Let’s Be Abominable Feminists: Yeti: Campus Stories and Sexism in the Digital College Party Scene

Abstract: Social media and mobile apps are increasingly a part of college culture and are being mobilized in the college party scene. Through the use of digital ethnography, this paper focuses on the app Yeti: Campus Stories to explore the role of social media apps in digital college party culture in perpetuating and potentially challenging sexist spaces on college campuses. We argue that women’s participation in the digital college party scene is guided by a narrow set of gendered and sexualized expectations where women can exercise some agency and control while ultimately being exposed to harassment within a scene organized around the interests of heterosexual masculinity. Images of women posted by men, often without the women’s consent, function as forms of digital sex talk where status for men is linked to toxic expressions of heterosexual masculinity. Themes found on Yeti reveal problems of gender inequality and consent in digital college party culture in need of feminist interventions.

 

It seems like every fall there’s something like Yeti: Campus Stories. In 2014, it was the Yik Yak van parked on campus for the first few weeks of fall term. The year before it was a Facebook Confessions Page. The latest social media app for showcasing college life is as much a part of the start of the school year as buying books or being frustrated by the suddenly long line at Starbucks each morning. Social media apps like Yik Yak, which claim to help users discover and connect with their community, or like Yeti, which asks students to share photos and videos of what’s popular on their campus, act as informal advertisements for college life. Expectations of college life at many universities throughout the United States, influenced by representations in films such as the Neighbors series, Old School and others, revolve around the idea of a social world filled with drinking and parties. Coupled with universities’ support of what Elizabeth Armstrong and Laura Hamilton call large scale fun, the college party scene is both a powerful idea and a lived experience at many universities.[1] In depicting an unfiltered view of college life, social media apps support the college party scene; a scene that has problems with gender, sexism, and consent.

This paper began as a feminist intervention in response to depictions of the party scene on our campus’ Yeti account. In focusing on a mobile app such as Yeti: Campus Stories we are not arguing that social media apps and mobile technologies are inherently dangerous; however, we also don’t want to minimize or erase the ways that digitals tools have been used to perpetuate racism, sexual harassment, and sexual violence.[2] We planned to reply to sexist posts with responses attributed to the figure of the Abominable Feminist, challenging the dominant narrative of the college party scene on our campus. While in the planning stages of our intervention, we realized we needed a better understanding of the gendered dynamics at work in the digital college party scene. In order to do so, we both downloaded Yeti onto our phones and observed the University of Oregon Yeti feed during the fall of 2015 taking detailed field notes from November 5 to December 5.[3] This time period marks the last month of fall term and coincides with the heart of the college football season; a time in which the college party scene is in full effect.

In this article we begin with a brief discussion of the framework through which we analyze the digital party scene then provide information about Yeti as a social media app founded in a sexist startup culture. After contextualizing social media within college party culture, we then turn to two major themes found on Yeti. The first theme focuses on young women’s uses of Yeti to explore the contradictory nature of participating in the digital party scene for women. For women, participation in the digital party scene is guided by expectations of a particular performance of femininity exemplified by the posting of sexualized selfies. Women are able to gain status and popularity and exert some measure of control and agency over images of themselves while adhering to a set of sexualized expectations. The expectations set the parameters through which women are able to gain recognition in the digital college party scene while also subjecting them to regulation and harassment. The second theme focuses on the genre of ‘Smash’ posts in which images of women taken without their consent and knowledge are posted and shared on Yeti. ‘Smash’ is a slang term for have sex defined as ‘the action/process of fucking someone good’ and its use in captioning images of young women reflects a party scene where status for men is linked to heterosexualized discourses of male dominance that convey troubling ideas about privacy and consent.[4] Following our discussion of these two themes, we conclude by discussing avenues for feminist interventions that can challenge and disrupt dominant narratives of college party culture.

Gender, Sexuality, and Digital College Party Culture

The digital college party culture present on Yeti reflects and extends norms at work in the college party scene along with ideas about gender, sexuality, and mobile media. Women’s participation in the college party scene is guided by a set of gendered power dynamics where women can gain status via erotic attention. In this scene, women seen as more desirable and attractive by opposite-sex peers are more likely to be considered popular.[5] Images on Yeti are a form of digital participation in this erotic market in which expectations of women’s participation in the college party scene converge with ideas about women’s use of mobile media. Feminist media scholars have argued that young women’s participation in digital forms of sexualized expression, such as sexting, raise questions of gender inequality and agency. Kath Albury found that young women who share photos on social media face a set of gendered double standards in regards to ideas about sexual expression, empowerment, and bodily standards.[6] Amy Hasinoff contends that discussion around sexting often focuses on images young women create of themselves in ways that discount young women’s agency and choice and obfuscates issues of consent and privacy.[7] In reading images on Yeti, we foreground how women’s participation in the digital college party scene is contradictory as reflective of women’s agency and sexual expression while also revealing serious problems with expectations of femininity, consent, and privacy in college party culture. Similar to Hasinoff’s discussion of sexting, we see this contradiction not as a problem of how women choose to create images of themselves.[8] Rather, this contradiction exposes problems in a college party scene rife with sexism and inequality that recognizes and rewards women’s adherence to beauty standards of whiteness and thinness. We read women’s self-created images on Yeti as what Celine Parreñas Shimizu refers to as a bind of representation in which women can gain status through a narrow set of sexualized representations yet still allows women to express agency and control.[9] As a space emerging out of a college party scene and tech industry dominated by men, the digital college party scene also functions as a site for the expression of heterosexual masculinity.

