This assignment is divided into the research proposal and the final paper which together account for 35% of your final grade. In addition to these two stages, you will participate in an in-class writing workshop to workshop your final papers in advance of the deadline. Detailed instructions are included below.
The final paper will be 10-12-pages and address a topic of your choosing that relates to or extends a topic/issue that we have covered in class. In order to move forward with this assignment, each student will have to get approval from me on their paper topic by Tuesday February 27. I encourage you to get a jump-start on thinking about your assignment to maximize the resources available to you within the WGS program.
A sample list of topics which you are welcome to go outside of includes:
– Cyberfeminism and social media
1) Paper Proposal (10%): March 5th, due by midnight, by email and on Turnitin
Proposals should be 4 pages in length, double spaced, 12-point font, 1-inch margins, plus
references. The proposal should set out a research question or thesis; provide some sense of the broad research issues that you will explore and engage; situate the research in terms of the academic literature; state how your essay relates to the themes and content of the course; and provide a preliminary list of references which includes at least 4 course readings and at least five sources beyond course readings
2) Final Research Paper (30%): April 7th, due by midnight, by email and on Turnitin Your final papers should develop significantly from your research
Gender conformity is a societal problem that predisposes individuals to act in a manner that is expected of their physical gender. However, recent initiatives against social gender conformity like the promotion of gender identity expression within the workplaces have leveraged the potential created by the Internet and social media platforms such as YouTube, Facebook and Twitter. The pervasiveness of social media sites especially Facebook has driven many cultural and social activities online (Skalli, 2014). Feminists like former Olympian and television star Caitlyn Jenner and the actress LaVerne Cox have predominantly used conventional media like television and magazines to air their causes (Sawyer & Thoroughgood, 2017). Today, Facebook is being increasingly utilized to express dissatisfaction with the different forms of female subjectivity like gender conformity. Transgender individuals like Caitlyn Jenner are creating powerful spaces for themselves on Facebook, helping create the next frontier for feminist movement and activism. This paper argues that the use of the social networking site Facebook, especially updates and hashtags have facilitated the development of gender non-conformity, particularly the butch identity within the society.
The social networking site Facebook emerged from a college student’s dorm room to take over the online world as a simple and effective way of connecting with friends. Jernigan and Mistree (2009) state that Facebook allows users to create personal spaces by filling a limited profile, and this information can be designated to specific people. When unhindered, online spaces like Facebook have the potential to highlight gender inequalities. The use of Facebook reflects the gender violations and the curtailment of women’s freedoms, including their capacity to freely express their sexual orientations. Technological innovations like social media sites offer women’s movements excellent communications alternatives. Facebook has offered feminists an opportunity to thrive through updates and relevant hashtags like #lesbian.
Thesis: The proliferation of Facebook as a means of communication has had an irredeemable positive effect on the society’s perception of the butch identity, particularly through the use of hashtags.
The Emerging Role of Social Media and Facebook in Particular in Lesbian Discourse
Cyberfeminism has provided women with a space where their fragmented subjectivities can exist and allowed them escape the patriarchal control of centralized organizations like mainstream media agencies. The absence of cultural and institutional norms on social media makes it particularly suited for women’s activism (Gajjala, & Oh, 2012). Furthermore, the internet and social media is among the few spaces besides mainstream politics that are accessible to women and minorities’ activism (Cunningham & Crandall, 2014). Feminists are using Facebook to further their causes by publicizing and disseminating information for global causes, donating to groups, and signing petitions. Facebook is also employed in raising awareness on women’s concerns, conducting and publishing research on social and gender disparities, and mobilization at the grassroots level to improve women’s situations (Rice, Haynes, Royce, & Thompson, 2016). Some of the issues tackled on Facebook include sexual diversity, male-centered knowledge, women’s art, abuse of female domestic knowledge, domestic violence, and underrepresentation of women in the political, social, and economic domains.
In recent years, the queer identity has arisen as a branch of sexual preferences such as lesbianism. Most individuals are ambivalent about their lesbian identity, furthermore, queer identities are usually adopted following a superficial interrogation of the individuals that portray them (Hererra, 2017). The society often categorizes individuals who exhibit a sexual inclination that it does not understand as queer, and this classification has bedeviled butch individuals. Facebook has the important role of ensuring that butch, lesbian, heterosexual, gay, and transgender individuals interact with each other to develop a better comprehension of one another’s sexual preferences.
The butch identity is mostly misconstrued due to the society’s association of the butch style with lesbianism. Individuals who wear short hair, men’s apparel, and are masculine are often categorized as lesbian and butch. Not all butches are lesbians, and vice versa, the stereotypical perceptions of the society are the result of insufficient information on the sexual identity. Some individuals assume that portraying the butch style is an undeniable sign of being a lesbian, and the society has taken up this trend in constructing the picture of how a lesbian should look like. The adoption of butch mannerisms typically renders an individual to be considered as a lesbian. However, there superficial interpretations of the butch identity have made some lesbians to miss out on the community. Accordingly, the utilization of Facebook and the creation of hashtags has eased communication among members of the butch community. Moreover, these hashtags have also made it easier for prospective members to “come out”. For instance, the hashtag ‘#butchandproud’ has the psychological effect of making some individuals accept their sexuality and garner the courage to express themselves and connect with other people of similar leanings.
