Family honor, cultural norms and social networking: Strategic choices in the visual self-presentation of young Indian Muslim women


This study explores how young Indian Muslim women negotiate multiple influences while posting their own photographs on social networking sites. In depth interviews showed that these women made a strategic effort not to disrupt the social reputation of their families with the nature of their online visual presentations. While their photographs presented an opportunity for individual expression, they also became a site for simultaneous adherence to family expectations, religious norms and patriarchal constructions of femininity dominant in offline settings. Except three respondents who considered themselves outliers in their community, all emphasized the need to upload “nice” pictures on social networking sites that do not give off any signs of sexual assertiveness. Most respondents seemed to carry the responsibility of upholding the “honor” of their families, a requirement in their offline life, to digital settings as well. However, the respondents also managed to exercise a degree of personal choice and individual agency within the dominant framework aided by the privacy settings offered by social networking sites.

Indian Muslim women; online social networking; self-presentation; family honor; cultural norms
Author biographies

Smeeta Mishra

Author photo Smeeta Mishra (Ph.D., University of Texas at Austin) is an associate professor in the Business Communication Area at the Institute of Management Technology - Ghaziabad, India. She has previously worked as assistant professor at Bowling Green State University, Ohio and Indian Institute of Management - Ahmedabad. Her research interests include new media studies, business communication and gender issues. Her work has been published in several international, peer-reviewed journals and she is currently finalizing a co-authored book titled Online Business Communication.

Surhita Basu

Author photo Surhita Basu is a doctoral candidate at AJK Mass Communication Research Centre, Jamia Millia Islamia, New Delhi, India. She won a gold medal for her achievements in the Master’s program in Mass Communication and Videography at Rabindra Bharati University, Kolkata, India. She has been teaching online journalism and related subjects for the last six years. Her research interests include new media, online journalism, international communication, virtual identity, politics of knowledge and international relations.

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