Dr Frankie Rogan explores postfeminism, gender and social media in Digital Femininities

Dr Frankie Rogan's Digital Femininities explores the way postfeminist ideas are expressed online, looking at Instagram, Facebook, Twitter, Tumblr and Snapchat

A phone next to an open notebook

Photo credit: Daria Obymaha

“I wasn’t interested in whether social media is inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good’,” Dr Rogan begins. “What I wanted was to traverse a very complex and multifaceted landscape by focusing on themes such as visibility and surveillance, and how young people—especially girls—attempt to navigate the various expectations, pleasures and problems they encounter online.”

‘Digital Femininities: The Gendered Construction of Cultural and Political Identities Online’ is published by Routledge. Dr Frankie Rogan is a Lecturer in Sociology at the University of Birmingham's School of Social Policy. 

Dr Rogan’s book is aimed at students, academics, and anyone interested in the intersection of gender politics, digital platforms and identity construction across sociology, political science, media and communications and cultural studies. 

What is postfeminism?

“The way that I use the term ‘postfeminism’ in the book is in the vein of scholars such as Rosalind Gill and Angela McRobbie, who conceptualise it as a cultural terrain that works to construct feminism as ‘common sense’ and, therefore, no longer necessary as a collective political movement,” she explains. “This means that media landscapes such as films, TV, magazines, advertisements, celebrity culture and, more recently, social media, can be used to construct feminism as outdated while simultaneously ‘taking into account’ some limited elements of (usually liberal) feminism.”

Postfeminism, as a concept, was widely used and debated in the 2000s and 2010s. Dr Rogan tries to re-engage with the term and apply it to more contemporary contexts, acknowledging a resurgence of feminist rhetoric in various online spaces.

I wasn’t interested in whether social media is inherently ‘bad’ or ‘good.'

Dr Frankie Rogan

Feminist discourse is commonplace online, particularly on social media. “Whether or not online space can be compatible with a truly effective political feminist movement is a big question,” says Dr Rogan. “Some scholars, like Sarah Banet-Weiser, argue that the increased visibility feminism has received over the last decade (due, in part, to its online presence) can be problematic. Increased visibility may not always be a positive development.” Dr Rogan looks at these concepts and debates in more detail in her second year Gender and Sexuality module, available to students on undergraduate programmes in the Department of Social Policy, Sociology and Criminology.

It was important for Dr Rogan to explore debates around the term ‘femininity’ without committing to a specific or rigid definition. Instead, she is curious about how her participants understood the concept of femininity and what it meant to them. “This played out in a variety of ways,” she says, “although often did reproduce ‘traditional’ notions of femininity by focusing on specific ideas around body image and aesthetics.”

“Writing a book felt quite different from writing my PhD, but I faced some familiar challenges too.“

"My job is very full on," says Dr Rogan, "so it has been a real challenge to get the book over the line during the last few years (for obvious reasons!) and I really needed to carve out time to write each page.”

Book cover for Digital Femininities: a black book with a picture of a teenaged girl on a pink background

Dr Rogan's new book: Digital Femininities

Whether or not online space can be compatible with a truly effective political feminist movement is a big question.

Dr Frankie Rogan

Dr Rogan finds it easier to think and concentrate on writing later in the day, when her inbox is quieter. “I’ve also used the pomodoro technique. This means that you put a timer on and write for 25 minutes, followed by a short five minute break,” she explains. “You can adjust the times however you like, but it’s a good way to fit in some writing even if you only have an hour or two to spare. I also did a lot of Zoom writing retreats with colleagues, which made it all a little less isolating. Thanks to Dr Emily Ball for keeping me company during most of those!”

Dr Rogan’s research has affected the way she feels about social media. “I suppose it's inevitable that social research shapes the way that you think and engage with the world. I used to find it hard to engage with popular culture without simultaneously thinking of all the ways it can be critiqued,” she says. “I’m a bit better now at separating my research interests from my day-to-day engagement with pop culture, but there are still times when I find myself planning a new article or project while watching Love Island!”

How can I read Digital Femininities?

You can purchase the ebook from Routledge with 20% off using the code FLA22.

For University of Birmingham students and library users, the book will be available in ebook and hardback formats in the university library for next academic year.

“I also have a few copies in my office for students to borrow if they can’t find it elsewhere,” says Dr Rogan. “Students are very welcome to get in touch with me, especially if they are writing dissertations around this topic.” You can reach Dr Rogan at f.rogan.1@bham.ac.uk