Butch individuals are usually portrayed as incessantly masculine and aggressive members of the lesbian community. The butch identity can be interpreted as a stubborn trait that aims to counteract the society’s definition of the female identity. In the real sense, not all butches seek to be men or be treated as men, and it difficult for the society to discern this at face value. The butch identity is complicated and a good understanding can only be fostered by a proper interaction with these people. Herrera (2017) states that the term “lesbian” has varied connotations to different individuals, but it is a concrete term whose overall meaning cannot be riddled with ambiguity. Facebook provides an excellent opportunity for ambivalent individuals to interact with and comprehend butch individuals. The status updates and hashtags used by butch people instigate communication in the community and ensures a good social interaction. While butch is often identified by outward style, interacting with these individuals reveal that it is an intrinsic attitude which is built on a set of habits and actions that reveal their identity to the world.
Scholars like Baer (2016) have identified the internet and social media as contemporary platforms for feminist to participate in the public domain and for activism, especially for young women. According to Salter (2013), social media platforms like Facebook can be utilized to host discourses about sexuality that are contrary to conventional legal and social norms. These platforms circumvent the conventional media’s gatekeeping as they operate not only as a forum for girl’s and women’s voices, but also a medium that activists can use to seek accountability and justice away from the typical mechanisms. For instance, women on social media popularized the hashtag #YesAllWomen to make their voices heard with regards to the sexism, harassment, and discrimination in German workplaces, and the activist Anke Domscheit-Berg stated that awareness is the precursor to social change (Baer, 2016). According to Rice et al. (2016), the public domain in which issues are discussed has never been a totally open forum that everyone finds and participation is on equal terms. However, as noted by Rice et al. (2016), this does not mean that subordinated groups have been silent. These groups have formulated spaces for discussions such as the group Butch is Not a Dirty Word where members develop and circulate counter-discussions, which in turn allow them to develop oppositional analyses of their needs, interests, and identities (Butch is Not a Dirty Word). The feminist platforms offer an alternative public domain that they use to formulate new analyses of their social reality.
Facebook is important as a counterspace for individuals with minority identities. In the recent years, feminism scholars have explored digital activism or cyberactivism in various disciplines including women and gender studies, political science, technology studies, communication and media studies (Linder et al., 2016). Cyberactivism entails the use of digital tools to effect political and social change. Today’s new technology is the Internet and social media which different people use these platforms for various purposes including feminist activism. Contemporary feminist activism includes the enhancement of typical notions of the lesbian community, especially the butch.
Facebook is a reflection of the tendency by human beings to flock together because individuals with common interests can form groups to further their commonalities. According to Jernigan and Mistree (2009), individuals typically segregate themselves, and this can be visualized in the tendency by young children aged about six years to stick together on the playground. Moreover, adult friendships tend to be formed along same sex lines, with men having 65 percent male friends and 35 percent female friends (Jernigan & Mistree, 2009). The pattern perseveres in lesbian and bisexual individuals. It is right to say that Facebook has offered the members of the butch sexual identity an avenue to connect and interact with each other. Consequently, the social networking site does not only foster a better understanding of the butch by the society, it also helps them obtain a supportive virtual family.
Lesbians usually get a big percentage of their friends from the heterosexual community (Galupo, 2007). Evidently, friendships between lesbians and other lesbians, particularly the butch category, confer a lot of benefits to these individuals. The first benefit is the deconstruction of social perceptions of gender, commonly referred to as sexual conformity. The emergence of gender non-conformity in today’s society is the result of the associations brought about by social media. Through sites such as Facebook, butch individuals have been able to express themselves and enhance the society’s understanding of their sexual orientation. Groups such as Butch is Not a Dirty Word have been formed on Facebook to promote the identity (Butch is Not a Dirty Word). Moreover, hashtags like: #butch, #queerfamily, #butchisnotadirtyword, #femalemasculinity, and #tomboystyle, among others serve to improve the society’s understanding of lesbians and the butch.
The Role of Facebook in Deconstructing the Butch Identity
Sexual identities are a system of classifying individuals in the society by referring to their sexual preferences. A sexual identity is a “boundary object” and it permits perspicuity among different people. Herrera (2017) asserts that the application of identities like “lesbian” allows people to portray connotations that can be interpreted by others. Therefore, the presentation of the butch identity on Facebook has allowed this group to easily communicate their sexuality to the society. Butch individuals form a special category among lesbians as they have embraced masculinity. Contemporary feminists are expected to disregard gender norms regarding lesbians, for these reasons, the butch have discarded gender normality and they embrace masculinity as a part and parcel of being female. It is expected that the society treats this group with contempt because of its indifference towards established gender rules.
