Something in-between. Cross-representational gender in YouTube make-up tutorials


Ria Vaahto

In this article I examine make-up tutorial videos on YouTube that are seen cross-representational. Through the use of these videos I ask what kind of gender performances they create and how these stand in contrast to heteronormative ideals. The functions of these videos are discussed in parallel to Fredric Jameson’s ideas of the surface and the simultaneous presence of differing and contrasting elements.

In the question of gender performances I rely on Judith Butler’s pioneering theory of socially constructed and performative gender that is always open to reinterpretations. I make use of the ideas of masculinity and femininity and their relation to heteronormative ideals, for instance in the vein of Judith Halberstam’s work regarding female masculinity as well as drawing from studies of drag culture.

Gender performances in these videos bring into question the binary nature of masculinity and femininity and open up new ways to think of gender. Simultaneously, due to their ambivalent nature, identity positions suggested in these videos are proven unstable. In addition, YouTube is considered an ideal environment for these gender performances due to its own particular nature as a medium. YouTube, as indicated by the gender performances that the make up tutorials portray, provides possible agencies to those in marginal positions.