A Bechdel Test for #MLA16: Gendered Acts of Care on Academic Twitter

Shawna Ross, Texas A&M University

Abstract

This essay tracks gendered behaviors on academic Twitter during the Modern Language Association conference in January 2016. Drawing on Lauren Klein’s theory of carework and the Bechdel test for gender equality in filmmaking, I compare the way male and female social media users respond to presentations in the Twitter feed associated with three particular panels. Using Storifies from these panels, I classify tweets according to the gender identities of those mentioned in the tweet and those creating the tweets, as well as by the rhetorical function of each tweet. The resulting spreadsheet, figures, and tables are an example of “small data” at work as I hypothesize significant trends in the way women perform carework during conferences through their social media usage.

Editors’ Note

Shawna Ross has created a robust series of html pages to present her analysis of Twitter replies at the 2016 Modern Language Association Conference. Her presentation provides an example of the kind of scholarship we hope to see more of at JITP, i.e. scholarship that leverages the affordances of technology to present its theses, analyses and evidences more effectively. After exploring options, we found the iframe to be the best way to render Ross’s work on our site. We recognize that an iframe may not render the contents of the paper correctly on all devices and apologize for any inconvenience.

About the Author

Shawna Ross is an Assistant Professor of modern British literature and the digital humanities at Texas A&M University. Her collection, Reading Modernism with Machines, coedited with James O’Sullivan, comes out from Palgrave in fall 2016. Her work also appears in JMLDHQ, and the Henry James Review.




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