Cultural resistance and hegemonic femininity on Youtube
Ploeg, M.M. van der
MetadataShow full item record
This paper both describes the critical public pedagogy of plus-size vloggers, lesbian influencers, and feminist vloggers on YouTube and also shows how they use YouTube’s affordances for cultural resistance. Starting from the idea that YouTube offers to users a ‘’sense of technical neutrality and progressive openness’’ (Gillespie 2010), this paper investigates the ways in which YouTube videos can function as communal and connective goods in counter-hegemonic discourse. It seeks to answer the question of how and to what extent YouTube can be used for counter-hegemonic pedagogy. The research presented here aims to demonstrate that vloggers can challenge sociocultural constructions of hegemony, while acknowledging that it might be difficult to completely get rid of these constructions since they inform our behaviour and our capacity for self-reflection. New media platforms prove to be networks of mass-self communication and are used by ‘’institutions of noopower’’ to reinforce hegemonic femininity or create new oppressive norms (Gehl 2013). Hegemonic ideals and stereotypes are often conveyed under the veil of empowering commercials and helpful apps. Such dispersive, improvident content may harm personal development and critical discussion. This paper argues that women’s empowerment organizations should take this into account when they collaborate with commercial institutions or let them use their YouTube channel for promotional purposes. But also that flaming, patronizing acts of superiority or disabling content can sabotage critical public pedagogy. Therefore, YouTube users should be cautious of flaming and of misusing YouTube’s affordances to shut down critical discussion. In addition, vloggers should carefully monitor communication on the platform, since hate speech spreads quickly and the consequences are hard to erase. They must avoid blocking or flagging users with opposing opinions, while striving towards an open, participatory learning space. Critical public pedagogy must invite viewers to step away from their normalized, subjective viewpoints. Critical educators should use personal expression to create identification but take precautions not to misuse their channel for exhibitionistic and restraining ‘’egocasting’’ (Miller 2015). They should try to release recipients from the influence of hegemonic (femininity) structures and from their habitual responses to cultural expressions of femininity. Although parochial thinking might be inevitable, vloggers can remove the oppressive factor of ‘common sense’ reinforced by hegemony. Plus-size, lesbian, and feminist vloggers create awareness of issues concerning hegemonic femininity and challenge gender-normalizing disciplines with ‘’aesthetic stylization of the self,’’ ‘’critical self-awareness,’’ and ‘’ethical self-care’’ (Pringle 2003). Their creative parodies and ‘’political poetics’’ show how constructions of femininity are continually produced and reproduced within the social practices of daily life (Sandlin 2007).