Panel 47

Gender, sexuality, and digital media between challenges and reproduction of hegemony

Organizers: Cosimo Marco Scarcelli (1); Manolo Farci (2)

1: University of Padova, Italy; 2: University of Urbino, Italy

Topics: Embodied identities, genders and interests

Keywords: Gender, Sexuality, Digital Media, feminist media studies

The connection between digital technologies, gender and sexuality has a long history and feminist theories of gender and technology have come a long way over the last forty years (Wajcman 2007; Burgess et al. 2016) and it represent a remarkable part of the interesting worlds to come because is ambivalent form different points of view and because it shows important intertwines between technology and society.

Indeed, if the approach of the second-wave feminism considered technology mainly as a reproduction of patriarchy, the 1990s scholars started to celebrate digital technologies as liberator for women. This gap between technophobia and technophilia has been filled by the recent feminist, media and STS scholars that produced an important number of studies that, in one hand, are more critical about technoscience and, in the other hand, are aware of its potential to open up new gender dynamics (Mowlabocus 2010; Light, Fletcher, & Adam 2008). Furthermore, the most recent studies focus on the mutual shaping of gender and technology, underlining how neither gender nor technology is taken to be pre-existing, nor is the relationship between them immutable (Van Doorn and Van Zoonen 2008; Krijnen and Van Bauwel 2022).

All these studies shows that digital media could reproduce and reinforce the most conventional (and hegemonic) social logic connected to gender and sexuality, favouring some users at the expense of others (young people, women, non-binary people, LGBTQIA+ community, black people, etc.) (eg. Noble 2018), but that they can also help users to perform different gender identities and practices or challenging more conservative vision of gender and sexuality.

With this panel we want to question how gender and sexuality are constructed in media production and consumption identifying dominant ideas and discourses and how symbolic materials are outcomes of social arrangements that legitimize an essential social division. Understanding technology (and in this specific case, digital media) as producing meaning, subjectivity, and agency shaped by power relations and adopting a critical perspective of contemporary digital media, this panels invites scholars to analyse digital media affordances, grammars, platform politics and content, as well as their uses, appropriations and embodiment, in order to make sense on how they are shaping normativity and also challenging traditional gender practices and identities in a challenging and ambivalent word where, in the one hand, issue connected to gender and sexuality seems to be even more visible compared to the past, but, in the other end, they are continuously under attack.