Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)


Communication Studies

Document Type



When marginalized communities are left without real-life mentors, they often turn to media as a guide. In this project I assert that mediated sapphic woman characters impact the identity development and everyday experiences for sapphic women in material ways. I explore what mediated narratives sapphic women consume and analyze how these messages become symbolic rhetorical tools that queer women rhetorically mobilize to narrativize and negotiate their queer identities. To achieve this goal, I utilized rhetorical field methods by interviewing 20 queer women ranging from the ages of 25-40 in dyadic, semi structured interviews. These women use varying terms to label their sexualities such as lesbian, queer, and bisexual and live in the United States and Canada. Through my rhetorical analysis of these interviews, I found three primary ways that queer women mobilize encoded messages within queer media as an interlocutor to assist in their queer identity development. First, these women use queer media as a form of validation, making queer media a rhetorical instrument. Second, queer women dialectically read media through oppositional/preferred and negotiated lenses to cultivate aspirational possibilities for their futures. Lastly, queer women mobilize media’s romantic and sexual scripts as guides to engage in romantic, sexual, and platonic relationships. These findings resulted in the implication that rhetoricians must continue to investigate the ways that queer media materially impacts the realities of marginalized communities. On a more macro scale, this project’s findings also implicate the nuance that can come from taking to the field to study media and the fleshly experiences of marginalized communities.



Committee Chair

Ashley Mack

Available for download on Thursday, March 27, 2025