Constructing women's identities in self-writing and online diaries in Taiwan
thesisposted on 28.03.2022, 21:57 by Yu-Ling Chou
This thesis examines online self-writing as social action that provides a means for women to find their own ‘space’. The emergence of virtual spaces has transformed practices of self-representation and associated constructions of identity. It has also changed the nature of personal expression and the substance of social narratives. In this regard, the personal blog (a shortening of the term ‘weblog’), represents one of the most important forms of online presence, facilitating the building and communication of identity for women in new media, particularly in Taiwan. The workings of women’s diaristic blogs, as on-going autobiographies, and as centres of online communities, are presented as integral to new media self-expression, and filtered through the relationship between the diary and its ‘writing self’, the narrative identity. This research speaks to an absence in critical work on women’s blog-based negotiations of everyday activities, pressures and identity-based dilemmas, arguing that women write to work through experiences and to forge connections with other women. Where women’s life writing has been linked historically to feminist struggles against repression under patriarchy, the assertion here is that personal writing is especially important for women’s self-awareness, and that writing online is vital to the assertion of female subjectivity in public space. This research connects the historical significance of the diary for women with the evolution of the diary’s function as it has moved to online platforms. The relationship between the online diary and identity formation for writers and readers in investigated in ‘cyber ethnographies’ of two popular female bloggers in Taiwan, Wealthy Lady Nana and Indoors Woman Showon, as they create their own media networks and communities through blogging. These two case studies build on the critical framing of the diary as a ‘feminine’ genre, wrought through personal narratives of identity, and on constructions of blogging as a form of ‘empowering exhibitionism’. This thesis navigates the discursive and genealogical aspects of women’s online writing in Taiwan, and gendered ‘web-ethnography’ more broadly, concluding that in its mediation of women’s self-awareness and social contexts, the very act of women’s diary writing constitutes an act of feminist practice.