Category Archives: feminist media studies

who’s laughing now?

My book with Jenny Sundén, Who’s Laughing Now: Feminist Tactics in Social Media, is out in *two days* with MIT Press. This has been a joyous project and I hope some of that is mediated in the text itself. And here’s the publisher’s description:

Feminist social media tactics that use humor as a form of resistance to misogyny, rewiring the dynamics of shame, shaming, and shamelessness.

Online sexism, hate, and harassment aim to silence women through shaming and fear. In Who’s Laughing Now? Jenny Sundén and Susanna Paasonen examine a somewhat counterintuitive form of resistance: humor. Sundén and Paasonen argue that feminist social media tactics that use humor, laughter, and a sense of the absurd to answer name-calling, offensive language, and unsolicited dick pics can rewire the affective circuits of sexual shame and acts of shaming.

Using laughter as both a theme and a methodological tool, Sundén and Paasonen explore examples of the subversive deployment of humor that range from @assholesonline to the Tumblr “Congrats, you have an all-male panel!” They consider the distribution and redistribution of shame, discuss Hannah Gadsby’s Nanette, and describe tactical retweeting and commenting (as practiced by Stormy Daniels, among others). They explore the appropriation of terms meant to hurt and insult—for example, self-proclaimed Finnish “tolerance whores”—and what effect this rerouting of labels may have. They are interested not in lulz (amusement at another’s expense)—not in what laughter pins down, limits, or suppresses but rather in what grows with and in it. The contagiousness of laughter drives the emergence of networked forms of feminism, bringing people together (although it may also create rifts). Sundén and Paasonen break new ground in exploring the intersection of networked feminism, humor, and affect, arguing for the political necessity of inappropriate laughter.

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affective politics of digital media

Affective Politics of Digital Media: Propaganda by Other Means, edited by Megan Boler and Elizabeth Davis for Routledge. Not only does it have a great cover but an excellent lineup of authors, and it includes an interview “Affect, Media, Movement” with Zizi Papacharissi and me. And this is the general rationale:

This interdisciplinary, international collection examines how sophisticated digital practices and technologies exploit and capitalize on emotions, with particular focus on how social media are used to exacerbate social conflicts surrounding racism, misogyny, and nationalism. 

Radically expanding the study of media and political communications, this book bridges humanities and social sciences to explore affective information economies, and how emotions are being weaponized within mediatized political landscapes. The chapters cover a wide range of topics: how clickbait, “fake news,” and right-wing actors deploy and weaponize emotion; new theoretical directions for understanding affect, algorithms, and public spheres; and how the wedding of big data and behavioral science enables new frontiers of propaganda, as seen in the Cambridge Analytica and Facebook scandal. The collection includes original interviews with luminary media scholars and journalists. 

The book features contributions from established and emerging scholars of communications, media studies, affect theory, journalism, policy studies, gender studies, and critical race studies to address questions of concern to scholars, journalists, and students in these fields and beyond.

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objectification

Screenshot 2020-08-13 at 13.13.19Our brand new book Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism is out today with Routledge. Co-authored with a dream team — Feona Attwood, Alan McKee, John Mercer and Clarissa Smith — the book tracks the academic and activist uses of the notion of objectification, investigates some of its analytical shortcomings and argues for the necessity of separating critiques of sexism from those concerning sexual display. The book is intended for teaching and it should be accessible for undergraduate students. And here’s the publisher’s description:

This is a concise and accessible introduction into the concept of objectification, one of the most frequently recurring terms in both academic and media debates on the gendered politics of contemporary culture, and core to critiquing the social positions of sex and sexism.

Objectification is an issue of media representation and everyday experiences alike. Central to theories of film spectatorship, beauty fashion and sex, objectification is connected to the harassment and discrimination of women, to the sexualization of culture and the pressing presence of body norms within media. This concise guidebook traces the history of the term’s emergence and its use in a variety of contexts such as debates about sexualization and the male gaze, and its mobilization in connection with the body, selfies and pornography, as well as in feminist activism.

It will be an essential introduction for undergraduate and postgraduate students in Gender Studies, Media Studies, Sociology, Cultural Studies or Visual Arts.

Contents:

Chapter One: What counts as objectification?
Chapter Two: Male gaze and the politics of representation
Chapter Three: Radical feminism and the objectification of women
Chapter Four: Sex objects and sexual subjects
Chapter Five: Measuring objectification
Chapter Six: What to do with sexualized culture?
Chapter Seven: Beyond the binary
Chapter Eight: Disturbingly lively objects

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books, books, books, forthcoming

9780367199111I’ve described my past few years as exceptionally crazy work-wise and it’s not just a figment of my melodramatic imagination. Many Splendored Things (2018) and NSFW (2019, with Kylie Jarrett and Ben Light) were both mainly written in 2017. We coined the prospectus for Who’s Laughing Now? Feminist Tactics in Social Media with Jenny Sundén in December 2017, wrote it in 2018-2019, and the book will be out this November. The proposal for Objectification: On the Difference Between Sex and Sexism with Feona Attwood, John Mercer, Alan McKee and Clarissa Smith was done two years ago and the actual thing is due out August. Last but not least, Dependent, Distracted, Bored: Affective Formations in Networked Media, for which I started collecting material back in 2012, has a due-date for March. One book already has a cover (with Barbie! and glitter!), am looking forward to the other designs materializing.

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Firenze

For March, I’m very happy to be visiting prof at University of Florence, Dipartimento di Scienze Politiche e Sociali. Should you be around, we have a NSFW workshop planned for the 20th, which can only be grand. Bienvenuti!

edit: Yes, I was very happy, but for obvious reasons things got cut short. We’re still hoping to arrange a workshop at another point.

