Gender on the Road: Media Representations of Female Identities in Travel Blogs
In today’s media landscape, travel blogs represent an established format that has played a significant role in shaping the beginnings of Web 2.0 and that is now networked with other digital media. Many of the current travel blogs from German and English-speaking countries present a narrative voice that identifies as female and reports autobiographically on traveling alone as a woman. The research project explored the question of how the three discourse fields of female identity, autobiographical travel narrative, and media format (in short: gender, genre, media) interact and constitute each other. Taking a diachronic approach, the project examined how this interaction of gender, genre, and media has developed in the history of genres, i.e. how the travel blog can be positioned in relation to historical predecessors such as the travel diary (Bolter/Grusin 1999).
The results of the multimodal website analyses show that in the co-constitution of the medium of travel blogs and female identity, it is primarily collective alliances of traveling women that are represented, who network and exchange information via the media platform. The blogs under consideration construct the category of femininity as a homogenous and universal concept, reminiscent of the beginnings of the feminist movement grounded on the notion of difference, and already deconstructed by gender and queer theory in the 1990s (Butler 1990, 1993). This gender-related solidarity between traveling women is staged performatively and digitally, and it is used for self-presentation, so that the category of femininity functions primarily as a marketing element.
However, the affordances of social media also harbor an emancipatory potential, as demonstrated by the example of traveling and blogging women of color. As a platform for self-publication and interaction, the travel blog offers the possibility to define oneself publicly and to cross one-sided media images of women of color. Particularly against the literary-historical background of the difficulty of traveling alone as a (Black) woman and the underrepresented female narrative voice, therefore, travel blogs make visible new forms of narrative, mobility, and self-assertion. The examples show that the genre of travel writing, which the travel blogs refer to, is of hardly any significance for the narrative. Topical contents of travel writing such as cultural encounter, intercultural exchange, experience with alterity, and self-reflection only play a role on a metanarrative level, as a guide how to narrate travel.
- Travel Writing
- (Inter)Media Studies
- Gender and Queer Theory, Feminist Theory
- Popular Culture
Since December 2018, Mirja Riggert has been a PhD candidate and postgraduate research fellow at the graduate research group “New Travel – New Media”. She graduated from the University of Göttingen with a master’s degree in Comparative Literature in 2018, with the master thesis: “Performing Femininities in Contemporary Popular Music”. Between 2016 and 2018, Mirja Riggert worked as an assistant at the Institute for Intercultural Didactics in Göttingen, and gained an additional qualification for teaching German as a foreign language in 2017. She completed her BA in German Literature and Ethnology at the University of Göttingen in 2015, with a year abroad at the University of Granada, Spain, in 2014.
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