‘A body of text’ by Niels van Doorn, Sally Wyatt, and Liesbet van Zoonen

‘A body of text’ by Niels van Doorn, Sally Wyatt, and Liesbet van Zoonen reprinted in Gender & Media Reader.

The article (full title: ‘A body of text. Revisiting textual performances of gender and sexuality on the internet’) was first published in 2008 in Feminist Media Studies 8 (4): 357-374. http://www.tandf.co.uk/journals/rfms The article was selected for inclusion in The Gender and Media Reader, edited by Mary Celeste Kearney and published last month by Routledge http://www.routledge.com/books/details/9780415993463/. Niels van Doorn is now at Johns Hopkins University on a Rubicon scholarship. Liesbet van Zoonen http://www.lboro.ac.uk/departments/ss/staff/van_zoonen.html is Professor in Communication and Media Studies at Loughborough University.

The article re-evaluates the relationship between gender identities, embodiment, sexuality and text-based, synchronous CMC (computer-mediated communication). A discourse analysis was conducted on two different IRC channels: #Cyberbar, a channel that hosts predominantly “straight”

male/female gender performances; and #Queer, a channel mostly visited by participants who articulate “gay male” gender identities. The notion of embodiment played a pivotal role in both channels, as demonstrated by the identification of three “interpretative repertoires” that involve the

invocation of corporeal aspects in the participants’ performance of gender and sexuality. This invocation reaffirms gender’s status as connected to a binary sexed body, which limits the scope of gender performances in a text-based environment such as IRC. However, the discursive interactions

in #Queer did articulate alternative interpretations of masculinity, which challenged traditional heteronormative standards governing “male behaviour.” It is concluded that the discourse in both channels is constructed by participants who bring their everyday, embodied experiences online. IRC might be a textual environment, in contrast to many of the web’s popular graphical spaces, but this does not mean that the body is any less present.

The article formed part of Niels van Doorn’s PhD Digital Spaces, Material Traces, supervised by Van Zoonen and Wyatt, and defended at the University of Amsterdam in 2010.