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Research article - Peer-reviewed, 2023

Conceptualising feminist resistance in the postfeminist terrain

Berglund, Karin; Ahl, Helene; Pettersson, Katarina; Tillmar, Malin


In this paper, women entrepreneurs are seen as leaders and women leaders as entrepreneurial, making both groups an easy target of postfeminist expectations, governed by calls to embody the entrepreneurial self. Acknowledging that the entrepreneurial self has its roots in the universal, rational and autonomous subject, which was shaped in a male form during the Enlightenment, the purpose of this study is to conceptualise feminist resistance as a process through which the autonomous subject can be de-stabilised.

Empirically, this study draws on an extensive research project on women’s rural entrepreneurship that includes 32 in-depth interviews with women entrepreneurs in rural Sweden. This study interpreted expressions of resistance from the women by using an analytical framework the authors developed based on Jonna Bornemark’s philosophical treatise.

Feminist resistance unfolds as an interactive and iterative learning process where the subject recognises their voice, strengthens their voice and beliefs in a relational process and finally sees themselves as a fully fledged actor who finds ways to overcome obstacles that get in their way. Conceptualising resistance as a learning process stands in sharp contrast to the idea of resistance as enacted by the autonomous self.

Research limitations/implications
This study helps researchers to understand that what they may have seen as a sign of weakness among women, is instead a sign of strength: it is a first step in learning resistance that may help women create a life different from that prescribed by the postfeminist discourse. In this way, researchers can avoid reproducing women as “weak and inadequate”.

Through the re-writing of feminist resistance, the masculine entrepreneurship discourse including the notion of the autonomous self is challenged, and a counternarrative to the postfeminist entrepreneurial woman is developed. Theorising resistance as a learning practice enables a more transforming research agenda, making it possible to see women as resisting postfeminist expectations of endless competition with themselves and others.


Postfeminism; Autonomous self; Intellectus; Learning resistance; Neoliberalism

Published in

Gender in Management: An International Journal
2023, Volume: 38, number: 2, pages: 183-199