Quantifying the feminine self(ie): Gender display and social media feedback in young women’s Instagram selfies

Chelsea P. Butkowski, Travis L. Dixon, Kristopher R. Weeks, Marisa A. Smith

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


A growing body of research suggests that young women tend to replicate normative feminine cues popularized through mass media in their selfies, or self-taken mobile phone photographs. Among these stereotypical cues are posing behaviors documented in Goffman’s gender display framework, which visualize a power imbalance between men and women. We completed a content analysis to investigate gender display in young women’s Instagram selfies alongside its relationship to feedback such as likes and comments. In this study, a novel scalar measure of gender display captures both the categorical manifestation and the exaggeration of gender stereotypical cues. We found that gender display is prevalent in women’s Instagram selfies but presented in subtle ways. In addition, women who incorporate and exaggerate gender displays in their selfies tend to receive more feedback. We suggest that gender stereotyping in Instagram selfies is related to reinforcing feedback and call for closer measurement and contextualization of gender performance in user-generated content.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)817-837
Number of pages21
JournalNew Media and Society
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2020


  • Content analysis
  • Instagram
  • gender display
  • gender stereotypes
  • self-presentation
  • selfie-posting

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Communication
  • Sociology and Political Science


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