Dr Kaitlyn Regehr is a scholar of digital and modern culture, whose research interests are centered around gender politics and relationship cultures in the age of Web 2.0. She is committed to making academic ideas accessible through broadcasting and interactive new technology and has created documentary content for the BBC - and has served as a topic specialist for the BBC3 and the Guardian. Her current projects include a commissioned documentary for BBC3 on online misogyny and “INCEL” (Involuntary Celibates); and a commission from the Mayor of London with Professor Jessica Ringrose (UCL), which used digital storytelling and a survey of 2000 Londoners to map women’s experiences of public advertising.
Regehr’s upcoming project examines contemporary sex and relationship education and considers the complex web of image exchange, pornography (often cited as young people’s main sexual educators), consent and safe digital practices for youth in the techno-facilitated era. Her book The League of Exotic Dancers: Legends from American Burlesque (Oxford University Press, 2017) is on one of America’s first sex workers’ unions.
My research sits at a convergence of media, culture and gender studies. A key aspect of my recent work has been project was commissioned by the Mayor of London (MOL) alongside Professor Jessica Ringrose (UCL). Taking socially engaged research methodologies as our starting point, the research design involved collecting documentary-style interviews with diverse women as they traveled from different boroughs throughout London; focus groups in two London schools and further with craft back art project; and a quantitative survey of 2000 men and women across London. The report (Ringrose and Regehr, 2018) resulting from these research findings has influenced policy changes with respect to gender-based advertising in London's public spaces. Most significantly, it was used by the National Advertising Standards Authority in their December 2018 “Advertising Guidance” on depicting gender stereotypes. The winning campaigns were visible for 12 weeks in the TFL estate: the largest advertising estate in the world, used by the 5 million passengers every day.
Further, I’m interested in the manner in which the repetitive nature and technological affordances of the digital space feeds assemblages of toxic masculinity and anti-feminist discourses. Based on my research, BBC3 commissioned the documentary, “Inside the Secret World of Incels”. I continue to examine this digital gender trend in connection with others, such as supplemented income through online compensated dating or ‘sugaring’. I also appeared in, and contributed to, the documentary, “Secrets of Sugar Dating” for BBC3, which examines the digital phenomenon of almost 500,000 UK university students have signed up to exchange companionship for the payment of university fees.
Currently I am working on a new project with Jessica Ringrose on digital sex and relationship education. The research draws from interviews and art workshops with over 170 young people (11-22) in diverse contexts – from queer youth communities using Instagram as a safe space; hijab wearing girls navigating snapchat sexting exposure in an inner-city school; and cyber-savvy PM hopefuls dispensing e-safety tips in some of the country’s most elite boarding schools. The content includes interviews about the digital lives of contemporary youth and children’s craft -back art projects. The project was the subject of an episode of the critically acclaimed The Guardian podcast series, Today in Focus.
I teach on the following modules and welcome students from across all disciplines:
Social Media and Participatory Culture
The digital sphere has given voice and meeting spaces to communities and activist groups, enabling social action, art and change. It has also been used by reactionaries, nationalists and the far-right groups to amplify hate filled messages. Analysing platforms that may include Facebook, Twitter, Uber and Wikipedia, the module engages with concepts such as participatory and collaborative culture, sharing economies, democracy and surveillance.
Students will engage in sourcing, analysing and critiquing social media content by way of a Digital Portfolio. This work will be contextualised by an essay that situates students' multimedia exercises within key debates in online culture. To facilitate this, lectures and seminars will explore various case studies - from mainstream politicians’ use of social media in campaigning, to the intensification of hate speech in the cyber sphere, to the ethics of using unpaid journalists and the economy of sharing - in order to encourage students to engage critically with the relationship between politics, economics, personal expression and art making practices in the digital age.
Media and Meaning
This module introduces students to the ways in which various media create and communicate meaning. The primary focus will be upon a range of key forms across the historical continuum of media practice. These trends will span both traditional and new forms of media content, such as print, radio, television, the Internet and user generated content. Media are therefore studied in this module as processes of transmission that shape and constrain narrative forms, aesthetic shapes, and communication uses, producers and users.
Ringrose, J., Whitehead, S. and Regehr, K. (2020). Play Doh Vulvas and Felt Tip Dick Pics: Disrupting Phallocentric Matter(s) in Sex Education. Reconceptualizing Educational Research Methodology [Online] 10:259-291. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.7577/rerm.3679.
In this paper, we explore our experiences working as team comprised of researchers, teacher, and founder and director of a sex education non-profit organisation, who have formed an intra-activist research and pedagogical assemblage to experiment with relationship and sexuality education (RSE) practices in England’s secondary schools. We draw upon phEmaterialism theory and socially engaged, participatory arts-based research methodologies and pedagogies to explore two examples of arts-based activities that have been developed to de-center humanist, male-dominated, phallocentric, penile-oriented RSE. We also demonstrate how these practices enable educators, researchers, practitioners and students to revalue and rematter feminine genitalia, and resist and refigure unsettling experiences of receiving unsolicited digital dick pics.
