Masters Thesis

Social movement master frames and internet activism: comparing reformative and transformative gender and sexuality movements

Social movements emerge to create change, yet even within movements there exists tension surrounding any single vision of social change. Movement participants often choose between two fundamentally different approaches: fighting for change by reforming existing institutions or transforming institutions and society to affect change. While not always explicitly stated, this question of reforming versus transforming frames the vision, goals, objectives and tactics of social movements worldwide. This choice of approach is particularly salient in the gender and sexuality movements. The differences between reformative and transformative framing of these movements are clear, as victories range from achieving same-sex marriage rights through successful litigation to culturally challenging binary conceptualizations of gender and sexuality. Throughout history technology has affected social movement tactics. The Internet has enabled activists to participate in social movements in unprecedented ways. This study explores the relationship between a gender and sexuality movement organization’s master frames and the types of online activism they deploy. In this study I examined gender and sexuality movement websites. Using content analysis, I coded sites on their use of transformative or reformative master frames, particularly exploring community identification, injustice framing, scope of issues addressed, and organizational type. I then further analyzed sites identifying e-mobilizations (brochureware and online facilitation of offline actions) and e-tactics, or online protest actions. I found that both transformative and reformative movements use e-mobilizations very frequently, while reformative movements were more likely to use online protest actions such as petitions, boycotts, and email or letter writing campaigns.