‘#Strenght’: A critical investigation of the contemporary representations of men and women in fitness communities on Instagram

Luyt, Robyn (2017-12)

Thesis (MA)--Stellenbosch University, 2017.

Thesis

ENGLISH ABSTRACT: Contemporary linguists seek to describe and analyse all manifestations of language, including those occurring on the Internet (see Crystal 2011:1). Investigating visual and linguistic representations on the Internet can offer insights into the ways in which individuals view and participate in particular social practices. It can also highlight dominant ideologies about a particular social practice, ideologies which can limit participation amongst particular groups of people (van Dijk 2003:96). In light of this, this thesis explores the visual and textual representations of one aspect of social life (sport) on one Internet genre (Instagram). The analysis is limited to representations which include the hashtag ‘#strength’. Limiting the analysis in this way necessarily means that the data is representative of ideologies related to gender, strength and power in a sporting context. In line with more contemporary research into language and discourse, this thesis adopts the view that the visual and linguistic features of a text are not removed from the social context but can offer researchers a deeper understanding of the context in which the text is produced, circulated and read (Breeze 2011:521). By drawing on Fairclough’s (2003) method of Critical Discourse Analysis (CDA), genre studies (Jones 2012), Kress and Van Leeuwen’s (2006) framework for multimodality as well as feminist theory (Bordo 2004), the researcher ensures that the text is analysed and understood on multiple levels. An initial thematic analysis of one hundred Instagram posts with the hashtag ‘strength’ reveals that male and female users are still limited to traditional gender binaries that separate sport types as appropriately ‘male’ or appropriately ‘female’. This initial analysis also reveals that online representations of sport are still restricted by masculine hegemonic norms, as female users are overwhelmingly represented in individual, non-contact or aesthetic sport types. A detailed CDA and multimodal analysis of twenty purposively selected Instagram posts reveals the presence of shared visual and linguistic markers that perpetuate male dominance and female subservience. By drawing on social theoretical understandings of contemporary life, this thesis eventually argues that the narrow representations of masculinity and femininity present in the data set work to limit or even exclude both men and women from participating in certain aspects of social life.

AFRIKAANS OPSOMMING: Kontemporêre taalkundiges poog om alle manifestasies van taal te beskryf en te analiseer, insluitende dié wat op die Internet voorkom (sien Crystal 2011:1). Deur visuele en taalkundige voorstellings op die Internet te bestudeer, verkry ons inligiting oor die in die maniere waarop individue bepaalde sosiale praktyke beskou en daaraan deelneem. Dit kan ook dominante ideologieë oor 'n bepaalde sosiale praktyk uitlig, ideologieë wat deelname tussen bepaalde groepe mense kan beperk (van Dijk 2003:96). In die lig hiervan ondersoek hierdie tesis die visuele en tekstuele voorstellings van een aspek van sosiale lewe (sport) in een Internet genre (Instagram). Die analise is beperk tot voorstellings wat die hutsteken '#strength' insluit. Deur die ondersoek op hierdie manier te beperk beteken dat die data verteenwoordigend is van ideologieë wat verband hou met geslag, krag en mag in 'n sportkonteks. In ooreenstemming met meer moderne navorsing oor taal en diskoers, is dit hierdie tesis se siening dat die visuele en taalkundige eienskappe van 'n teks nie losgemaak kan word van die sosiale konteks nie, maar dat dit aan navorsers meer insig gee oor die konteks waarin die teks geproduseer, versprei en gelees word (Breeze 2011:521). Met verwysing na Fairclough (2003) se metode van kritiese diskoersanalise, genrestudie (Jones 2012), Kress and Van Leeuwen (2006) se raamwerk vir multimodaliteit en feministiese teorie (Bordo 2004), verseker die navorser dat die text op verskeie vlakke ontleed en verstaan word. ’n Aanvanklike tematiese ontleding van honderd Instagram-plasings met die hutsteken ‘#strength’ toon dat manlike en vroulike gebruikers steeds beperk is tot tradisionele geslagsverdelings wat sportsoorte as paslik ‘manlik’ of paslik ‘vroulik’ klassifiseer. Hierdie aanvanklike analise onthul ook dat aanlyn-voorstellings van sport steeds voorgeskryf word deur manlike hegemoniese norme, aangesien vroulike gebruikers hoofsaaklik verteenwoordig word in individuele, nie-kontak- of estetiese sportsoorte.’n Gedetailleerde kritiese diskoersanalise en multimodale analise van twintig uitgesoekte Instagram-plasings onthul die teenwoordigheid van gedeelde visuele en taalkundige merkers wat manlike oorheersing en vroulike onderdanigheid bestendig. Met verwysing na sosiale teoretiese begrip van die hededaagse samelewing, voer die tesis aan dat die beperkte voorstellings van manlikheid en vroulikheid wat in die datastel voorkom, mans en vroue beperk (of selfs verhoed) om aan sekere sosiale praktyke deel te neem.

Please refer to this item in SUNScholar by using the following persistent URL: http://hdl.handle.net/10019.1/102949
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