Global TV Images of Female Masculinity–cfp

CFP: Roundtable “Global TV Images of Female Masculinity” at 2020 SCMS Conference, Denver, USA
(proposal deadline August 5th, 2019)

Roundtable Theme:

Global TV Images of Female Masculinity


Co-chaired by Jamie J. ZHAO (XJTLU) and Eve NG (Ohio U)


In recent years, TV representations of female masculinity have proliferated and diversified worldwide. Notable examples include the white lesbian landowner Anne Lister in the historical drama Gentleman Jack (BBC/HBO, UK/USA, 2019-), the African American lesbian Denise in the web series Master of None (Netflix, USA, 2015-2017), the tomboyish participants of the reality singing competition Super Girls’ Voice (HTV, China, 2004-2016), the cross-dressing female protagonist raised as a boy in the drama Bromance (SETTV, Taiwan, 2015-2016), and the butch lesbian beauty contest segment, “That’s My Tomboy,” in the Philippine daytime variety show It’s Showtime (ABS-CBN, Philippines, 2009-).

Along with this surge in masculine female TV culture, there has been a growing body of scholarly literature on media and public imaginaries of female masculinity in different geo-locales since the late 1990s. Jack Halberstam famously noted that “far from being an imitation of maleness,” female masculinity is one of many “alternative masculinities” that manifests a continuum of various masculine traits and identities embodied or enacted by cis-females, such as tomboyism and butchness, the definitions and calibration of which are often socioculturally and racially modelled (1998, 1). In various forms of contemporary media, tomboyism is often understood as “an extended childhood period of female masculinity” (Halberstam 1998, 5), or a female “masculine gender identification” that may be “visibly reminiscent” of a passing, youthful (though not necessarily nonheterosexual) identity for female audiences (Kam 2014; Martin 2010).

Moreover, the culturally specific understandings and imaginaries of masculinities embodied by cis-females have been important threads in world gender studies and global queering theory. For instance, Halberstam’s research reveals the discrepancy between recognizable American rural and urban female masculinities (1998, 57-58). Audrey Yue’s research on Asian drag kings in Australia also illustrates that compared to normative Western butchness, the diasporic Asian butch “situated in an Anglo-dominated lesbian scene is simply not … masculine enough” (2008, 261-262). In addition, as Helen Leung remarks, the unique historical trajectory of Mainland Chinese female androgyny, as well as the social tolerance (with patriarchy and homophobia in essence) and trivialization of female homosexuality in modern and contemporary China, made invisible local masculine lesbian identities and gendered expressions (2002, 129).

With a specific focus on global TV in the 2010s, we intend this roundtable to initiate a productive conversation about the variety of ways in which female masculinity has been imagined, idealized, troubled, deconstructed, and remodified on contemporary TV, and the relation of these representations to the sociocultural contexts from which they emerge. We aim to explore the following questions: How are TV images of female masculinity constructed through negotiation with local, transregional, and global media and public discourses? How and why can TV imaginaries of female masculinity in certain sociocultural contexts be linked to, or decoupled from, female heterosexuality/homosexuality? In what ways can ethnicity, class, and geopolitics complicate TV representations of female masculinity? Talk proposals dedicated to non-Anglo-American cultures from a de-Western-centric perspective are especially welcomed.

Potential topics include but are not limited to:

  • Tomboys on reality TV
  • Masculine lesbians in TV series
  • Gender-nonnormative or trans female celebrities on TV
  • TV representations of masculine female athletes, warriors, spies, soldiers, or other forms of “heroic,” “aggressive,” or “rebellious” masculinity in women
  • The ways in which gender non-conformity and class in women intersect in TV representations
  • The intersectionality of female masculinity and non-Caucasian, non-Anglophone-speaking identities on TV
  • Cross-dressing female characters and/or drag king culture on TV
  • Televisual imaginaries of heterosexual-identified, masculine women
  • TV framing of gendered differences and subjectivities of masculine and feminine women/lesbians

Please send

1). A short bio (around 75 words), current status, contact email, and affiliation;

2). Presentation title;

3). Presentation abstract (around 350 words) that delineates the focus and/or case studies/examples, analytical angles, preliminary findings, and contribution of your research

by August 5th, 2019 to us at and Notifications of acceptance will be sent out by August 13th, 2019. If you have any further questions, please do not hesitate to contact us at the above two email addresses.

Kindly note that SCMS requires roundtable participants to be current members of SCMS at the time of submission.  Membership dues are not refunded to participants of a declined proposal submission. Only one submission (strict one role rule) per person.  

Co-Chair Bios:

Jamie J. Zhao is a global queer media scholar and currently Assistant Professor of Communications at Xi’an Jiaotong-Liverpool University (University of Liverpool, China campus). She holds a PhD in Gender Studies from the Chinese University of Hong Kong and another PhD in Film and TV Studies from the University of Warwick. She coedited HK University Press’s 2017 anthology, Boys’ Love, Cosplay, and Androgynous Idols: Queer Fan Cultures in Mainland China, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Eve Ng is an associate professor in Media Arts and Studies and Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies at Ohio University. Her research includes work on cultural production and viewer engagement around LGBTQ media, social media and participatory practices, and LGBTQ media and activism in Southeast Asia, and has appeared in Communication, Culture, & Critique, Development and Change, Feminist Media Studies, Journal of Film and Video, Popular Communication, and Transformative Works and Culture.


Halberstam, Judith. 1998. Female Masculinity. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Kam, Lucetta. 2014. “Desiring T, Desiring Self.” Journal of Lesbian Studies 18 (3), 252-65.

Leung, Helen. 2002. “Thoughts on Lesbian Genders in Contemporary Chinese Cultures.” In Femme/Butch: New Considerations of the Way We Want to Go, edited by Michelle Gibson and Deborah T. Meem, 123-33. New York: Harrington Park Press.

Martin, Fran. 2010. Backward Glances: Contemporary Chinese Cultures and the Female Homoerotic Imaginary. Durham, NC: Duke University Press.

Yue, Audrey. 2008. “King’s Victoria: Asian Drag Kings, Postcolonial Female Masculinity, and Hybrid Sexuality in Australia.” In AsiaPacifiQueer: Rethinking Genders and Sexualities, edited by Fran Martin, Peter Jackson, Mark McLelland, and Audrey Yue, 251-70. Urbana, IL: University of Illinois Press.

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