Men also gain status in the college party scene by being seen as more desirable and attractive by opposite-sex peers, but men face a different set of sexualized expectations in which status is derived from securing sex from high-status women.[10] These differing expectations are reflected on Yeti through what we refer to as digital sex talk. The term digital sex talk draws on what CJ Pascoe calls sex talk, while recognizing the root of apps like Yeti in a startup culture dominated by heterosexual masculinity. Sex talk involves adolescent boys engaging in heterosexist discussions of women’s bodies and their own sexual experiences as a way to claim masculine identities.[11] On Yeti, sex talk takes a visual form where posting photos of women’s bodies, often taken without their awareness or consent, functions to assert masculinity by displaying control over women’s bodies. Such images reveal how college party culture privileges and rewards a particularly toxic heterosexualized expression of masculinity that has consequences for women and is embedded in the startup culture that gave birth to Yeti: Campus Stories.

Sexist Tech Culture and Yeti: Campus Stories

Yeti is the latest in a line of digital tools offering users visions of campus life. Yeti has been called an ‘X-rated Snapchat clone’ and an app for ‘pics of sex, drugs, and partying’.[12] At the time of our research there were Yeti networks affiliated with numerous campuses, including Arizona State University, Penn State, and our own University of Oregon. In December 2015, a Yeti spokesperson claimed there were Yeti networks at around 2,000 campuses in the U.S., several hundred of which were considered to be very active.[13] Yeti can be downloaded for free on both iPhones and Android phones. Once you download Yeti, you can select which campus network or ‘Yeti’ you want to be a part of—there’s also an option to request a new Yeti if you can’t find one for your campus. Once on Yeti, users can view and reply to photos and videos—called Yeets—submitted by other users. Although you can sign up for and view other Yetis as well as globally trending posts, your Yeets are categorized into your own campus community.[14] When on Yeti, a Yeet shows up on your screen for about 10 seconds then the app automatically moves on to the next Yeet. Users have the option to like a Yeet, upvoting it in a ‘Liked Yeets’ tab, or to dislike it, which downvotes it. Highly liked Yeets start ‘trending’ and if liked enough show up in a ‘Global Trending’ feed. If a Yeet is disliked enough it disappears from the feed.

figure-1-yeti-screen-shotIn this simple interface, Yeti combines the best, or worst, of Snapchat and Yik Yak. Snapchat is a mobile phone app that allows users to send other users photos and videos that after a selected duration of time disappear. Snapchat, whose CEO, Evan Spiegel, was publicly criticized for emails documenting his participation in a sexist party culture while an undergrad and fraternity member at Stanford, has been used to create college accounts showcasing images of the college party scene.[15] Yik Yak is an app that allows users to communicate anonymously with anyone in a ten mile radius and has been used to promote sexism and racism on college campuses. Yeti combines the anonymity and community of Yik Yak with the visual and fleeting nature of Snapchat. In doing so, Yeti is a showcase for anonymous documentation of drugs, booze, and sex in the college party scene.

Yeti was founded by Temo Chalasani, co-founder of an app called Cinegram, who was joined by the founders of an app called Wigo, designed by co-founders Giuliano Giacaglia and Ben Caplan as a tool to help college students plan parties.[16] Founded in a sexist startup culture and devised with a sexist college party scene in mind, Yeti was designed and promoted in a male dominated environment. Several recent news stories have focused on sexism in startup culture, a culture dominated by men where women are vastly underrepresented and when present often face marginalization and harassment.[17] Scholars have argued that both material aspects of computing and social identities created through programming are made by and for men.[18] As we move through key themes of content found on Yeti we don’t want to let the programmers off the hook nor do we want to discount the ways that a tech culture rife with sexism is not independent from digital expressions of college party culture. While a full discussion of the technological aspects of Yeti are beyond the scope of this paper, the link between a sexist startup culture, the college party scene, and representations on Yeti is important to keep in mind. Though we focus on representations on Yeti, such representations are made possible not only through the decisions of users, but also by decisions made by programmers and supported by investors. Yeti was designed in a male-dominated environment by founders invested in perpetuating a vision of the college party scene filled with parties, booze, and debauchery.

Documenting the Shit Show: Sex, Drugs, and Booze

On Yeti, images and videos documenting and celebrating the college party scene, such as individuals passed out from drinking too much and videos of young people playing drinking games, were a consistent presence. In a study of collegiate drinking subculture, Thomas Vander Ven refers to binge drinking as a powerful social process labelled ‘the shit show’.[19] With origins in the mid 1970s, the term ‘shit show’ refers to events and situations marked by chaos.[20] In relation to everyday usage in the college party scene, the term ‘shit show’ refers to the convergence of heavy drinking and out-of-control parties. On any given day, Yeets showed young people drinking, asking about and advertising potential parties, and generally celebrating the college party scene. Alcohol wasn’t the only indication of the college party scene on Yeti. Marijuana was highly present in Yeets as were other drugs, most often Adderall and cocaine. A number of Yeets included users selling and soliciting drugs from other users. The idea that college students are using drugs, drinking, and partying is nothing new and is deeply embedded in popular culture narratives in films like Animal House, which was filmed on University of Oregon’s campus, released in 1978, and is still mentioned on campus tours.[21] However, the important role social and digital media play in celebrating the pleasure of the college party scene is a relatively recent phenomenon.

