During the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, social media platform TikTok surpassed 2 billion users. The video sharing platform serves amongst other things as a space where marginalized groups of people get together and form communities. One of these groups consists of queer women, who regularly use the digital space to engage in humorous discourses. Humor is considered to be a core facet of human existence and serves as an essential key for understanding cultural and social processes. In this research, I explore the use of humor on TikTok by queer women to communicate their experiences. The research question that guided the analysis is: how is humor used to communicate the female queer experience on TikTok? Digital ethnography was used as a method to collect a useful and extensive set of data. Through thorough thematic analysis, two main categories were found to be present. The first one, called ‘out-group humor’, refers to humor by queer women that addresses groups outside of the female LGBTQ+ community. The themes making up this category are ‘dislike for men’, ‘calling out the straights’, and ‘social experiences’. The second category, ‘in-group humor’, refers to humor by queer women that addresses the own community, and encompasses four themes: ‘love for being queer’, ‘queer awakenings’, ‘queer struggles’, and ‘stereotypes’. The findings of this study indicate that queer women regularly engage in humorous discourses on TikTok as a way of addressing and coping with the realities of their queerness and (marginalized) positions in society. There are multiple ways in which this is done. In some instances, humor is used as a tool to subvert misogynist and queerphobic status quos, which carries important implications for queer women’s social positions in relation to others (mainly: straight men). At other times, humorous discourses are deployed for means of self-definition and creating queer narratives of realness. Furthermore, this study demonstrates the need for further research and attention (in)to the use of humor by marginalized communities in digital spaces. It is thanks to the Web 2.0 that such humorous discourses can rapidly and globally spread, which could have positive effects on marginalized people all over the world as they might benefit from encountering and engaging in these sorts of ‘lighthearted’ discourses surrounding their (marginalized) identities.

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Dr. Hester Hockin-Boyers
Media, Culture & Society
Erasmus School of History, Culture and Communication

Sophie Simons. (2022, June 27). The Humorless Lesbian in The Digital Age An ethnographic look into the use of humor by queer women on TikTok. Media, Culture & Society. Retrieved from http://hdl.handle.net/2105/65060