Discipline and the Duckface

This is a rough plan of one of my thesis chapters – it still needs work doing on it! It looks at how the ‘duckface’ expression has been constructed as something which 1) should be regulated and 2) marks subjects as somehow deviant and devalued.


In this chapter I analyse the discourse surrounding a specific photographic trend that has gained both popularity and notoriety on social media sites: the ‘duckface’. Specifically, I will be exploring the backlash against this trend, in the form of taunts, condemnation, and strongly (even violently) coercive language. I shall be suggesting that this backlash serves to discipline female users of social network sites into acceptable performances of gender, under the guise of ‘common sense’ and lending advice.

The discourse of the duckface reveals the tensions which exist in relation to women’s photographic self-depictions, where ideas of right and wrong serve to discipline subjects and enforce certain notions of acceptable behaviour. Chastisement of errant subjects is naturalised, implying that if only she had performed gender ‘correctly’, striking a ‘normal’ pose, smiling, working on not ‘trying too hard’, then things would have been different. This is perhaps the most uncomfortable aspect of the disdain aimed at the duckface, as the commentary acts to blame the victim for their own abuse. If they had not done the ‘duckface’, their bullies explain, we wouldn’t be doing this.

Features of the ‘duckface’

duckface4The term ‘duckface’ typically relates to the connection between a photograph, and a certain arrangement of body and face, which comprises of a (usually self-) portrait in which the (typically) female subject poses in a manner which emphasises the chest area, pursing her lips, tilting her head and looking up towards the camera.

I include examples here of the condemnation of women for their photographic self-depictions whilst ‘duckfacing’, ranging from the mild to the extreme, which demonstrate the prevalence and nature of some of the disciplinary discourses relating to gender that are applicable in the social network environment. (Note: all images were gathered from sites specifically addressing the ‘duckface’, such as antiduckface.com, rather than from users’ individual profiles.)

* Mutual Performance

The mutual pout aimed at a friend’s face serves to offer explanation for Duckface3some occurrences, denoting affection for the other person, but withholding from engaging in an actual cheek-kiss. This demonstration Duckface1of affection for others depicted within the photograph offers a counterpoint to the assumption that the pout is only performed for the benefit of the (not depicted) viewer. Instead, it is possible to include it alongside hugging and tilting heads together that denote a shared space and intention within a friendship group.

* Significance of Pouting

The mouth is a heavily symbolic part of the body, central to both expressions of sexuality and of agency, through speaking. We watch the mouth as others talk to us, and detect emotion and expression in its contours.

The pout is typically associated with a sassy, self-confident sexuality, and can therefore be viewed as an integral part of a young woman’s repertoire, particularly within post-feminist discourses that encourage the performance of ‘raunch’ through the wearing of revealing clothing, the displaying of bodyparts, and a willingness to engage in an overtly (albeit often faux) sexualised behaviour.

* Striking a Pose

The context is significant in prompting users’ experimentation with, and adoption of, a particular pose, as the coercion to be present and visible on social media requires the user to produce suitable materials that will be found acceptable and attractive by others. Even if done in jest or self-mockery rather than to appear desirable, the pout can be seen as a schema for the production of a posed and therefore to some degree controlled self-depiction. When one does not know what to do in front of the camera, perhaps, one falls back on what others do.

But the notion of posing-as-inauthentic significantly contributes to the scorn levelled at the pout, as it suggests a lack of authenticity and a degree of effort which is regarded as ‘trying too hard’. Of course the ‘natural’ pose, that manages to conceal the artifice behind its construction, is no less contrived than its pouting counterpart. The latter is merely unacceptable because it is too obvious, too outright sexy and unashamed. The pout stands as a symbol for many other numerous unacceptable manifestations of femininity, variously condemned for being unnatural, fake or cheap. ‘Natural’ make-up and effortless chic are valued above heavy make-up and revealing clothing, perpetuating a class-system that enables women to position themselves in relation to each other. Despite the overtly misogynistic undertone to much of the material I found that condemns the pout, a large proportion of those condemning it were women, defining their status and gender performance through distain for those that are seen to be ‘doing it wrong’. Discipline, as manifested in photo comments, picture galleries and websites, is therefore enacted laterally, by women onto other women, as much as by men.

* Widespread

Similarly, the pout is also disdained for its lack of originality, and duckface6for its prevalence. Offenders are grouped together as a problematic mass, without individual features, and chastised for their perceived errors, and for their frustrating refusal to stop in the face of strong condemnation. And it is perhaps this last point that prompts the most ire – that women continue to pout in photographs despite being repeatedly told not to.

* Self-Parody

duckface8The pose can potentially be seen as a means for enacting a parodic self-performance, that the subject expects the photographer and viewer to understand. The following images feature the pout in conjunction with dollar signs, peace symbols and subcultural gestures, all of which duckface9contribute to a sense of self-aware self-mockery. When viewed as part of a context of parody and fun, the duckface is markedly different from the stereotypical idea of the ‘stupid girl doing a duckface’ that is often associated with it. Perhaps therefore it is not the users’ dogged use of an outdated pose that is ‘the problem’, but rather many observers’ inability to detect any nuance between different instances of it.

duckface10But self-mockery and the wish to appear attractive are not necessarily mutually exclusive.  There are traits that exist within a single image that serve to contradict and confuse a straightforward division into one or the other, resistant or normative. As such, the pout has the potential for women to perform a reflexive and light-hearted sexual persona, which both subverts and references a widely-understood emblem of female sexuality.

