The discursive construction and performance of gender identity

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    Twitter is currently considered one of the most popular social media websites, providing a powerful way of communicating with people everywhere. Among the different users around the world, the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia is ranked highest worldwide in the number of active Twitter users. In a society where traditional media is closely monitored, social media websites such as Twitter serve as an alternative for Saudis to communicate and raise their concerns to the public, especially for Saudi women who have been very active online demanding the right to drive, which still banned in the country. This study seeks to analyze how Saudis use Twitter to discursively construct and perform their gender identities when discussing the ban on driving. By using Appraisal Theory, I have analyzed the tweets generated using the hashtag قيادةالمرأة (women_driving) from the period of April 5, 2014 to April 8, 2014. Overall, the results show that opponents of the ban on women’s driving appeared to be aggressive and judgmental of religious people, projecting a female identity that is strong, independent, and open-minded. On the other hand, supporters of the ban appeared to be influenced by religious affiliation, equating driving cars with disgrace and temptation. The study provides insights into the way Saudis negotiate and construct their gender identities virtually in relation to current social values, beliefs and gender norms, and the role of evaluation as a resource for constructing and performing gender identity.


    Butler, J. (1990) Gender trouble. New York: Routledge.

    Fairclough, N. (1992). Discourse and social change. Cambridge, England: Polity Press.

    Martin, J. R., & White, P. R. R. (2005). The language of evaluation: Appraisal in English. London: Palgrave Macmillan.

    Zappavigna, M. (2012). Discourse of Twitter and social media: How we use language to create affiliation on the web. London: Continuum.


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