Of Respectable and Safe Selfies: Exploring Girls’ Negotiations with Desire, Risk and Violence

Authors: Sujatha Subramanian*, The Ohio State University
Topics: Gender, Sexuality
Keywords: Girlhood Studies , Selfies , Online Spaces , Self Representation
Session Type: Paper
Day: 4/12/2018
Start / End Time: 3:20 PM / 5:00 PM
Room: Napoleon D3, Sheraton 3rd Floor
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


Selfies as a form of self-representation hold various meanings for girls- selfies allow them to express themselves, build friendships or nostalgically visit their pasts. However, most of these engagements of girls with selfies get lost in the din of the dangers posed by their participation in online spaces and their movements in offline spaces. Constructions of girls as being “vulnerable” and “naïve” are used to ascribe victimhood to them, and dictums such as “better be safe than sorry” abound. My paper draws from interviews with twenty girls based in India to understand how they negotiate both online and offline structures of control and violence that attempt to limit their self-expression in online spaces. The paper explores how complex intersections of class, caste and religion work to produce ideas of honour and respectability that restrict the scope of “respectable” self-representations available to girls. The paper also includes narratives of girls who, in response to the acts of disciplining and surveillance that serve to restrict their movements in online and offline spaces, have adopted creative ways of resisting such acts of control, challenging boundaries of appropriate femininity, sexuality and caste, thereby questioning the idea of girls as naïve and innocent. The paper argues that we need to advocate for a world, both online and offline, where girls have a right to the liberatory possibilities of risk, and can engage with subjectivities that disrupt the idea of respectability and honour.

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