Scholars have found social media to be important tools used by college students to document the drinking scene as well as to communicate popularity and to organize social life.[22] Vander Ven found that students often documented the college drinking scene on social media, most notably on Facebook. Students saw documenting the shit show as a fun way to revisit parties they may or may not clearly remember.[23] In documenting the shit show, social media apps add a level of celebration and performance to the college party scene. As noted by Karen Pitcher, emphasis of party environments in the video series Girls Gone Wild construct a vision of an environment of ‘drunken antics and general debauchery’ as a rite of passage for college aged youth.[24] Social media apps designed with the purpose of documenting and facilitating the college party scene add an additional layer to the ‘shit show’. In an era of social media, the ‘shit show’ becomes a mediated process where drinking, partying, and going wild is documented and disseminated as evidence of fulfilling expectations of the social experience of college life. Expectations of the college party scene not only reflect ideas about partying as a rite of passage for college students, but also reflect ideas about who is seen as able to participate in the party scene.

The ability to participate in the experience of college party culture is limited to individuals that fulfill a particular set of gendered, sexualized, raced, and classed expectations. College drinking culture is primarily composed of wealthy students and participation in the party scene requires that one must typically be heterosexual, white, middle-class, and adhere to gendered expectations of attractiveness.[25] During our time on Yeti we saw a digital version of a social world dominated by these expectations. Posts overwhelmingly featured white students, with very few posts featuring people of color and a few posts explicitly addressing the absence of people of color. There were also posts celebrating wealth, featuring images of stacks of money, often with references to buying and selling drugs. Along with representations dominated by whiteness and displays of wealth, posts on Yeti reveal the ways gender and sexuality are regulated in the digital college party scene.

Women, Selfies, and the LadyLair

Yeti is a space visually dominated by images of young women. Throughout our time on Yeti, we saw a variety of images of young women, including photos of women modeling outfits, posing with friends, and participating in the college party scene. Some of the most pervasive and most-liked Yeets were selfies of young women. A selfie is a photo one takes of oneself, often with a smartphone and shared via social media.[26] Selfies of young women on Yeti generally fell into three different types: selfies of individual women, selfies of groups of women, and selfies of women taken without showing their faces. These different types of selfies all appear to be taken by the women themselves and with the recognition that the photo is being taken. A selfie of a blonde, white woman in tight black pants and a white University of Oregon long-sleeved shirt taken in a mirror was captioned with the words, ‘Gym timeemoji-1-flexing-arm‘  and received more than 750 likes. A Yeet featuring an image of two blonde, white women wearing tank tops, smiling facing the camera received over 800 likes. Another Yeet featuring a selfie of two women taken in a mirror received over 950 likes. Such photos represent what Albury calls public selfies, photos understood as expressions of self and meant to communicate a sexualized form of self-expression. [27] Such selfies allow women to exercise agency, understood as a social relation taking place within the larger context of the college party scene.[28] Selfies allow women the ability to pose, then frame and edit images, depicting themselves as they see fit. Some women choose to post sexualized selfies showing their faces, such as those mentioned above, while other selfies obscured or omitted women’s faces. A selfie, taken in a mirror of a young woman in ripped jeans, white shoes, and a tight striped shirt exposing her midriff was liked over 1100 times. The image is captioned ‘ootd’, which refers to “outfit-of-the-day,” and is cropped to not show the woman’s face. Another Yeet was liked over 700 times and features a mirror selfie of two white women in lingerie, their faces not fully visible as their backs are to the camera with the caption ‘booty’. A Yeet liked more than 1000 times focused on a white, blonde woman’s chest, with visible cleavage and her face partially obscured by her hand. In these selfies, women have the ability to control how they are depicted while also choosing to post photos anonymously. While these selfies differ from those discussed earlier in choosing not to show the woman’s faces, all the women in these images adhere to a performance of sexualized femininity that is rewarded in the digital college party scene.

All of the women in the above Yeets adhere to traditional beauty standards of whiteness and thinness that are valued in the college party scene while framing themselves through certain sexualized representations, including tight clothing, displays of cleavage, and a focus on their bodies with an emphasis on breasts and buttocks. For women in the digital college party scene, such sexualized representations come with gains. Yeets featuring such images grant the women featured in them status and popularity. Popularity and status on Yeti comes in the form of likes and reflect a digital expression of participating in the erotic market of the college party scene. Women can choose to post any photos they want, but the erotic market and the digital party scene recognizes and reward images of women adhering to standards of whiteness and thinness and sexualized representations. The gains of participating in the digital party scene are exemplified by a group of young, blonde women known on Yeti as the LadyLair.[29] The women of the LadyLair were well known on Yeti and were often featured in various Yeets posted by themselves and referred to by other users. A Yeet featuring a selfie of two young women captioned with the words ‘Much love from ladylair emoji-2-heart‘ received more than 800 likes and was typical of Yeets featuring the women of the LadyLair. Dominated by images such as sexualized selfies and selfies of themselves participating in the party scene, Yeets featuring the women of the LadyLair were among the most popular on Yeti. In posting selfies, the women of the LadyLair were able to control how they represented themselves, exercising agency over how their photos were framed, edited, and posted on Yeti. In doing so, by adhering to a narrow expectation of femininity in the digital college party scene, the women of the LadyLair gained popularity and status, a benefit of participating in the digital college party scene. However, in posting images that garnered them recognition and status, the women of the Lady Lair were also subject to costs.

