Tweens, sexualization and cyborg-subjectivity : New Zealand girls negotiate friendship and identity on Facebook.
Thesis DisciplineGender Studies
Degree GrantorUniversity of Canterbury
Degree NameMaster of Arts
In the context of public debates about the ‘sexualization’ of ‘tween’ (preteen) girls and their use of social network sites (SNSs), this study explores girls’ online practices, experiences and reflections of their engagement with Facebook. This project is part of a growing body of research that prioritizes talk ‘with’ girls, rather than ‘about’ girls, as a way of contextualizing issues related to their girlhood. I argue that preteen girls’ identities on SNSs can be reimagined as cyborg-subjectivities as girls disrupt binaries through ongoing discursive negotiations of gender and sexuality depending on moment to moment online/offline interactions.
Utilizing examples from an online ethnographic observation of eighteen 12-13 year old girls in Christchurch, New Zealand, I discuss how these girls constituted online subject positions through co-constructive relationships with friends. I explore how girls utilized SNS technology to explore and engage with discourses of gender and sexuality. I discuss how girls’ ‘played’ with both conventional and alternative femininities and sexualities in their online photographs and discuss how these images resist classification as ‘sexy/innocent’, ‘children/teens’ and online/offline. This research also reconsiders how identity is understood on SNSs and utilizes a poststructuralist theoretical framework to explore how online identities are embodied and ‘citational’ of shared online/offline subject positions. In addition to ethnographic observation, this research explores girls’ talk and reflections about their Facebook practices through a focus group discussion and a qualitative questionnaire.