“What Ever Happened To Academic Batgirl?”
Dr. Academic Batgirl
Citation: Academic Batgirl, Dr.. ““What Ever Happened To Academic Batgirl?”.” Hyperrhiz: New Media Cultures, no. 21, 2019. doi:10.20415/hyp/021.let03
Abstract: this blog post, in the form of a Buzzfeed-style news post, is an autoethnographic account (Anderson, 2006) of @AcademicBatgirl’s experience as a female academic using Twitter. While Twitter (and indeed other social media) is sometimes dismissed as a frivolous online time-waster, this social media platform has been shown to demonstrate meaningful benefits, such as building community, contact, and trust (Baym, 1999; Murthy, Hastings, & Mawrie, 2014; Veletsianos & Kimmons, 2012). This online autoethnography-by-meme addresses a positive online presence characterized by support and camaraderie. However, the positive online existence was juxtaposed with a negative offline experience. This offline experience encroached on the online, for when @AcademicBatgirl’s online gender performance (Butler, 1988) did not match an offline male’s expectations, she was covertly silenced and bullied. A counter-narrative (Loza, 2014) of the academic experience in a male-dominated digital space, this post is presented in internet vernacular, yet is plentifully referenced, in keeping with the demands of its academic audience.
Keywords: Twitter, autoethnography, blog, academia, gender, social media.
Sometimes The Joker Wears A Tweed Suit.
Some pretty freaking famous profs use Twitter, and a few awesome academics even get famous online. Twitter is quick, fun, and creative (being witty and interesting in 140 characters is cooler than a lumbersexual beard, come on).
It was 2014 and my online avatar @AcademicBatgirl made her debut. When I first joined Twitter, there were no female academic meme-makers (and to my knowledge, there are no others besides Yours Truly). Bam!
Batgirl was the obvious choice. Librarian/scholar by day, badass crime fightin' ass kicker by night.
@AcademicBatgirl is an academic superhero in two places where gender is a big deal: the Ivory Tower and the jungles of social media. For &^%$ sake, full-time male faculty members still outnumber women by nearly 20 percent, and among other inane gaps, gender biases have been shown to exist in the perception of quality in scientific studies.
So @AcademicBatgirl became a thing. Between April 2014 and May 2015, she gained 5,236 followers, was a member of 38 lists, and sent 417 tweets. These tweets were retweeted a total of 3,582 times, and favourited 3,983 times. She offered support to early career academics, advice to writers, and contributed to fostering a sense of community.
And then she disappeared.
Being a woman and being a professor ain't no easy game. It's a complicated gig, and there's redonkulous things to navigate, such as what female professors should (and should not) wear. Online trolling aside, challenges irl affect both online and academic identity.
Enter The Joker.
Full professor. Razor-sharp mind. Enviable intellect. Remarkable ability to quantify any data by any means possible.
He was perfect. Except when he wasn’t. A few imperfect quotes (consider it academic data):
“I feel bad for your daughters because you have this Twitter account. This @AcademicBatgirl thing is nothing that I would even want my adult [child] to see.”
“This Twitter account is nothing to be proud of.”
“You want me to tell people that you run this @AcademicBatgirl account? That’s embarrassing.”
“No real academic would need Twitter to help with his or her career.”
“People who use social media are less trustworthy.”
“I would be a lot happier if you just quit this whole Twitter thing.”
And so, foolishly, she did. And (almost) all 5,236 of her online aca-Twitter friends disappeared.
The need for academic superheroes is very real. So real, in fact, that I couldn't even satisfy the need in my own offline academic life.
But all was not lost. The aca-Twitter community called me back to my senses and back to Twitter. It took guts to tell this critical male where to go. It was like Indiana Jones's student telling him off instead of batting her eyelashes. And it was so good (cue the music).
Zap, Zowie! Like a phoenix rising from the ashes, @AcademicBatgirl is back! She's supporting academics everywhere to superhero up on campus and get down on #ScholarSunday. Find her in her Twitter BatCave.
- Compilation from stills, American Broadcast Corporation
- Mauricio Hunt, DeviantArt
- DC Comics, Batgirl, Vol 4, Issue 34, “Crash & Burn”
- Warner Bros/Interactive Entertainment
- Still from Batman, 1966, TVLand via American Broadcast Corporation
- DC Comics, Batgirl, Vol 4, Issue 1, “The Darkest Reflection”
PS: @AcademicBatgirl has over 28,000 followers as at October, 2019. Pow!
Anderson, L. (2006). Analytic autoethnography. Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 35(4), 373-395. doi: 10.1177/0891241605280449
Baym, N. K. (1999). Tune in, log on: Soaps, fandom, and online community. New York: Sage.
Butler, J. (1988). Performative acts and gender constitution: An essay in phenomenology and feminist theory. Theatre Journal, 519-531.
Loza, S. (2014). Hashtag feminism, #SolidarityIsForWhiteWomen, and the other #FemFuture. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, 5. Retrieved from >https://adanewmedia.org/2014/07/issue5-loza/
Murthy, D., Hastings, C. M., & Mawrie, S. A. (2014). The use of social media to foster trust, mentorship, and collaboration in scientific organizations. Bulletin of Science, Technology & Society 34(5-6), 170-182. doi: 10.1177/0270467615582196
Veletsianos, G. & Kimmons, R. (2012). Networked participatory scholarship: Emergent techno-cultural pressures toward open and digital scholarship in online networks. Computers & Education, 58(2), 766-774. doi:10.1016/j.compedu.2011.10.001