While the young women of the LadyLair were featured in highly liked Yeets, their Yeets were often met with criticism and insults, often in the form of what Armstrong, Hamilton, and Seeley refer to as the slut discourse. The slut discourse operates through labeling women with terms such as slut and ho when they violate sexual standards used to enforce boundaries of status among women.[30] A Yeet featuring a photo of a laptop keyword with a University of Oregon sticker on it was captioned ‘Ladylair girls r strippers LOL’ and received over 600 likes. This Yeet shows how the women of the LadyLair, as highly visible and popular women in the digital college party scene, were subject to the slut discourse and marked with negative sexual labels. A response from one of the women of the LadyLair further demonstrates the contradiction at the root of women’s participation in the digital college party scene. The Yeet features a selfie of a blond woman, her chin resting on her hand with the caption, ‘I mean we dressed up as strippers for Halloween so, I guess so?’. Photos of the LadyLair women in the mentioned Halloween costumes were popular on Yeti, showing how sexualized selfies and participation in the party scene for women adhering to standards of whiteness, thinness, and heterosexuality is rewarded. However, the negative Yeet discussed above and corresponding response to it show how the pathway to popularity also subjects women to the slut discourse. The women of the LadyLair were able to garner gains of status and popularity by posting sexualized selfies, images over which they have initial control. These same images were responded to with harassment and Yeets subjecting the women of the LadyLair to the slut discourse and the costs of participating in the digital college party scene. The very modes of recognition and reward in the digital college party scene subject women to costs.

Selfies of young women on Yeti were met with responding Yeets saying things like, ‘Nice fake eyelashes’ or ‘You have a baby bump yet?’. These Yeets demonstrate how women’s images are regulated through expectations of attractiveness and labeled as displays of promiscuity. Other Yeets explicitly labelled young women with captions such as ‘Post booty send nudes expose these hoes!!!’, ‘Yea stop bein a Yeti Hoe an thirsty ass dudes wouldn’t Holla! Plain as that’, ‘You know what’s actually sexy? Self respect’, ‘Put your tits away, you got a baby comin soon whore emoji-3-crying-with-laugther‘, and ‘S/o to the girls on that grind, not flashing ass n’ titties emoji-4-money-bag‘. Yeets calling women who post photos of themselves ‘Yeti Hoes’ or implying women that do so have no self-respect demonstrate the pervasiveness of the slut discourse. The consistency with which women were met with such responses show the costs for women in the digital college party scene.

Participation in the digital college party scene is a process. When posting sexualized selfies, women can control the image and caption, and choose when and what to post on Yeti. Once the Yeets are posted, an environment of harassment and slut shaming makes it difficult for women to participate without being subject to negative responses. This is not to negate the benefits of gaining status and popularity in the digital college party scene or to imply that women in college party culture are victims of false consciousness. Rather, it points to the digital college party scene as a technological and cultural site organized around the interests of heterosexual masculinity. Turning now to the role of men and masculinity in the digital college party scene, we discuss images of women taken, posted, and circulated without their consent.

Smash Photos, Men, and Sex Talk

Images of young women and their bodies dominate the visual culture of Yeti. Gendered dynamics at work in the college party scene create an environment where sexualized images of women are included alongside images of drinking and parties as indications of the debauchery and large-scale fun celebrated on Yeti. The expectation that digital expressions of the college party scene should include sexualized images of women results in a proliferation of posts on Yeti featuring images taken both with and without women’s consent. Yeets in the ‘smash’ genre, which is a slang term for having sex that carries with it connotations of violence and force based on its definition outside of sexualized contexts, exemplify how photos of women taken without their consent are distributed and circulated on Yeti. We read these photos as signifiers of men’s sex talk. As mentioned, sex talk involves talk of girls’ bodies as a way men display the ability to control women’s bodies and assert their own heterosexuality.[31] On Yeti, sex talk takes a visual form, expressed through Yeets that show college party culture as a space where images of women are used to bolster a particular form of heterosexual masculinity as the norm in the college party scene.

Two types of photos are included in the smash genre: pre-smash and post-smash. A number of Yeets featured images of women and were tagged with captions functioning to label the women ‘pre-smash’. A Yeet captioned with phrase ‘Bout to smash FTY’ featured a photo of a white, blonde woman standing in black pants and a striped tank top taken from behind. Another Yeet captioned ‘Time to smash!! FTY!!’ shows a blonde woman in black underwear and bra as she is crouched in front of a mirror. A Yeet with the caption ‘Pre-smash’ shows a white woman wearing leopard print pants and a dark shirt as she is bent over at the waist. The photos in each of these Yeets are taken from behind and none of the women’s faces are visible. The ways women are framed in these photos indicates these images are likely to have been taken without their awareness or consent. These photos are taken and posted as evidence that these men are about to have sex with the women pictured and then distributed ‘FTY’ (‘for the Yeti’). The Yeets show a digital college party scene where men have control over women’s bodies; where men can take photos of women without their consent and post them online without consequence. All of the images were taken from behind the women, indicating that the photo could have been taken without their knowledge or consent. Adding to the initial violation of consent, the photos were posted and captioned in a way that frames this as contributing to men’s sex talk. Images of women in these photos, and others like them, are on display are indicators both of the celebrated debauchery of college party culture and of men’s heterosexuality. Images of women’s bodies are labelled as about to be smashed, placing women’s bodies at the center of men’s expressions of heterosexuality. Along with talk of women’s bodies in digital sex talk, we see photos of women’s bodies, photos often taken in violation of women’s privacy and consent.

