Low Femme, Low Theory: An Ethno-Archive of Femme Internet Culture
Schwartz, Andrea Justine
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Low Femme, Low Theory: An Ethno-Archive of Femme Internet Culture is a collection of four papers detailing the findings from my dissertation research, a six-month online ethnography of femme internet culture. In the first paper, I develop an understanding of femme memes as particular audiovisual content found online that appropriate and mobilize public symbols to address the devaluation of femininity. I examine three genres of femme memes, and use the frameworks of low theory and bedroom culture to argue that femme memes are a way of doing femme theory, or a way of making sense out of femmes lived experiences and femmes feelings (Halberstam, 2011; McRobbie, 1991; hooks, 1991). In the second paper, I develop an understanding of softness as a contemporary femme aesthetic and poetic that employs hyperfeminine symbols, emotionality, vulnerability, and emphasizes collaboration and interdependence. I use the framework of vulnerability and emotions to argue that softness counters the individualist, masculinist modes of thinking that were introduced by and dominate white, Western thought and continue to permeate existing forms of theory, including existing femme theory and scholarship (Petherbridge, 2016; Mackenzie et al., 2013; Jaggar, 1989). I argue that a soft femme politic makes femme more capacious and inclusive. In the third paper, I develop an understanding of selfies as a practice in vulnerability, a practice that is strategically mobilized by femmes to (re)shape femme identity, create femme connections and communities, and make political claims about femme lives. I draw from feminist readings of selfies as well as perspectives on art therapy to make a case that selfies serve both a political representational and communicative function (Murray, 2015; Pham, 2015; Lupton, 1997). In the fourth paper, I develop an understanding of femmeships as femme friendships that are both political alliances and communities of care. I draw from scholarship on description as method and from queer (sub)cultural theorists to make a case for the importance of describing femme internet culture, in particular the ordinary, everyday interactions or relationships that are its foundation (Marcus, Love & Best, 2016; Halberstam, 2008; Muoz, 1996).