Date of Award

2020

Document Type

Dissertation

Department

English

First Advisor

Granville Ganter

Second Advisor

Anne Geller

Third Advisor

Jennifer Travis

Abstract

Online dating has become part of mainstream culture in the 21st century, yet using media to further or meet an individual’s goals of intimacy has been a centuries old practice. Starting in the 17th century, people turned to media to find mates through Lonely Hearts advertisements, but as with all rhetoric, the access to voice and agency within this arena has its limitations. This research investigates the landscape referred to here as media intimacy—turning to forms of media, be it print or digital, to find an intimate relationship or partner—to determine if digital settings have provided women with greater agency in finding intimate relationships. After first establishing the feminist inquiry that will be used throughout this research, this dissertation moves through three studies in its analysis of locating and understanding women’s voices in media intimacy. First, I take a comprehensive look at Lonely Hearts advertisements from the 17th – 20th centuries; followed by an analysis of women’s 21st century new media dating advertisements on Craigslist; and finally, I examine the community forum ByeFelipe on Instagram. I argue that women access the functionalities of the internet to build a complex network of feminist rhetoric in media intimacy compositions. Women negotiate multiple online venues, balancing the tactics of Cheryl Glenn’s (2018) concept of rhetorical feminism with technology, multimodality, rhetorical purpose, audience, and community. The inquiry into Lonely Hearts advertisements, Craigslist advertisements, and the ByeFelipe community allows us to examine the coalescence of feminism, rhetoric, and new media to create a network of feminist rhetoric, as well as women’s rhetorical practices within the resulting network in media intimacy compositions. By locating and understanding these marginalized voices and identities in their different contexts, we uncover a new interaction of feminist and digital rhetorics, where women tap into the complexities and fluidity of the digital to create a networked system across platforms and purposes, exercising rhetorical feminism. Through these networks of feminist rhetoric, we can continue towards a future of reclaimed and equal agency, a future and rhetoric where voices are valued in their digital discourses, both publicly and personally.

Available for download on Thursday, August 25, 2022

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