First-person narratives and feminism: tracing the maternal DNA

Kath Kenny

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterpeer-review


Second wave feminists used a particular form of memoir – personal testimony – in the then new political practice of consciousness-raising. Now, contemporary scholars have argued the recent practice of mothers writing about their lives online and in print are the inheritors of the consciousness-raising tradition. Using two first-person accounts by contemporary Australian journalists and feminists (Pryor 2014, Freedman 2015) of juggling work, study and motherhood through consuming anti-depressant and anti-anxiety medication, this chapter examines how these newer forms of memoir/consciousness-raising represent both a continuity with, and a break from, earlier forms of the practice. These contemporary stories still provide readers with consolation and relief; but where personal stories were once used to interrogate problems in women’s social worlds (Friedan, 1963, Summers 1975), the contemporary feminists’ stories discussed here emphasise individual choice, adaptation and personal transformation (including a medical transformation at a fundamental level of self). The use of memoir by these contemporary writers is also considered in the context of a new version of celebrity feminism, one where the author’s life story is now foregrounded. Finally, this chapter argues that the personal story, once harnessed by second wavers to build a movement, is now recruited by contemporary feminists to build a personal brand.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationMediating memory
Subtitle of host publicationtracing the limits of memoir
EditorsBunty Avieson, Fiona Giles, Sue Joseph
Place of PublicationNew York ; London
PublisherRoutledge, Taylor and Francis Group
Number of pages16
ISBN (Electronic)9781315107349
ISBN (Print)9781138092723
Publication statusPublished - 2018

Publication series

NameRoutledge Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Literature


  • first person narrative
  • memoir
  • feminism
  • fourth-wave feminism
  • third-wave feminism
  • second-wave feminism
  • neo-liberalism
  • narrative
  • celebrity feminism
  • journalism
  • Betty Friedan
  • consciousness raising
  • Mia Freedman
  • Lisa Pryor
  • Anne Summers


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