Bitches, bunnies, and BFFs (best friends forever) :a feminist analysis of young women’s performance of contemporary popular femininities on MySpace
thesisposted on 15.01.2017, 23:41 authored by Dobson, Amy Shields
This doctoral thesis examines the current phenomenon of highly assertive, heterosexualised, individualised and often ‘traditionally unfeminine’ self-presentation by Australian young women on MySpace. The study is based on a sample of 45 public MySpace profiles owned by Australian women. The profiles were initially accessed between September 2007 and February 2008, and the owners were aged between 18 and 21 at that time. My research project is to see how some feminist conceptions of object/subject positions in representation apply to the MySpace representations when we view them as ‘self-produced’ and ‘freely chosen’ performative displays. I draw primarily from the disciplines of feminist media and performance studies. Such an analysis also tests the uses and limitations of these particular bodies of feminist theory within the new media context of ‘DIY’ (do it yourself) representation, and more broadly, the current gender and new media landscape. My analysis of the data focuses on four different aspects of self-presentation that emerge as significant across the sample of profiles. First, I discuss images and graphic decorations on the profiles that align with the ‘hetero-sexy’ and ‘hyper-feminine’ aesthetics (both terms defined) also evident in contemporary popular culture. The question being whether such conventionally (hetero) ‘sexualised’ imagery can possibly function as disruptive of object/subject boundaries, following Schneider’s criteria (1997), in this context of ‘selfproduction’. Second, I analyse the presentation of close female friendships so common across the data, and the way that this is often coupled with a tone of exclusion of ‘other’ young women. Third, I discuss the excessive displays of drunkenness and crudeness that may be described as a performance of ‘laddishness’, but also, I suggest, may be productively analysed in relation to Bakhtin’s notion of the ‘grotesque body’ (1968). Lastly, the textual mottos and self-descriptions commonly displayed by young women are discussed and analysed in terms of the way in which these multi-dimensional and chaotic performances of self seem to align broadly with post-modern theorisations of identity, as well as some feminist ideologies of subjectivity. I find that the object/subject binary is thrown into question by the very self-produced nature of MySpace media representation. The premise of self-production, agency, andchoice is a major complicating factor for feminist analysis of this phenomenon. This young feminine performativity on MySpace is also strong, assertive, active, and multifaceted, constituting a discrepancy with the way feminine performativity and representation has traditionally been theorised. However, it is not necessarily clear that object/subject binaries of gender performativity are meaningfully transgressed or questioned in the representations examined, when they are contextualised within the broader post-feminist and new media cultural climate. The MySpace performances of femininity, and my analysis of them, then, clearly highlight some areas of feminist media and performance theory that are in need of revision following cultural and technological developments in the representation of women.