Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Degree Granting Department
Sara L. Crawley, Ph.D.
Donileen Loseke, Ph.D.
Robert Benford, Ph.D.
Elizabeth Bell, Ph.D.
document analysis, feminism, gender, narrative, social media, social movements
This dissertation concerns how activists preserve particular feminisms in everyday life, particularly in this postmodern moment as advances in technology create virtual spaces, as feminism experiences generational shifts, and as notions about gender and bodies influence the discursive and political construction of contemporary activism and communities. The particular feminists at the center of this study are self-described radical feminists. While original theories allowed members to question the essentialism of bodies (i.e., sex class), this study focuses on the movement trajectory in which members critique how people assigned male at birth learn masculinity as inextricably tied to the oppression of women (i.e., sex caste). Using data from a historical newsletter and two current micro-blogs, I provide a textual analysis to understand how public narratives of gender and essentialism circulate in and are challenged by feminist (cyber)spaces. The results of this project suggest four important findings. First, in print and online, people use imagined and essential understandings of bodies where actual bodies are not present in order to exclude. Second, when text reflects the personal, lived experiences of community members, logic and emotion are better connected in the everyday. On the other hand, when lived actuality is abstracted, storytellers rely almost exclusively on logic to make claims. Third, while lesbian newsletter-writers of the past constructed a sexual identity, they did not take on the radical-feminist mandate to talk about sexual desire. Online, only the radical identity of the movement’s predecessor’s has persisted, while any discussions of sexual identity or pleasure are missing. Lastly, while radical and trans-identified feminists often find themselves at odds, this study suggests that perhaps their consciousness-raising practices are more similar than can be seen from the everyday. Both groups use poetry and creative writing as a way to make sense of their coming-out and being-out experiences amid cis- and hetero-normativity.
Scholar Commons Citation
Earles, Jennifer, "TERF Wars: Narrative Productions of Gender and Essentialism in Radical-Feminist (Cyber)spaces" (2017). Graduate Theses and Dissertations.
Available for download on Saturday, May 12, 2018