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affective body politics of social media

Very glad that our Affective Body Politics special issue, coedited with Kaisu Hynnä-Granberg and Mari Lehto, is now out with Social media + society, on open access. The eight articles are based on presentations at the Affective Politics of Social Media symposium that we organized at University of Turku in 2017, and they explore all kinds of things from Reddit tributing to debates on public breastfeeding, Chaturbate, #MeToo, Netflix bingeing, fat activism and the online platforms of Transgender Nation.

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gay print porn history

Ever wondered about the local markets for gay print pornography in 1980s Finland? Well, I have, as has Mari Pajala. Our article “Gay Porn, Politics and Lifestyle in 1980s Finland: The Short Life of Mosse Magazine” is just out with Nora – Nordic Journal of Feminist and Gender Research, with free eprint available through this link. And here’s the abstract:

Although the gay press has been seen as central to the formation of the gay movement, entertainment magazines focusing on sex and consumer lifestyle have until recently received little attention in studies on gay history. This article focuses on Mosse, the short-lived gay porn magazine published by mainstream publishing company Lehtimiehet in Finland between 1983 and 1985. In addition to nude photos and porn stories, Mosse featured articles on gay politics and lifestyle. Analysing Mosse’s attempt at creating a market for a new kind of gay magazine, the article explores the relationship between commercialism, porn and gay politics in Mosse. The article argues that Mosse, alongside other porn publications, explored themes of gay liberation and gay consumer culture at a time when the discussion of gay issues was limited in so-called legitimate media in Finland, in part due to legislation which criminalized the “encouragement” of homosexuality. In its articles on gay politics and lifestyle, Mosse positioned Finland as lagging behind Western countries, with Sweden and Denmark figuring as ideals of progress. Despite its modest circulation and short lifespan, Mosse’s very existence is significant as a sign that it was possible to imagine a Finnish gay consumer market in the first part of the 1980s.

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inappropriate laughter

Written together with the fantastic Jenny Sundén, our article, Inappropriate Laughter: Affective Homophily and the Unlikely Comedy of #MeToo, is just out, on open access, as part of Social Media + Society’s special issue on “Affective Body Politics” that I’ve edited with Kaisu Hynnä-Granberg and Mari Lehto. This is also a teaser for our forthcoming book with Jenny, Who’s Laughing Now? Feminist Tactics in Social Media, which should be out and about next autumn with MITP. And here’s the abstract:

This article investigates the affective and ambiguous dynamics of feminist humor as an unexpected strategy of resistance in connection with #MeToo, asking what laughter may do to the sharpness of negative affect of shame and anger driving the movement. Our inquiry comes in three vignettes. First, we deploy Nanette—Hannah Gadsby’s 2018 Netflix success heralded as the comedy of the #MeToo era—arguing that the uniform viral warmth surrounding the show drives the emergence of networked feminisms through “affective homophily,” or a love of feeling the same. With Nanette, the contagious qualities of laughter are tamed by a networked logic of homophily, allowing for intensity while resisting dissent. Our second vignette zooms in on a less known feminist comedian, Lauren Maul, and her online #MeToo musical comedy riffing off on apologies made by male celebrities accused of sexual harassment, rendering the apologies and the men performing them objects of ridicule. Our third example opens up the door to the ambivalence of irony. In considering the unexpected pockets of humor within the #MeToo scandal that ripped apart the prestigious institution of the Swedish Academy, we explore the emergence of carnivalesque comedy and feminist uses of irony in the appropriation of the pussy-bow blouse as an ambiguous feminist symbol. Our examples allow us to argue for the political importance of affective ambiguity, difference, and dissent in contemporary social media feminisms, and to highlight the risk when a movement like #MeToo closes ranks around homogeneous feelings of not only shame and rage, but also love.

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NSFW has a cover!

Screen Shot 2019-04-16 at 21.11.43Forthcoming from MIT Press in October, NSFW: Sex, Humor, and Risk in Social Media, co-authored with the fabulous Kylie Jarrett & Ben Light, now has a cover. And great it is; apparently it will be fluorescent! Here’s the book description:

An exploration of how and why social media content is tagged as “not safe for work” and an argument against conflating sexual content with risk.

The hashtag #NSFW (not safe for work) acts as both a warning and an invitation. NSFW tells users, “We dare you to click on this link! And by the way, don’t do it until after work!” Unlike the specificity of movie and television advisories (“suggestive dialogue,” “sexual content”), NSFW signals, nonspecifically, sexually explicit content that ranges from nude selfies to pornography. NSFW looks at how and why social media content is tagged “not safe” and shows how this serves to conflate sexual content and risk. The authors argue that the notion of “unsafety” extends beyond the risk of losing one’s job or being embarrassed at work to an unspecified sense of risk attached to sexually explicit media content and sexual communication in general. The authors examine NSFW practices of tagging and flagging on a range of social media platforms; online pornography and its dependence on technology; user-generated NSFW content—in particular, the dick pic and associated issues of consent, desire, agency, and social power; the deployment of risqué humor in the workplace; and sexist and misogynist online harassment that functions as an enforcer of inequalities. They argue against the categorical effacement of sexual content by means of an all-purpose hashtag and urge us to shift considerations of safety from pictorial properties to issues of context and consent.

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how to do things with affects

How to Do Things with Affects: Affective Triggers in Aesthetic Forms and Cultural Practices, edited by Ernst van Alphen and Tomáš Jirsa, is just out with Brill. An impressive collection that comes with just a little bit of smut, namely my chapter entitled “Monstrous Resonance: Affect and animated pornography” that looks at monster cartoon porn, some audience insights and, well, affect theory.

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