sucked at the preparations, the formalities, and didn't have the skills of a housewife)
Community Feedback Replies: 12
  • April 22, 2013
    So this is based on Of Corset Hurts?
  • April 22, 2013
    Kind of the same concept, but it's more about the misconception that any work that delves into how restrictive corsets are and other such out-dated topics is "feminist". That is a good link to add before the examples.
  • April 23, 2013
    I don't know if I'd be so hard on such works if they are set in a period when those things might have actually been issues (i.e. Fair For Its Day). Even if works actually made in those times (as versus period pieces set in those times but made in the present day) never addressed those issues, it may be fair to assume that a few people "ahead of their time" (or just plain annoyed) in those periods did have issues with corsets and such (which they may have mentioned to friends or such but maybe not publicly), and a work today might highlight such characters in the past. A big part of history is the struggle, whether quietly or loudly waged, of oppressed people to gain more equality with unoppressed people--an arc that has been going since at least the Enlightenment if not before. Focusing on that element, even if it is obscure in traditionally-written histories, is by no means a bad thing, so long as it's at least somewhat accurate, or a plausible imagining given what we do know (which is probably much less than we think in some cases).
  • April 23, 2013
    Also, many of these issues are, while not problems in modern western society, still problems in other areas of the world and may be protested by feminists. You don't need to tell the audience that letting women get educations is good, but you still need to fight for women to get educations.
  • April 23, 2013
    I think there's definitely a trope here. It's a common phenomena for writers to handle historical values based on the values of today. That Mulan example also shows that there are cases clear enough to be actually listed as examples.

    EDIT: Related to Values Dissonance and Society Marches On.
  • April 23, 2013
    You need to take the political tone out of it. Right now you're making claims on whether or not a work is trying to be feminist, and that a work is always trying to be feminist by denouncing corsets, even when corsets are proper to the era. You're assuming an agenda when it could simply being hanging a lampshade on Values Dissonance. Or the Alice example--it's not necessarily true they're trying to be feminist. They might be acknowledging that the modern audience doesn't agree with arranged marriages and using that to make Alice sympathetic. It's possible they're using older oppressive attitudes to highlight what's wrong with more modern ones.

    The article as it's written is very derisive and rather condescending.
  • April 23, 2013
    I'm not sure this is going to work. The description uses a lot of ambiguous, politically-aligned phrases like "commonly known to be anti-feminist" and "not feminist in any meaningful way"; it's based on opinions.

    That invites all kinds of divisive questions. Is a work really trying to pander to feminists? Is the raised issue consigned to the annals of history, or is it relevant to the modern feminist? Is it anti-feminist at all, or just something an individual overreacted to? A now-deleted trope about works deemed insufficiently feminist had similar problems.
  • April 23, 2013
    My major problem with this is that even a radical feminist writer could do this in order to make the character plausible. Of course it did happen that people were much ahead of their time, but it would be a stretch to have a mideaval princess talk about the gender binary, for example.

    What you could do to appease the anti poltiics crowd is to focus on a couple of points from a story telling perspective. The first would be as mentioned above, that the character has to stay relevant for the issues of her time. Another is the audience perspective. Most of the current issues are still issues because they are contested (hello dear readers, how many of you thought the gender binary thing was either something I made up or academic PC nonsense?), and this means means that if the character brings up an active feminist cause, a good part (maybe even the majority) of the audience isn't going to see her as a positive feminist figure, they're going to see a "feminazi". Ergo, give her an opinion that everyone agrees with. (i'd wager there's something similar going in with marginalized character's inability to organize, but that's another issue)
  • April 23, 2013
    So, the inverse of the Nostalgia Filter?
  • April 23, 2013
    This seems like a subset of Rule Abiding Rebel. Not sure if it's tropeable on its own.
  • April 23, 2013
    It could be expanded further to making works where characters espouse modern-day beliefs in historical works. This gets brought up in How NOT To Write A Novel:
    "A variation on (having historical characters explain their customs to each other) is the rebellious protagonist who questions the never-before questioned values of a society, from the point of view of the author's never-questioned contemporary American values."

    They go on to mention this isn't necessarily a bad thing, but it is bad if a character starts talking about values that no one would have come up with at the time.
  • April 24, 2013
    I think there's a danger that, unless we can pin down something specific which doesn't involve a load of questions, it'll become a platform for people to bash works they consider "fauxminist", if you will. Rule Abiding Rebel already has shades of that.