[Air-L] Social media and postfeminism?

Terri Senft tsenft at gmail.com
Wed Dec 19 09:30:55 PST 2012

Hi Tyler (and others):

I think I'm probably a good person for your question.

My last book, Camgirls: Celebrity & Community in the Age of Social Networks
deals with pretty much every question you raise in your note below
regarding intersections b/w  neoliberalism and "postfeminism" in social
media venues.

Camgirls was about a period that lasted roughly 2000-2005 in which women
ran webcams 24-7 from their homes (for a range of reasons), building a
brand for themselves and communicating with their viewers on sites like
LiveJournal.  It's an auto-ethnography (I was a camgirl for ayear myself)
with an explicitly feminist and materialist focus, and to my knowledge,
it's still the only book to link feminized labors of care in social media
(name-checking Hochschild et. al.) to anxieties around shifting definitions
of work. Perhaps not surprisingly, given my subjects, the main place these
anxieties play out is in discussions of sexual display and one's

If you (or anyone else) wants a review copy of the book, I can mail you a
pdf for your "stop and search pleasure."

Because of the time period covered in Camgirls, the primary social media
venues were  branded personal sites, LiveJournal, and YouTube (as opposed
to say, FB, Twitter and Instagram.) But in my experience charting this
stuff, venue hasn't radically altered the issues you are asking about

The book I'm working on now is on micro-celebrity, which engages these
issues in a broader frame, focusing on gender, but also things like race,
age and faith. I have a summary chapter on that topic in the new Blackwell
Handbook, but they probably wouldn't smack me if I emailed a copy of that
your way as well, if you wish.


On Wed, Dec 19, 2012 at 9:26 AM, Tyler Bickford <tb2139 at columbia.edu> wrote:

> Hi all,
> Can anyone direct me to scholarship linking social networking sites and
> postfeminism? Or better, arguing that certain phenomena of social media
> reflect a postfeminist sensibility?
> I'm thinking in particular of issues like self-branding,
> self-commodification, the public performance of private/intimate
> experience, and the critique of empowerment-through-consumption that seem
> to come up regularly in regard to both topics. For one example, Rob Horning
> frames his critique of Facebook in "Facebook in the Age of Facebook" (
> http://thenewinquiry.com/essays/facebook-in-the-age-of-facebook/) as a
> symptom of neoliberalism, but it seems to me like some of the phenomena
> he's pointing to are also characteristic of postfeminism, and I wonder if
> there's a gender critique here?
> I've seen arguments that the growth of the service sector under
> neoliberalism reflects a sort of "feminization" of labor (though I'd like
> to disavow that phrase a bit). Or also the converse, Arlie Hochschild's
> arguments about the "commercialization of intimate life." Both perspectives
> seems relevant to social networking sites, where the immaterial labor that
> users produce is perhaps also gendered in similar ways? That is, rather
> than gendered practices *within* Facebook, maybe I'm asking about Facebook
> etc *as* a potentially gendered practice. And then maybe Horning and
> others' desperation about inauthenticity can be seen as at least homologous
> with anxious narratives about labor precarity and male decline in the "new
> economy"?
> So perhaps my question is: postfeminism and neoliberalism have been
> linked, and neoliberalism and social media have been linked, but do we have
> to go through neoliberalism to connect the two, or has anyone directly
> linked social media practices to the postfeminist sensibility?
> Apologies for the long post. This is coming from a place of ignorance, so
> please excuse me if I've missed anything obvious.
> Thank you for your help!!
> Best wishes,
> Tyler
> ________
> Tyler Bickford, PhD
> Core Lecturer
> Columbia University
> tb2139 at columbia.edu
> 845-418-4049
> http://www.tylerbickford.com
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Dr. Theresa M. Senft
Global Liberal Studies Program
School of Arts & Sciences
New York University
726 Broadway  NY NY 10003

home: *www.terrisenft.net <http://goog_689013053>**
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