This paper is concerned with how the gendered, raced and classed practices of readership of a humorous meme on Tumblr organises forms of sociality and belonging along these lines. Based on the anonymous Tumblr blog, WhatShouldWeCallMe, the meme narrates feelings and reactions related to youthful, feminine, Western “everyday” experience through the use of captions and GIF images. Drawing on New Literacy Studies’ approaches to literacy, I suggest the practices of readerly participation in the meme require a social rather than individual set of competencies and knowledges. I propose “spectatorial girlfriendship” as a term encompassing how the texts of the meme require the reader to operationalise gendered, classed and raced classificatory knowledges and construct social forms of commonality on this basis. Bodies in the GIFs become ‘stock’ images, used for selective resignification. I demonstrate how spectatorial girlfriendship as a readerly lens arranges, transacts and interacts gender, class and race in multiple ways, indexing social inequalities without recognising them as such.
Akane Kanai is a lecturer in the School of Humanities and Social Science at the University of Newcastle, Australia. Her research interests relate to gender, race and affect and their entanglement in new digital social formations, as well as popular culture more generally. Publications based on her doctoral research can be found in Celebrity Studies and M/C: Journal.
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