Article

Presence, Agency and Popularity: Kenyan “Socialites”, Femininities and Digital Media

DOI: 10.1080/23277408.2016.1272184
Author(s): Dina LigagaDepartment of Media Studies, South Africa

Abstract

Representations and self-representations in new digital cultures have complicated readings of gender and sexuality in the media in increasingly interesting ways. This article explores such representations, focusing on two well-known figures in the Kenyan tabloid media, Vera Sidika and Huddah Monroe. These two women are informally referred to as “socialites”, a reference made to their adopted over-the-top lifestyles and choices of self-representation in social media. Reading these platforms as key to popular culture, I introduce the argument for agency, which I argue seeks to complicate the easy reading of these women as representative of neoliberal postfeminist cultures. It also complicates a reading of them as hypersexual women working within an attention economy. I argue that within a highly patriarchal society such as Kenya, agency could be read through the visual representations of women who transgress hegemonic patriarchal logic and offer a nuanced reading of gender and sexuality discourses.

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