Rachel N. Stonecipher
Stonecipher's dissertation project looks at the relations between media constructions of the lesbian audience and diverse performances of self among those who identify as lesbian. She focuses on films and video games, in conversation with their audiences/players, as sites where repertoires of lesbian visuality, as alternative ways of being, are produced and circulated. She is particularly interested in 21st-century texts that frame the lesbian as a lifestyle, and thereby link lesbian sensibilities to broader narratives of experience within and around "womanhood." Lesbian politics in queer movement spaces often pose unique interpretations of womanhood, gender, and feminism -- such as a lifestyle politics of centering women, or foregrounding relationships with women, and a (distinctly lesbian) movement to treat the notion of womanhood as expansive rather than restrictive; encompassing butch, stud, femme, boi, trans, and other lesbian genders.
Performances of lesbian relation and community disrupt the mediated form of "compulsory heterosexuality": the sense that women's onscreen presence is directed toward men (see Adrienne Rich's 1980 essay, "Compulsory Heterosexuality and Lesbian Existence"). Cultural production under the label "lesbian" constructs women differently as both images and audiences. Stonecipher's project explores contemporary identifications with lesbian culture as responses to common-sense logics of gender, race, and even queerness itself (see Kara Keeling's The Witch's Flight for a related discussion of common sense). At stake are the diverse, often thorny, politics of (re)presenting one's own and others' relation to womanhood -- and its raced, biologized, and hypersexualized histories -- through the narratives we tell about sexuality and experience.