“Power Femininity” and Popular Women’s Magazines in China

Eva Chen


Western women’s glossy magazines (“glossies”) have made increasing inroads in the Chinese market and advocate a “power femininity,” which celebrates women’s assertive individualism and power as consumerist agency. While this power femininity has global neoliberal resonances, it also taps into the unique postsocialist Chinese context, where the liberation of individual desires, including the material and the sexual, is linked with a strongly felt need to undo a past socialist wrong that repressed people and deprived them of what should be an inalienable human right. This concept departs from the caregiving, self-sacrificial, and family-oriented “natural femininity” promoted in local women’s magazines in terms of aspiration, assertiveness, and a nativist-versus-international divide, yet ultimately both the Western and local women’s magazines are united by a shared stress on the need to cultivate a distinct Chineseness in the feminine ideal and to position women’s magazines as an integral part of the Chinese nationalist project of modernization and progress.


Chinese femininity, Chineseness, neoliberalism, women’s magazines

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