Regehr, K. (2019). Toronto: From bland to global brand. Times Higher Education [Online]. Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/times-higher-educations-academic-holiday-guide-2019.
Regehr, K., Regehr, C. and Glancy, G. (2019). Murder at the Dinner Table: Family Narratives of Forensic Professionals. Journal of Loss and Trauma [Online] 24:31-49. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/15325024.2018.1507108.
Stemming from work on emergency professionals directly affected by trauma exposure, attention has turned to the impact of work-related trauma on their families, including media and public scrutiny, trauma contagion, marital discord, and overprotective parenting. More recently, colleagues in forensic mental health are speaking anecdotally not only about the personal impact of exposure to violence, but also the impact on their families. This study uses a narrative approach to elicit stories from adult children of forensic psychiatrists to explore the extent of exposure to disturbing material, the impact of exposure, and mechanisms employed by parents to mitigate risk and exposure.
Regehr, K. (2017). To glorify burlesque is kind of silly. Times Higher Education [Online]. Available at: https://www.timeshighereducation.com/features/glorify-burlesque-kind-silly.
Regehr, K. (2012). Pink Ribbon Pin-Ups: Photographing Femininity after Breast Cancer. Culture Health and Sexuality [Online] 14:753-766. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1080/13691058.2012.690104.
Many treatments for breast cancer are traumatic, invasive and harshly visible. In addition to physical trauma, breast cancer is often associated with a variety of psychosocial issues surrounding romantic relationships, sexuality and feminine identity. Pink Ribbon Pin-Ups was a pin-up girl calendar wherein all the models were women who were living with, or had survived, breast cancer. The project's purpose was to raise funds and awareness for breast cancer research and to create a space where survivors could explore and express their post-cancer sexuality. This study uses an observational approach, paired with semi-structured interviews, to explore the ways that breast cancer survivors perceive their post-cancer body and the subsequent impact on relationships and feminine identity. By examining contemporary discussions regarding breast cancer, body image and the objectification of women, it is concluded that although this photographic approach may be at odds with some modern breast cancer activism, it does appear to meet the expressed needs of a particular group of women living with the disease.
Regehr, K. and Regehr, C. (2012). Let Them Satisfy Their Lust on Thee: Titus Andronicus as a Window into Societal Understanding of PTSD. Traumatology [Online] 18:27-34. Available at: https://doi.org/10.1177/1534765611426791.
Titus Andronicus in which the young Lavinia is raped and then brutally mutilated, is arguably Shakespeare’s most explicit and
complex play involving rape. A range of theatrical, feminist, and performance literature examines the character of Lavinia
and the representation of her assault. Yet, the representation of rape, like rape itself, is socially and historically constructed.
This article reviews societal, legal, and medical views of rape from Shakespeare’s late 16th-century London to the present.
By applying a temporal lens to productions of Titus Andronicus staged in varying time periods, performance can be seen
to explicate historical stages in the understanding of rape victims and their subsequent trauma. Thus, a 400-year-old play
continues to reflect modern reality by depicting a contemporary understanding of rape and trauma, shaped by social mores,
legal structures, and scientific knowledge.
Regehr, K. (2012). The Rise of Recreational Burlesque: Bumping and Grinding Towards Empowerment. Sexuality and Culture [Online] 16:134-157. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/s12119-011-9113-2.
American Burlesque is a historical movement dating back to the late nineteenth century that has had a recent revival in our culture. Searching for community, physical and emotional well-being, and increased self-esteem, women are flocking to recreational burlesque classes, seeking to draw upon the bold confidence of the audacious burlesquers of the past. This study examines the experiences of eight women on a reality television show who sought empowerment and increased self-esteem through sexualized dance. Through participant observation and reviewing video-footage and transcripts of filmed interviews, the study examines the relationship between burlesque dancing and empowerment through the experiences of these individuals. All the participants perceived the burlesque training to be empowering and asserted that the experience enhanced their sense of self-efficacy. When dealing with a performance form in which women have historically displayed their sexualized bodies primarily for the enjoyment of men, the question of objectification arises. This article examines the rise of recreational burlesque and its impact on individual and collective empowerment of women.
Regehr, K. and Matilda, T. (2017). The League of Exotic Dancers: Legends from American Burlesque. [Online]. Oxford: Oxford University Press. Available at: https://global.oup.com/academic/product/the-league-of-exotic-dancers-9780190457563?lang=en&cc=gb#.
Every year in downtown Las Vegas, often called "Old Vegas", The Burlesque Hall of Fame reunion brings together members of the former League of Exotic Dancers, one of the earliest unions for women in exotic entertainment, to perform their half-century-year- old routines. In this annual tradition, performers from the golden age of Las Vegas burlesque rally counter-culture neo-burlesque fans who both keep the tradition alive and add new meaning to it.
Over the past five years, documentarian Kaitlyn Regehr and photographer Matilda Temperley have embedded themselves within this community a group, which like Old Vegas itself, continues to survive and thrive sixty years past its supposed prime. Here, in a smoky, off-strip casino, they found women, at times well into their 80s, subversively bumping and grinding away preconceptions about appropriate behavior for a pensioner.
