CALL FOR PAPERS! Back to the Future: Feminist Media Activism in Transition

A special issue of the Journal of Gender Studies

How has feminist media activism transitioned from the print era to the digital? What are the key events or moments of technological transition which have signalled shifts in feminist media activism or production (for instance, the rise of TV/televised events, radio, Xerox machines, hashtags, or TikTok)? And what methodological approaches (decolonial, queer, affective, archival, periodical) might we bring to the concept of ‘transition’ in feminist media studies?

This special issue of the Journal of Gender Studies uses the concept of ‘media in transition’ to explore how feminist issues and campaigns are shaped by the technologies via which they are mediated (Ardis 2013). In so doing, ‘Feminist Media Activism in Transition’ responds to Carter and McLaughlin’s call (2011) for greater attention to the material history and production of media texts. By foregrounding changing modes of technological production, this special issue invites explorations of both analogue and digital forms, and of the borrowings, legacies, adaptations, and repetitions traceable across feminist media past and present. 

To give a few examples of feminist media in transition: in 2020, the queer-dating app Lex, inspired by the personals pages of 1980s US feminist magazine Off Our Backs, was launched. With 84.8k followers on Instagram, Lex is proof of the enduring appeal and transformative potential of feminist print media in the digital age. In the same year, British actress and screenwriter Michaela Coel’s path-breaking exploration of modern relationships, consent and sexual violence, I May Destroy You, veered back and forth between the exploitative world of print publishing and febrile digital spaces. Following the show’s success, the BBC in partnership with gal-dem and The Face magazines launched a digital zine based on the series, titled The Ins and Outs of Consent. The continuities between feminist print and digital activism were likewise foregrounded by the British Library’s digitised archive of Spare Rib (1972-1993), which launched to public and critical acclaim in 2015. While the online accessibility of Spare Rib brought new attention to ‘live’ and ongoing feminist issues (including violence against women, workplace inequality, and reproductive rights), it also underlined the precarity of digital media when, in 2021, the online archive had to be removed following changes in copyright law after Brexit.

And in September 2022, in response to the protests sweeping Iran after the death of Mahsa Amini, Iranian graphic artist Ghazal Foroutan adapted the iconic WWII image of Rosie the Riveter with Persian lettering and the slogan ‘Women Life Freedom’:

Ghazal Foroutan’s revolutionary Rosie the Riveter.
Image reproduced by kind permission of Ghazal Foroutan

By examining how certain ideas and strategies of mediation persist across print and digital forms, we aim to unsettle and complicate historical, generational, and chronological narratives of feminist ‘progress’. We are interested, too, in instances where, as Amy Malek (2021) puts it in her article ‘Clickbait Orientalism and Vintage Iranian Snapshots’, ‘the media may be new, but the well-trodden messages remain familiar’ (2021). At a time of anti-feminist revanchism, it is more urgent than ever to excavate instructive connections with historic feminist campaigns and issues, as well as to ‘reimagine and expand’ feminist communities through the use of new media (Mendes, Ringrose, and Keller 2019). 

We anticipate a broad range of transnational and transdisciplinary responses to this question, which might include explorations of:

  • the recent resurrection of a ‘vintage’ aesthetic in digital media;
  • moments of transition or ‘turns’ in feminist media archives;
  • the evolution of terms such as intersectionality or transfeminism in feminist media;
  • how new forms of media enable self-authoring and autonomous production;
  • decolonial approaches to moments of feminist media transition;
  • how specific feminist issues are shaped by the forms (periodicals, magazines, digital platforms) in which they are mediated;
  • modes and means of the production of feminist media;
  • and of lost voices, muted moments, and marginalised narratives. 

We welcome submissions on a wide range of feminist media in any historical period. Papers are especially welcomed from scholars working on feminist media of the Global South or based in Global South institutions.

Please submit abstracts (max 300 words) to by 30 of June 2023

Full manuscripts will be due on 31 January 2024.

a drawing of a typewriter, some letters, and a teapot with two cups
Artist Unknown, ‘Drawing of household objects’, Mukti 4 (1985), p. 18.
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