Throughout our time spent on Yeti, ‘Post Smash’ photos were a consistent and popular theme. A Yeet with the caption ‘Post 3x smash sesh’ featured a photo of a white woman’s back and upper buttocks, as she lays in bed on her side. The photo is taken from behind and the woman’s face is not visible. Another Yeet, captioned ‘Post Smash’ shows a white woman’s buttocks and back, partially covered by a sheet, as she lies in a bed. Her face is not visible and the photo is taken from behind her. The majority of ‘Post Smash’ photos follow this template: a photo of a naked or mostly naked woman, taken from behind her, as she appears to be asleep. Another Yeet captioned ‘Post smash’ shows a blonde, white woman laying on a bed, her back, buttocks, and legs visible. Her face is not shown and the photo is taken from above her and she lays face down in her underwear. During the time we spent on Yeti, the majority of ‘Post Smash’ Yeets we saw were taken from behind women as they appeared to be unaware their photos were being taken.

While we have no way of knowing the gender of who posted such photos, references to ‘where my penis goes’ and ‘when the dick so good last night’ indicate these photos are being taken and posted by men. The practice of taking a naked woman’s photo while she is asleep was met with popularity and celebration on Yeti, reinforcing the notion that sexualized images of women’s bodies are rewarded in the digital college party scene. Such Yeets, featuring photos of naked women, received numerous likes and reinforce the digital college party scene as an environment structured around heterosexualized masculinity. Used as a tool in expressions of men’s sex talk, ‘Smash’ Yeets not only display women in ways that violate their privacy and consent but also reinforce the idea that college party culture is a space where men are in control of women’s bodies. The unequal gendered dynamic at work in college party culture, in which men gain status by securing sex from women, coupled with digital sex talk as an assertion of heterosexuality culminates on Yeti; a digital space where men can post photos of naked women anonymously, without consequence or consent.

‘Smash’ Yeets often received numerous likes, with several receiving over 500 likes, and were met with responses encouraging similar posts. A Yeet captioned ‘Postsmash’ featuring an image of a sleeping white, blonde woman was liked 618 times. A ‘Post Smash’ photo of a woman sleeping on a couch was met with a response captioned ‘Lmfao #SQUAD’ (Lmfao means ‘laughing my fucking ass off’). The popularity of such Yeets demonstrates how college party culture rewards sexualized images of women, that when taken by men without women’s consent functions to celebrate a form of masculinity in which taking photos of women from behind them, without their knowledge, and posting them online is acceptable. Other Yeets reinforced this idea, including a Yeet featuring a video of a woman walking on the sidewalk focused on her buttocks, and a photo of a woman focused on her buttocks, as she is standing at the front of a classroom, writing on a whiteboard. The prevalence of such Yeets, as well as the variety of contexts in which women’s photos were taken without their awareness, points to an unequal gendered dynamic of college culture where taking part in the quintessential college experience for men means participating in a form of masculinity where activities strikingly similar to cat-calling, stalking, and voyeurism are encouraged and celebrated.

Situated at the intersection of unequal gendered expectations of the college party scene and digital spaces of Yeti where non-consensual images of women are circulated as part of men’s sex talk, the world of Yeti is a space where women can’t win. Although issues of consent have recently come to fore as colleges and universities are grappling with an ongoing epidemic of sexual assault and rape, Yeti shows us there is still much work to do. Women whose bodies are put on display in ‘Smash’ Yeets may have consented to sex but that doesn’t mean they consented to their photos being taken and distributed online. The consistency with which women’s bodies were present on Yeti and framed as about to be, of just having been, ‘smashed’ reveals the prevalence of rape culture, in which women and their bodies are seen as available for assertions of heterosexual masculinity without discussions of consent.

Challenging Sexist Spaces in Digital College Party Culture

Our time spent on Yeti reveals a troubling picture of the digital college party scene. The digital college party scene is not only exclusionary, with recognition granted to individuals adhering to ideals of whiteness, wealth, and a rigid gender binary, but also contributes to and exacerbates unequal gendered dynamics in college party culture. Women’s participation in the digital college party scene is guided by expectations of performing femininity entailing sexualized representations that come with both benefits and costs. While women exercise agency in crafting images they post of themselves, such participation exposes women to a social environment in which slut shaming and harassment are normalized and even celebrated. Women are faced with a bind of representation; the modes through which they are able to gain popularity and participate in the digital erotic market are they very modes that subject women to harassment and the slut discourse. ‘Smash’ Yeets and other Yeets featuring non-consensual images of women reveal the pervasiveness of heterosexual masculinity as a guiding force in digital college party culture. Men’s practices of digital sex talk, in which images of women’s bodies are put on display as evidence of men’s ability to control women privilege a predatory form of heterosexual masculinity that is celebrated in the digital college party scene. As feminists invested in combatting the sexist party culture on our campus, observing Yeti was a difficult task. We repeatedly thought about different modes of intervention, including enforcing the terms of use on Yeti and shutting down our campus Yeti feed.

