“She’s your everything”: Depictions of the #lesbiancouple on Instagram
Duguay, Stefanie (2016) “She’s your everything”: Depictions of the #lesbiancouple on Instagram. In 66th Annual Conference of the International Communication Association: Communicating with Power, 9-13 June 2016, Fukuoka, Japan. (Unpublished)
As women who are attracted to women (“queer women”) are becoming increasingly visible in mainstream media, social media provide networked infrastructures for remixing popular representations with individuals’ everyday identity performances. On the mobile photo-sharing application Instagram, representations of queer women’s sexual and romantic relationships range from glamorous photo shoots to impromptu couple selfies, erotic scenes, and pornographic ads. Through mixed methods involving visual content analysis, user interviews, and platform analysis, this paper examines the functions and audiences for these representations. Preliminary findings indicate that many representations paired with hashtags related to queer women’s relationships include pornified depictions of hyperfeminine women engaging in sexual activity for a male audience, reproducing broadcast media’s heterosexualization of queer women. This content also includes romanticized depictions of normatively beautiful women with salient queer signifiers, communicating appeals toward both male and same-sex attracted female audiences. These representations are notably different from interviewees’ photos with partners, which target their audience of followers and potential fans in order to reinforce their sexual identity, affirm their relationship, and publicize their commitment. Despite users’ intentions for their relationship representations, they are still subject to consumption and critique by male audiences. Therefore, the reproduction of broadcast media’s representations of lesbians on Instagram frames responses to couples’ representations, with queer women’s representations posing a threat to heteronormativity that is met with discrimination and heterosexualizing objectification.
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