Lesbianism in China: Gender Images and Self-Identification as Reflected in Online Pop Culture

Wenxuan Peng, Lesbianism in China: Gender Images and Self-Identification as Reflected in Online Pop Culture
Supervisors: Eliza Steinbock and Maghiel van Crevel (Leiden University)

This proposed research will focus on digital culture and pop cultural representations regarding lesbianism within and without the ‘la quan’ (Chinese slang for “lesbian circle”) and the lala (abbreviation of the transliteration of ‘lesbian’ in Chinese) community, with special focus on the language and ideological negotiations emerging from the lala culture. My research will investigate how various types of pop cultural productions, such as films, videos, memes, novels, etc. make available and rework social gender images for the lesbians in China. I will track how gender and sexual ideologies are negotiated through the borrowing and remixing of heterosexual terms, gender roles and economic arrangements, and further, consider the broader influence of these cultural formations on the self-identification of the lala in China. Accordingly, I will analyse lesbian-related case studies of incidents, which are either sensational, or considered indicators of trends, as well as the users themselves and the texts, including speech and works of cultural production they create on the most influential websites and smart phone applications. During my study, I will be alert to current relevant activities on social media platforms that are popular in China such as Weibo, Baidu Tieba, WeChat Moments, Qzone, etc., as well as video sharing and livestreaming websites, for example Bilibili, Tik Tok (Douyin), Kuaishou. Cultural contents created on Chinese lesbian dating applications, such as Rela and Lesdo, especially the video / livestreaming sections, will also be studied.