The terms of use clearly provide guidelines including prohibiting ‘nude, partially nude, or sexually suggestive photos’ and telling users they ‘must not abuse, harass, threaten, impersonate or intimidate’ other users.[32] The terms also indicate that Yeti users agree to not post content violating the ‘privacy rights’ of any person.[33] The popularity and ubiquity of partially nude and nude images of women featured in ‘Smash’ Yeets demonstrate that these terms of use were not enforced during our time on Yeti. Yeti’s roots in a sexist and male-dominated startup culture, as well as its design for use in a sexist party culture, indicate that these terms of use, particularly when it comes to images of partially-nude or nude women, won’t be enforced anytime soon. At other times during our time on Yeti, we talked about what it would take to get our campus Yeti feed shutdown. A number of women’s and civil-rights groups have campaigned for the shutdown of anonymous social media apps like Yeti, yet we felt that the shutdown of Yeti wouldn’t accomplish a long term solution to problems in the college party scene.[34] The fast moving nature of social media adoption coupled with patterns in the last few years where the digital college party scene travels quickly from one app to another when faced with apps shutting down, means calling for the shutdown of apps like Yeti is a game of catch-up. By the time a particular app or digital tool becomes known and is targeted to be shutdown, the digital college party scene has moved on to another site, continuing unabated and uninterrupted. So, rather than ask a sexist startup culture to enforce terms of use or shut down an app, we argue that as feminists we need to engage with and occupy such spaces to challenge the status quo.

At times of frustration, each of us attempted to post Yeets countering sexist narratives on Yeti. Our first few attempts didn’t make it to the Yeti feed, whether because administrators didn’t approve them or because users immediately downvoted them. However, one of our Yeets was successfully posted to Yeti. The Yeet featured the caption, ‘Just cause a girl agreed to sleep with you, doesn’t mean she agreed to having a post smash photo on yeti’ and was liked just over 600 times. The number of likes our Yeet received was similar in number to popular ‘Smash’ Yeets and showed us that there were Yeti users and members of our campus community supportive of a different story of college life; a story that challenges sexism, gender inequality, and rape culture. As digital tools continue to be mobilized in perpetuating and shaping harmful narratives of gender and consent at work in the college party scene, we need to be attuned to the ways digital tools can also be used for intervention. Problems with sexism, masculinity, and the college party scene don’t begin or end with an app, but can be countered in digital spaces. So, we ask all of you to join us in the digital college party scene to disrupt sexist narratives and paint a feminist and queer picture of campus life. Let’s all be abominable feminists.

Acknowledgments

We would like to thank the editors of Ada and reviewers from the Fembot Collective for their insights, comments, and suggestions. This paper has benefitted from the hard work, dedication, and guidance of the feminists who make up the Fembot Collective and we are grateful for all the hard work that makes Fembot and Ada possible.

Endnotes

1. Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013).

2. In 2015, Yik Yak was used to make threats against Black students and faculty at the University of Missouri and has been implicated in fostering racism and sexism at a number of college campuses, including the University of Oklahoma, Colgate University, and the University of Texas.

3. We had numerous conversations about the ethics of viewing Yeets that violated the privacy and consent of young women featured in photos. Taking detailed field notes allowed us to engage in research to better understand and challenge sexist spaces on Yeti while not promoting the circulation of images of young women taken without their consent.

4. “Smash.” Urban Dictionary, accessed January 23, 2016, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=smash.

5. Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.

6. Kath Albury, “Selfies, Sexts, and Sneaky Hats: Young People’s Understandings of Gendered Practices of Self-Representation,” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 12.

7. Amy Adele Hasinoff, Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent, 1st Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2015).

8. Ibid.

9. Shimizu, Celine Parreñas, The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene. (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2007).

10. Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Laura Hamilton, and Brian Sweeney, “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape,” Social Problems 53, no. 4 (November 1, 2006): 483–99, doi:10.1525/sp.2006.53.4.483.

11. C. J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (University of California Press, 2007).

12. “College Kids Are Posting Their Drunk, Naked Spring Breaks on This Snapchat Clone,” The Daily Dot, accessed January 10, 2016, http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/yeti-snapchat-clone-college-party-photos/; Brandon Wenerd, “Move Over, Snapchat: College Kids Are Using An App Called ‘Yeti: Campus Stories’ For Pics Of Sex, Drugs, And Partying,” BroBible, March 26, 2015, http://brobible.com/college/article/yeti-campus-stories-new-snapchat-college/.

13. Katie Notopoulos, “The Wild World Of The College Photo Sharing App Yeti.” BuzzFeed. Accessed December 17, 2015. http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/what-could-possibly-go-wrong-with-yeti.

14. In spring 2016, an updated version of Yeti: Campus Stories no longer allowed users to view Yeets from other campuses.

15. Jena McGregor, “Snapchat, Sexism and the Reason Women Don’t Stay in Tech,” The Washington Post, May 30, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2014/05/30/snapchat-sexism-and-the-reason-women-dont-stay-in-tech/.