This collection of interviews and photographs is drawn from the backstage dressing rooms, homes, and lives of this aging burlesque community, as well as the young neo-burlesque community who adore them. Through a range of experiences from discussing struggles for wage equality, to helping stabilize an 85 year old as she steps into a sequined g-string the authors describe the complexity of the lives of these performers and the burlesque history from which they come. Regehr and Temperley present multidimensional portraits of this relatively untold women's history and conclude that they are at their most vital when read with all the nuances, troubles, trials, and triumphs that they formerly and currently experience.
Regehr, K. and Ringrose, J. (2019). Celebrity Victims and Wimpy Snowflakes: Using Personal Narratives to Challenge Digitally Mediated Rape Culture. In: Jacquelin, R. V. and Everbach, T. eds. Mediating Misogyny Gender, Technology, and Harassment. Palgrave Macmillan / Springer, pp. 353-369. Available at: http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/978-3-319-72917-6_18.
In this chapter we explore two events: the first author’s personal experience of going viral for reporting a sexual assault – and subsequently, having been labeled a “celebrity victim” by a mainstream media outlet; and the second author’s experience of having her feminist academic Twitter profile aggressively trolled for speaking out against rape culture. The Internet presents new forms of mediated spaces where women have created platforms to report their experiences of sexual assault and fight back against gender and sexual violence and rape culture (Rentschler, Fem Media Stud, 15(2): 353–356, 2015), whilst simultaneously offering new, and often anonymous, pathways for misogyny and abuse to proliferate and spread (Ging, The Manosphere’s “toxic technocultures”: social media and the new communicative politics of men’s rights [Invited lecture]. Mediated feminisms: activism and resistance to gender and sexual violence in the digital age, UCL Institute of Education, 2016; Jane, Misogyny online: a short (and brutish) history. Sage, Los Angeles, 2017; Phipps et al., J Gender Stud, https://doi.org/10.1080/09589236.2016.1266792, 2017). We examine how prominent anti-feminist discourses that undermine discussions of sexual violence online operate and contextualize this discussion in relation to the exacerbation of hate speech surrounding the Donald Trump presidency. We also demonstrate how feminist activism and resistance to rape culture has grown during the Trump era, exploring the connectivity and collectivity enabled through social media platforms. We then hone in on one example of this feminist resistance through a discussion of the Facebook group, Pantsuit Nation, which uses storytelling and narrative approaches to fight back against the normalizing sexual violence, a theme that permeated the U.S. election.
Regehr, K. (2018). Miss Exotic World: Judging the Neo-Burlesque Movement. In: Dodds, C. ed. Oxford Handbook of Dance and Competition. New York: Oxford Uniiversity Press.
Regehr, K. (2014). Striptease. In: Smith, M. ed. The Cultural Encyclopaedia of the Breast. Lanham, MD: Rowman & Littlefield, pp. 229-231. Available at: https://rowman.com/ISBN/9780759123311/Cultural-Encyclopedia-of-the-Breast.
Research report (external)
Ringrose, J. and Regehr, K. (2017). The Women We See: Experiences of Gender and Diversity in London’s Public Spaces. [Online]. UK: Greater London Authority. Available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/2018_women_we_see.pdf.
Ringrose, J. and Regehr, K. (2020). Difficult Research Effects/ Affective: Exploring idealised feminine embodiment in public space. In: Crowhurst, lsabel and Hawkins, L. eds. Difficult Conversations: A Feminist Dialogue. London: Routledge.
Ringrose, J. and Regehr, K. (2020). Feminist Counterpublics and Public Feminisms: Advancing a Critique of Racialized Sexualization in London’s Public Advertising. SIGNS: Journal of Women in Culture and Society.
Following public outcry over a body-shaming advertisement in the London transport network in 2015, the mayor of London commissioned a multimedia documentary-style study that involved sixteen interviews with women as they commuted throughout London; two “talk-back” art projects with twenty-two schoolgirls; and a survey of 2,012 Londoners. This paper explores our experience of undertaking this project as a mixed-methods, intersectional feminist research process. We discuss the complex relationship between feminist counterpublics and public feminisms and how we negotiated working with a range of stakeholders in our attempt to reshape public debates over gender and advertising. We explore a shift in advertising where women, once positioned as passive props for the male gaze, have been reimagined as postfeminist modes of confident address and forms of “femvertising”, which challenge women to live up to new hybrid forms of racialised, sexualised bodily ideals. Our statistical findings demonstrate an overwhelming public dislike of sexualized advertising, and our in-depth interviewing, focus groups, and collaging methodologies show how diverse women experience new forms of racialized sexualization as problematic rather than as evidence of diversity and inclusion. We argue that by explicitly adopting a feminist intersectional lens, we can foreground the racist and sexist force of ads and their impact on a range of diverse women and girls, documenting the nonconsensual and assaultive nature of public advertising and, therefore, the need for greater accountability from corporate and government stakeholders.