The Repository @ St. Cloud State

Open Access Knowledge and Scholarship

Date of Award


Culminating Project Type


Degree Name

English: English Studies: M.A.




College of Liberal Arts

First Advisor

Glenn Davis

Second Advisor

Judith Dorn

Third Advisor

Beth Berila

Creative Commons License

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 4.0 License.

Keywords and Subject Headings

butch identity, LGBT literature, consumer capitalism, style, online blogs, queer culture


When we think about how our identities are constructed and expressed, how often do we consider the importance of physical and material signifiers? For many butch-identified lesbians, physical and material signifiers play a strong role in expressing identity, requiring the consumption of commodities in order to be read as “butch.” But what happens when these resistant commodities become marketable? Perhaps the physical signifiers of butch identity are initially donned as resistance, but the line between being a resistor and being a passive subject becomes blurred when resistance or transgressive behavior requires participation in broader capitalist culture. When butch identity is predominantly caught up in expressions of style—through attention paid to desired attire and clothing—butch identity may become an identity simply of style, stripped of the historically significant elements of gender resistance and social activism.

Building on Barry Brummett’s foundational work A Rhetoric of Style and Dick Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style, this thesis will explore how butch identity and style are connected to capitalism and consumerism. While butch subjects participate in capitalist consumer culture within print and web media, it is primarily in print media where we see the complex relationships between style, identity, and consumer capitalism. Narratives of butch identity on the web, by contrast, are comparatively limited in their critical analysis, a finding that is surprising given the typical assumption that online spaces are more democratic or open for individual expression. An analysis of these media therefore addresses the tension between resisting and participating in dominant culture. By considering opportunities for disidentification in both contemporary lesbian print culture and butch online spaces, it becomes apparent that there are radical opportunities to queer the butch subculture’s relationship with consumerism and capitalism.