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Articles

“He’s a total TubeCrush”: post-feminist sensibility as intimate publics

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Pages 996-1011 | Received 01 Jul 2016, Accepted 06 Jun 2017, Published online: 23 Aug 2017
 

Abstract

In this paper, we analyze the website TubeCrush, where people post and share unsolicited photographs of “guy candy” seen on the London Underground. We use TubeCrush as a case study to develop Berlant’s intimate publics as a lens for examining post-feminist sensibility and masculinity in the liminal space between home/work. The paper responds to notions of reverse sexism and post-sexism used to make sense of women’s apparent objectification of men in the digital space, by asking instead where the value of such images lies. We suggest that in TubeCrush, value is directed onto the bodies of particular men, creating a visual economy of post-feminist masculinity of whiteness, physical strength, and economic wealth. This celebration of masculine capital is achieved through humor and the knowing wink, but the outcome is a reaffirmation of urban hegemonic masculinity.

Notes

1. We use the term “post-feminist sensibility” to distinguish it from other ways in which the term “post-feminism” had been used: to signal an historical shift, epistemological break, and “backlash” against prior feminist positions (see Gill Citation2007 for a fuller discussion). These various accounts of post-feminism made important contributions to thinking about contemporary gender relations, but failed to account for complexity (e.g., in its nonlinear conceptualization of the double entanglement that works through contradiction).

2. We are not proposing that post-feminist sensibility and new feminism(s) are synonymous, but instead understand them as having a complex relationship. The aim of this paper is not to address this complexity, other than to identify a resurgent feminism as one of the contexts in which TubeCrush is located. See Sarah Banet-Weiser (Citation2015b), Shelley Cobb (Citation2015), Melissa Benn (Citation2013), and Gill (Citation2016) for different perspectives on fourth-wave, popular/celebrity feminism, and their relationship with/against post-feminism.

3. In the last year, only one image of an obvious black man was uploaded without comment about his race (“Dreamy Blue Suit,” August 19, 2016). We would suggest that the lack of comment on this man’s race is related to his show of wealth, symbolized through his suit and watch.

4. Gay slang term “bear,” meaning a man who is slightly heavier and hairy, also appears on TubeCrush as a tag—however, images within this tag appear more to do with hairiness (e.g., a beard) than with weight.

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