English Ph.D. Dissertations


Community-Sponsored Literate Activity and Technofeminism: Ethnographic Inquiry of Feministing

Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)


English (Rhetoric and Writing) PhD

First Advisor

Kristine Blair (Committee Co-Chair)

Second Advisor

Lee Nickoson (Committee Co-Chair)

Third Advisor

Sue Carter Wood (Committee Member)

Fourth Advisor

James Foust (Committee Member)


This dissertation presents a selected version of the story of Feministing, a primarily online community of young adult feminists, and builds conversations about how and why feminists are, and are not, using literacies of technology to enact feminist activism in a digital age. My findings build out of ethnographically informed methods: interviews with three members of the Feministing editorial team, surveys completed by seventeen registered users of Feministing, and observation and coding of over nine hundred pages of text from the last eight years of the Feministing archives. I situate this data within larger historical contexts and exigencies of digital literacies and feminist activism, particularly in the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries. Likewise, I join scholars (Blair, Collins) who argue material conditions are key components in understanding women's (but for me, feminists') texts and literate practices. My analysis combines aspects of material rhetoric (Collins) and rhetorical genealogy (Queen) to model a way to study digital texts and literate practices and, as a result, I argue for the importance of design and literacy sponsorship for Feministing while also highlighting ways design can challenge traditional notions of feminist space as non-hierarchical and uncensored. My analysis also demonstrates how to use rhetorical ecology as a theoretical framework to trace digital texts' circulations across other spaces and time and, as a result, I complicate discussions of trolling and theories of invitational rhetoric and argue the importance of technofeminists knowing feminist histories, including very recent histories beginning to unfold in digital spaces. In addition to these findings, I call for feminist writing studies scholars to recognize that literate activities within/of certain communities or people exists within larger continua of literate activity and to lend, among other skills and knowledges, awareness of the importance of writing not only as a tool for activist work but also as a crucial component of continua of literate activities that help to build feminist histories and which must be remembered and learned from. This project adds to conversations that challenge notions of digital space as inherently democratic or more inclusive of traditionally marginalized populations and to conversations of digital space/activities as distinct from offline space/activities.