Honors Capstone Project
Date of Submission
Minnie Bruce Pratt
Women's and Gender Studies
Arts and Science
Capstone Prize Winner
Won Capstone Funding
Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, and Transgender Studies | Other Feminist, Gender, and Sexuality Studies | Women's Studies
The purpose of my project is to foster critical discussions of the on-line social networking site Facebook by analyzing gender politics as mechanisms used on Facebook to include or restrict acceptance of users. I implement a gender-queer methodology in my work. This methodology complicates traditional understandings of sex and gender, and views them as a fluid continuum where one might exist anywhere between male and female, and beyond. In lieu of a traditional academic paper, I have made the conscious choice to execute my methods, methodology, and critique into an art piece. This serves an important purpose of making my work more accessible. Often in the field of women’s and gender studies, feminist work, is unreadable by non-feminists. By making this project visual and interactive, I hope to inspire fellow feminists to work in similar ways.
I have constructed my artwork on two large pieces of foam board. I chose this medium because it allowed me to manipulate the canvas using clear transparencies and metal hoops. I have used the transparency sheets in many ways. The first allows the viewer to see the sum of my project and critiques of Facebook at a distance. The second makes my artwork a living and interactional piece. The viewer can interact with my work and lift up different transparencies and define various layers of the work. This allows my work to change constantly as people interact with it.
I made the first art board with multiple collages. By using a collage technique, I was able to show, through a barrage of pictures and words, what it means to be either male or female in our culture. The line drawn between the two collages represents the social restriction on an individual’s gender identity, forcing them to be either male or female. I have colored this line gray because I believe there is so much more that exists within and beyond this binary. If you follow the line down the board, I have attached a smaller board, which is also a collage. This collage defines the transliberation movement and its ‘definition’ of gender. This is what inspires my research, trying to complicate Facebook as a site, that merely reinforces a traditional gender binary, while marginalizing anyone else. It is also an important board because it allows most users to understand how they too are limited by a dual-gender system. I have framed all of my boards with the theory, that explains why I chose to display the images or content. This bases my decisions in theory, rather than personal choice.
The content of the second art board focuses directly on my critique of Facebook as it exists currently. On the profile mounted to the left of the board I have highlighted and provided a corresponding key of the spaces on Facebook which are problematic. Using data I collected from over 160 survey respondents, the critique of the profile on the right explains what types of insight I gained from my survey. Attached to the bottom of this board is the conceptualization of a profile, that is inclusive of gender difference, or the entire conclusion to the project.
This work is not intended to espouse criticism of existing gender theory, but rather to use those theories in a new way, applying them to the emerging social world of Facebook, the most popular social networking website. Using this applied theory I created what I feel is an artistic approach to both theory and critique. My capstone attempts to change how we think about participation on social networking websites such as Facebook and offer concrete changes which could be implemented towards social justice and gender inclusivity.
Sides, Gregory David, "Gender Identity and Social Networking: a Queer-Feminist Critique of Facebook" (2010). Syracuse University Honors Program Capstone Projects. 402.
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