Kamala Harris; misogynoir; public woman; memes; toxic archive
Quarterly Journal of Speech
This essay identifies how the very conception of public woman is infused with the opprobrium hurled against a wanton woman–a sexualized figure who has lost claims to moral standing or social worth. Our analysis begins diachronically by using thin description to trace the historical conflation of public woman in general, and Black woman in particular, with prostitute to outline the contours of the trope of public woman that have solidified across time. We document how the public woman became equated with prostitute, and then how the label prostitute was affixed to women in public to situate them as promiscuous or prurient. Our analysis proceeds synchronically as we argue that the toxic archive of memes and hashtags that name Kamala Harris a “ho” operates as a contemporary iteration of misogynoir that conflates public woman with prostitute. The result of our analysis is an identification of the digital public woman wherein the acceleration and repetition of such tropes ensures a recalcitrant public sentiment toward public women and hides the technological and rhetorical connections that intensify such public feelings.
Department of Communication and Media
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Cerja, Cecilia; Nave, Nicole D.; Winfrey, Kelly L.; Helen Palczewski, Catherine; and Hahner, Leslie A., "Misogynoir and the public woman: analog and digital sexualization of women in public from the Civil War to the era of Kamala Harris" (2023). Faculty Publications. 5446.