New Media in the Jewish Bedroom: Exploring Religious Jewish Online Discourse Concerning Gender and Sexuality
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This dissertation examines the construction and negotiation of gender and sexuality in Jewish Orthodox online discourse. It explores how religious concepts of gender and negotiation were communicated online, and how they were supported or resisted by users and website authors. My approach conceptualizes online digital communication as a Foucauldian discourse, in which power and resistance operate. To understand this discourse, scholars have to consider both the digital affordances and the religious worldviews that inform that discourse. For that purpose, I consider three layers of the religious digital discourse: 1) the technological aspects, 2) the religious/cultural aspects, and 3) the discursive strategies. Three websites were selected (on the basis of popularity) to represent the Orthodox online discourse: Chabad.org, Aish.com and Kipa.co.il. From these websites various texts regarding gender and sexuality were sampled: questions and answers (Q&A); website articles; and videos. A total of n=60 Q&A, n=48 articles and videos, and n=1184 comments were sampled and analyzed. The material was divided into two chapters: one chapter focusing on practices, and the other chapter focusing on meaning making. It was found that the technological affordances (layer 1), by and large, allow for and encourage a participatory discourse. The second layer of analysis found that religious language was oversimplified, with minimum use of canonic religious sources, and was accompanied by modern and secular terms. The last layer of analysis highlighted twelve unique discursive strategies. The major finding of this research is that online communication was used to support traditional, strict, religious gender and sexual norms: most of the users and authors supported a literal reading of biblical and legal (halachic) texts concerning sexual behaviors and gender roles and a binary and patriarchal understanding of gender. However, this traditional approach to gender and sexuality tended to be framed through modern, spiritual, or neoliberal language that focused on self-actualization. There was little resistance or push for change of these religious traditional rules. Digital media affordances – the ability to comment and share, to participate in this discourse – by and large served to maintain religious sexual and gender norms.
Tsuria, Ruth (2017). New Media in the Jewish Bedroom: Exploring Religious Jewish Online Discourse Concerning Gender and Sexuality. Doctoral dissertation, Texas A & M University. Available electronically from