16. Julie Bort, “After Building a $14 Million Company in 13 Months, College Party App Wigo Is Dead.” Business Insider. Accessed September 7, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/college-party-app-wigo-is-dead-2015-9.

17. Claire Cain Miller, “Technology’s Man Problem,” The New York Times, April 5, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html; “We Know Tech Companies Are Sexist, But This Is Horrifying,” The Huffington Post, accessed December 8, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/silicon-valley-sexist_n_4731151.html; “Sexism In Startups: The Frank Conversation We Need To Be Having,” Forbes, accessed December 8, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/josephsteinberg/2014/09/18/heres-the-conversation-men-need-to-have-about-sexism-as-told-by-a-man/.

18. Dawn Nafus, “‘Patches Don’t Have Gender’: What Is Not Open in Open Source Software,” New Media & Society 14, no. 4 (June 1, 2012): 669–83, doi:10.1177/1461444811422887.

19. Thomas Vander Ven, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard, 7.2.2011 edition (New York ; London: NYU Press, 2011).

20. Mike Vuolo and Iva Cheung. “The Craptastic History of Sh-T Show.” Slate, February 3, 2015.http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2015/02/03/origins_and_use_of_the_phrase_shit_show_from_james_ellroy_to_the_red_army.html.; “Shitshow” Oxford Dictionary, accessed August 30, 2016, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/shitshow.

21. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted.

22. Ibid.; Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.

23. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted.

24. Karen Pitcher, “The Staging of Agency in Girls Gone Wild.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 23, no. 3 (2006): 200–218.

25. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted; Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.

26. “Selfie.” Oxford Dictionary. Accessed January 21, 2016. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/selfie.

27. Kath Albury, “Selfies, Sexts, and Sneaky Hats: Young People’s Understandings of Gendered Practices of Self-Representation,” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 12.

28. Hasinoff, Sexting Panic.

29. The name “LadyLair” is a pseudonym. Any references to particular individuals that include specific references have been changed to protect the privacy of Yeti users.

30. Elizabeth A. Armstrong et al., “‘Good Girls’ Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus,” Social Psychology Quarterly 77, no. 2 (June 1, 2014): 100–122, doi:10.1177/0190272514521220.

31. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag.

32. “YETI – Campus Stories”, accessed January 10, 2016, http://theyetiapp.com/.

33. Ibid.

34. Peter Schmidt, “Women’s Groups Urge Colleges and Government to Rein In Yik Yak,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, (October 21, 2015), http://chronicle.com/article/Women-s-Groups-Urge-Colleges/233864.

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http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2015/02/03/origins_and_use_of_the_phrase_shit_show_from_james_ellroy_to_the_red_army.html

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—CITATION—
Favara, J. & Kawamura, C. (2016). Let’s Be Abominable Feminists: Yeti: Campus Stories and Sexism in the Digital College Party Scene. Ada: A Journal of Gender, New Media, and Technology, No. 10. doi:10.7264/N3SF2TGJ

This article has been openly peer reviewed at Ada Review.

Creative Commons License
This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-NoDerivatives 4.0 International License.

Footnotes    ( returns to text)