Some identities like lesbians are usually stigmatized by the community, hence they typically seek out other people of a similar sexual leaning to validate them. Facebook has provided a platform for marginalized people to acknowledge each other, leading to their affirmation by the other members of the society. Clearly, butch people do not adhere to female definitions such as wearing heels and clothing in an attempt to revolutionize the notion of gender descriptions. Before the advent of social media, especially Facebook, the community’s understanding of butch individuals was very limited. They were categorized as “tomboys” due to their sexually atypical tendencies such as being masculine, consequently, these women were not regarded as lesbians.
Online spaces and social media present opportunities for butch individuals and groups to express themselves and voice their concerns on different matters. Social media platforms facilitate interactions between individuals by creating and sharing information and ideas in virtual networks and communities (Rice et al., 2016). Platforms like Facebook have provided safe spaces for some people who do not have the possibility of expressing themselves in a similar way in their lives offline. There exists a crop of individuals who do not fully identify as butch; however, they use hashtags like #butch and join butch groups to increase their social engagement. Social media has also amplified the normally less visible fights of feminists. With the advent of social media, cyberfeminists contended that this space would bring about multiple ways to reimagine femininity and power (Cunningham & Crandall, 2014). Facebook is a popular and easy to use social media site that has the capacity to promote the society’s understanding of any issue, and this factor is particularly important in building the community’s perception of the butch.
Herrera (2017) recognizes the inherent ability of sexual identity hashtags to formulate sexual identities within affirming groups. Butch individuals have been able to utilize hashtags to improve their salience within the community. The butch identity has become more recognizable and acceptable within the society due to the use of Facebook coupled with the creation of hashtags like #butchisnotadirtyword and #tomboystyle. As provided by Cunningham & Crandall (2014), the conventional aspects of female identity would scatter online, deconstructing and restructuring the real-life power dynamics. According to Marwick (2013), with 800 million Facebook users globally, social media has proven to be a new space for activists, feminists, supporters, and individuals to be more involved and informed.
The construction of sexual identities online has become a pervasive facet of today’s world. Social networking sites like Facebook influence the social interactions and identity processes that occur on them (Herrera, 2017). Herrera (2017) further postulates that individuals’ online posts and preferences allow them to name, build, and negotiate their online identities with regards to their sexuality. Additionally, the customizable privacy options allow these individuals to determine the manner in which they disclose their sexual identities on Facebook. Facebook has become an important avenue for the butch community as it has allowed them to connect with their peers for the purposes of finding soulmates and general interaction.
Facebook users can create hashtags which are typically words of interest that are heralded by the pound sign (#). For the butch community, these usually take the form of: #butch, #butchandproud. Such hashtags have been used to build awareness on this form of sexuality, and this form of publicity works by cataloguing all content that are associated by the particular hashtag. For instance, when Facebook users search for, or click the hashtag ‘#butch’, they are immediately directed to a world of photos and status updates that are associated with the hashtag. Hashtags are an integral part of Facebooking for the butch community because it allows them to bookmark content that may interest them. Hashtags predispose readers to view associated photos in a certain manner (Herrera, 2017). Hashtags have also freed the butch from the numerical shortcomings of physical interaction and community foundation.
Facebook allows an unlimited number of likes and followers for groups, and butch individuals have taken advantage of this aspect to create relevant groups that advance their interests. Jernigan and Mistree (2009) note that a typical person has a cognitive social channel capacity of about 150 people. Social media sites like Facebook allows users to build associations of more than 150 people. Evidently, some Facebook friends are bound to come from a person’s social circle, while the rest may be the result of shared interests. While butch individuals are bound to have limited interactions with their secondary friends on Facebook, they can build meaningful one-on-one friendships and interactions with these people when they meet due to their sexual commonalities. Galupo (2007) holds that individuals are likely to create friendships and relationships with people of similar demographics, therefore, LGBT individuals, especially the butch are predisposed to having same-sex friendships.
Facebook has permeated the society in a manner that prompts the society to embrace its role as a social change agent. There is a high rate of social media usage in the contemporary world, and the members of the butch community have embraced Facebook as a way of detailing their identities to the community to improve the society’s understanding of their sexual leanings. Herrera (2017) interprets the hashtag #lesbian as that that portrays its users as female individuals who are in a same-sex relationship, or actively seek a romantic engagement with other females. Therefore, the hashtag #butch may be used to identify female individuals who have embraced masculinity as part of their sexual identity. The hashtag #butch can be used to look for partners or it can provide heterosexual individuals and scholars with a simple and effective way of understanding the butch community. Facebook has brought about an ease of communication that would not be possible without the proliferation of social media and it has facilitated a better understanding of the butch community.
It is generally presumed that the butch identity is presented by a blend of masculine attributes and a preference for male clothing. The ubiquity of social media has allowed the society to easily evaluate the butch identity, and this has helped in understanding them. The most important aspect of developing a butch identity is the recognition of the fact that it is a unique form of lesbianism. The community must understand that not all butch individuals want to discard their female identity and be men, for most of them, it is a fun way of expressing their sexualities. Butch people have benefited from the omnipresence of Facebook because it has allowed them to connect.
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