Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



Document Type



“White feminism” circulates as a colloquialism within digital cultures to indicate a feminism that centers whiteness, though the phrase captures a greater formation of feminist discourse and action that reify systems of oppression. While feminist critics such as bell hooks and Kimberle Crenshaw have theorized white women’s tendency to universalize whiteness, there has been very little work in feminist rhetorical studies that defines the rhetorical characteristics of white feminist discourses that advocate against sexual and gendered oppression while also reaffirming white supremacy. Generic Forms of White Feminism: A Study on the Circulation of White Feminism in Digital Cultures addresses the formal rhetorical and symbolic characteristics of white feminist discourses and argues that white feminism circulates as a rhetorical genre. Specifically, by drawing on rhetorical genre studies, feminist criticism, and digital media studies, Generic Forms of White Feminism situates white feminism as an evolving genre that involves recurring generic forms while producing social action that undermines the possibility for radical feminist intervention. Each chapter utilizes a case study to illustrate a specific generic form of white feminism--reprimanding, forgetting, gatekeeping, or co-opting-- within digital cultures. Chapter III: “White Feminists and the Policing of Public Mourning in Response to the Death of Kobe Bryant” examines how white women mobilized the generic form of the emotional reprimand against those who mourned Bryant’s death on Twitter, which policed public mourning and centered white women’s feelings in the larger conversation about Bryant’s memory. Chapter IV: “The Digital Archivization of Margaret Sanger: Public Forgetting, Trauma, and the White Feminist Movement” questions how aspects of Sanger’s biography have been publicly forgotten in service of advancing a (white) feminist agenda. Chapter V: “Confrontations of Feminist and Feminine Belonging: Border Rhetorics, Feminist Gatekeeping, and Epideictic Assemblages” argues that epideictic assemblages allow trans exclusionary radical feminists to gatekeep womanhood and feminism itself, resulting in a feminism that reasserts whiteness and patriarchal dominance. Chapter VI: “Co-Opting Emancipatory Rhetoric and The Beguiled” outlines how Sofia Coppola’s The Beguiled co-opts emancipatory rhetorics to evade an acknowledgement of white women’s complicity in systems of oppression.



Committee Chair

Bibler, Michael



Available for download on Monday, August 07, 2028