  1. Elizabeth A. Armstrong and Laura T. Hamilton, Paying for the Party: How College Maintains Inequality (Cambridge, Massachusetts: Harvard University Press, 2013).
  2. In 2015, Yik Yak was used to make threats against Black students and faculty at the University of Missouri and has been implicated in fostering racism and sexism at a number of college campuses, including the University of Oklahoma, Colgate University, and the University of Texas.
  3. We had numerous conversations about the ethics of viewing Yeets that violated the privacy and consent of young women featured in photos. Taking detailed field notes allowed us to engage in research to better understand and challenge sexist spaces on Yeti while not promoting the circulation of images of young women taken without their consent.
  4. “Smash.” Urban Dictionary, accessed January 23, 2016, http://www.urbandictionary.com/define.php?term=smash.
  5. Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.
  6. Kath Albury, “Selfies, Sexts, and Sneaky Hats: Young People’s Understandings of Gendered Practices of Self-Representation,” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 12.
  7. Amy Adele Hasinoff, Sexting Panic: Rethinking Criminalization, Privacy, and Consent, 1st Edition (University of Illinois Press, 2015).
  8. Ibid.
  9. Shimizu, Celine Parreñas, The Hypersexuality of Race: Performing Asian/American Women on Screen and Scene. (Durham: Duke University Press Books, 2007).
  10. Elizabeth A. Armstrong, Laura Hamilton, and Brian Sweeney, “Sexual Assault on Campus: A Multilevel, Integrative Approach to Party Rape,” Social Problems 53, no. 4 (November 1, 2006): 483–99, doi:10.1525/sp.2006.53.4.483.
  11. C. J. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag: Masculinity and Sexuality in High School (University of California Press, 2007).
  12. “College Kids Are Posting Their Drunk, Naked Spring Breaks on This Snapchat Clone,” The Daily Dot, accessed January 10, 2016, http://www.dailydot.com/lifestyle/yeti-snapchat-clone-college-party-photos/; Brandon Wenerd, “Move Over, Snapchat: College Kids Are Using An App Called ‘Yeti: Campus Stories’ For Pics Of Sex, Drugs, And Partying,” BroBible, March 26, 2015, http://brobible.com/college/article/yeti-campus-stories-new-snapchat-college/.
  13. Katie Notopoulos, “The Wild World Of The College Photo Sharing App Yeti.” BuzzFeed. Accessed December 17, 2015. http://www.buzzfeed.com/katienotopoulos/what-could-possibly-go-wrong-with-yeti.
  14. In spring 2016, an updated version of Yeti: Campus Stories no longer allowed users to view Yeets from other campuses.
  15. Jena McGregor, “Snapchat, Sexism and the Reason Women Don’t Stay in Tech,” The Washington Post, May 30, 2014, https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/on-leadership/wp/2014/05/30/snapchat-sexism-and-the-reason-women-dont-stay-in-tech/.
  16. Julie Bort, “After Building a $14 Million Company in 13 Months, College Party App Wigo Is Dead.” Business Insider. Accessed September 7, 2016. http://www.businessinsider.com/college-party-app-wigo-is-dead-2015-9.
  17. Claire Cain Miller, “Technology’s Man Problem,” The New York Times, April 5, 2014, http://www.nytimes.com/2014/04/06/technology/technologys-man-problem.html; “We Know Tech Companies Are Sexist, But This Is Horrifying,” The Huffington Post, accessed December 8, 2015, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2014/02/05/silicon-valley-sexist_n_4731151.html; “Sexism In Startups: The Frank Conversation We Need To Be Having,” Forbes, accessed December 8, 2015, http://www.forbes.com/sites/josephsteinberg/2014/09/18/heres-the-conversation-men-need-to-have-about-sexism-as-told-by-a-man/.
  18. Dawn Nafus, “‘Patches Don’t Have Gender’: What Is Not Open in Open Source Software,” New Media & Society 14, no. 4 (June 1, 2012): 669–83, doi:10.1177/1461444811422887.
  19. Thomas Vander Ven, Getting Wasted: Why College Students Drink Too Much and Party So Hard, 7.2.2011 edition (New York ; London: NYU Press, 2011).
  20. Mike Vuolo and Iva Cheung. “The Craptastic History of Sh-T Show.” Slate, February 3, 2015.http://www.slate.com/blogs/lexicon_valley/2015/02/03/origins_and_use_of_the_phrase_shit_show_from_james_ellroy_to_the_red_army.html.; “Shitshow” Oxford Dictionary, accessed August 30, 2016, http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/shitshow.
  21. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted.
  22. Ibid.; Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.
  23. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted.
  24. Karen Pitcher, “The Staging of Agency in Girls Gone Wild.” Critical Studies in Media Communication 23, no. 3 (2006): 200–218.
  25. Vander Ven, Getting Wasted; Armstrong and Hamilton, Paying for the Party.
  26. “Selfie.” Oxford Dictionary. Accessed January 21, 2016. http://www.oxforddictionaries.com/us/definition/american_english/selfie.
  27. Kath Albury, “Selfies, Sexts, and Sneaky Hats: Young People’s Understandings of Gendered Practices of Self-Representation,” International Journal of Communication 9 (2015): 12.
  28. Hasinoff, Sexting Panic.
  29. The name “LadyLair” is a pseudonym. Any references to particular individuals that include specific references have been changed to protect the privacy of Yeti users.
  30. Elizabeth A. Armstrong et al., “‘Good Girls’ Gender, Social Class, and Slut Discourse on Campus,” Social Psychology Quarterly 77, no. 2 (June 1, 2014): 100–122, doi:10.1177/0190272514521220.
  31. Pascoe, Dude, You’re a Fag.
  32. “YETI – Campus Stories”, accessed January 10, 2016, http://theyetiapp.com/.
  33. Ibid.
  34. Peter Schmidt, “Women’s Groups Urge Colleges and Government to Rein In Yik Yak,” The Chronicle of Higher Education, (October 21, 2015), http://chronicle.com/article/Women-s-Groups-Urge-Colleges/233864.
Jeremiah Favara

Jeremiah Favara is a Graduate Teaching Fellow in the Department of Women’s and Gender Studies and a doctoral candidate in the School of Journalism and Communication at the University of Oregon. His research interests focus on the ways gender, sexuality, race, class, and other identity markers relate to media representations and production. Specifically, his dissertation focuses on military recruitment advertisements to explore the symbolic production of the U.S. armed forces as an institution invested in diversity. Through an analysis of military advertisements that articulate and reflect contested ideals of citizenship emerging through representations of gender, sexuality, race, and class, his dissertation asks how difference has been used in recruiting appeals targeted towards women and people of color. Studying media representations, technologies, and their circulation in intersectional structures of power, his research is committed to exploring the role of media in influencing lived experiences.

Caitlyn Kawamura

Caitlyn Kawamura is a graduate of the University of Oregon, where she majored in Women’s and Gender Studies. Her interests in the field include sexual identity, sexual practices, and gender identity, specifically intersex. Learning about the intersex community has created new understandings for her and exposure to dialogue regarding gender and sexuality. This has given her a new perspective on pop culture and it’s portrayal of women, allowing for the interrogation of media in regards to the expectation of a woman’s appearance, behavior, and self-worth.

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Let’s Be Abominable Feminists: Yeti: Campus Stories and Sexism in the Digital College Party Scene