M. Bryn Brody deposited Ratchet Feminism on TikTok: Visual Culture Resistance to Oppression in the group Global Digital Humanities Symposium on Humanities Commons 8 months ago
Digital visual culture in cyberspace creates new methods for Black queer women to resist the oppression of controlling images. As cyborg beings, Black queer women perform their identities in creative and boundary-breaking ways, often using sexually explicit lyrics and dance to resist white normativity and heteronormativity. Multinational social media platforms like TikTok provide readily accessible platforms for Black queer women to extend the reach of their performances. TikTok also perpetuates oppression by monetizing Black sexuality. ByteDance, TikTok’s parent company, has experienced a doubling of profits in the past year. Users themselves often seek to capitalize on their performances. Some theorists insist that the commodification of Black sexuality perpetuates Black subjectification. Not all theorists agree, though. Some assert that performing identities in excess of the controlling images allows oppressed people to survive within the ideologies that oppress them. Additionally, the performances create a counter discourse in the midst of oppression, undermining oppressive ideologies from the inside. Sometimes labeled “ratchet feminism,” young Black queer musicians confront respectability politics, often putting them into ideological conflict with well-respected Black feminists like bell hooks and Patricia Hill Collins. Using TikTok content creator Thee King Kitty as a case study, this paper analyzes the performance of Black queer sexuality through ratchet feminism as brown jouissance, disidentification, and subversion. Using both quantitative and qualitative data, the research explores the nuanced interactions of Black feminism in digital visual culture. I hypothesize that identity performance on TikTok specifically and in cyberspace generally acts as a form of resistance that speaks to the lived experiences and needs of Gen Z and Millennials. Through these acts of resistance, youth form solidarities that undermine controlling images and systems of oppression.