Discipline and Punishment

The criticism of the ‘duckface’ pose ranges from mild ridicule to more extreme forms of abuse and threat. A comment on the Cosmopolitan website, when discussing ‘Celebrity Duckfaces’, neatly summarises the breadth of opinion. It begins by assuming a shared culpability with the reader: “Making a duckface is like hooking up with a less-than-amazing guy – everyone has done it at some point, accidentally or otherwise”. But the article’s heading takes a more severe tone, declaring “Death to Celebrity Duckfaces”[1].

I shall discuss some examples of this criticism, as a means for exploring the various ways in which the discourses relating to ‘acceptable’ gender performance are enacted, specifically in relation to photography on social media. My analysis will be divided into smaller sections that address aspects of the discourse separately.Untitled8

* Stupidity

The milder forms of condemnation focus on the pose as being ‘stupid’, which is an effective putdown because it marginalizes the target, devalues everything that is associated with them, and means that their protests or responses to the ‘stupid’ label can be ignored.

Smartness and sexual attractiveness are implicitly pitted against each other, an opposition which enables the expression of a strong sexual identity to be undermined through being thought of as ‘what dumb girls do’.

dumb-poses-that-all-girls-doThe images here create a typology of “dumb girl poses” which implies that such posturing (and being ‘dumb’) is an inescapable part of being a girl. Both sets suggest the desire to show “obvious chest”, even if this is hidden beneath a veil of “’don’t’ look at my boobs”. This perception of girls’ presentation of self is particularly troubling, in that it fosters a connection between a girl’s claimed rejection of sexual attention, and her implied, implicit desire for it.

The female stick figures in the next image contrast with their serious, formal male counterparts. Even in such a simple drawing as this, the stereotypical presentations of appearance and behaviour serve to reinforce wider duckface13assumptions about male and female gender performance. Men are serious, women are not; men prioritise the task at hand, women prioritise their appearance. The act of joking about stereotypes also serves to reinforce them, and turn them into a form of ‘common knowledge’.

* Inferiority relative to other women

As I mentioned earlier, much of the criticism for the pout is leveled by women, at women, as a mutual form of discipline. Disdain for the pout serves to enact distinction, separating the deviants who ‘do’, from the wise who ‘don’t’. The next image exemplifies this, praising the woman who doesn’t ‘duck face’ in photos, and using it as testament to a woman’s duckface15self-confidence. This correlation between attractiveness and not doing the pout raises some interesting issues. Firstly, it suggests that women who pout do not ‘know they’re attractive’, but are yet trying to attain attractiveness through doing so – a double-bind in which being attractive is valued, but apparently not the desire to be attractive. Secondly, knowledge of being attractive is positioned as being empowering, therefore placing women who pout into the category of being disempowered. Thirdly, ‘knowing’ she is attractive implies little or no need for effort – marking those who strive for attractiveness, and through striving connote uncertainty relating to whether they are or not, into a lesser group.

The equating of the pout with not ‘knowing one is attractive’, positioning this in itself as being unattractive, and then using this as a basis for criticizing and mocking the subject’s appearance, reveals much relating to the complex discourses, and contradictions, surrounding femininity. A woman must appear confident, it is suggested, but to do so requires the internalization of a number of rules relating to acceptable gender performance. To put on a convincing performance of confidence therefore, as with appearing suitably ‘natural’ and ‘oneself’, requires a degree of negation of the quality supposedly being presented. The pout, in suggesting that either a) the woman lacks confidence or b) the woman is confident but without having subscribed to the rules forbidding the pout, is therefore doubly problematic in relation to ‘acceptable’ norms of femininity. duckface16

The next image features two similar women who are both doing variations on the pout. But the caption accompanying the image on antiduckface.com notes a difference between them: “here we have a textbook example of the high-maintenance-tart-pout vs the duckface. pay attention, people. this is important.”[2] This distinction is interesting, as it demonstrates that the difference between being perceived to be doing something ‘right’ and something ‘wrong’ can be very small, and almost imperceptible to other observers. The highlighting of minute differences that can equal a loss of status fosters a climate of uncertainty, anxiety and self-doubt, in which the subject is expected to view themselves critically to ascertain whether they have transgressed, or performed gender in an ‘acceptable’ manner.

indexThe image, left, again contrasts the woman doing it ‘right’ with those that are doing it ‘wrong’. The caption of “what you think you look like” / “what you actually look like” underscores the women’s ‘failure’ by accusing them of not only being wrong, but also delusional, emphasizing again (as we saw above) how doing this must mean the subject is in some way ‘stupid’.

The caption underneath the two comparative images, “the ugly truth”, underscores the veracity of its own statement, asserting that to perform this pose expecting it to look ‘attractive’ is a misconception. The fact that it is not just the truth, but the ugly truth, we are being presented with, leads us to the next subsection of criticism, relating to perceptions of unattractiveness.

* Unattractiveness

Criticism of the pout most frequently takes the form of implying, or stating outright, that the pose is somehow unattractive. Of course, this relies on the assumption that criteria for attractiveness, and for its opposite, are universally shared and understood. duckface18

The caption “Trying so hard to look good never made anyone look so bad” reinforces the theme mentioned above, where any perceptible effort towards looking attractive appears to negate those very aims of the subject. This  underscores the ‘necessity’ for women to look attractive by ridiculing those that they feel are missing the mark. Such coercion does not take into account any behaviours which might be outside of, in opposition to, the wish to adhere to an attractive norm, such as the apparently self-mocking examples seen above. On the contrary, the critics creating and circulating such images appear to feel they have every right to assess and mock others, according to whether they provide adequate viewing pleasure.

duckface19The next example takes the form of a four-part monologue, in which the subject begins with a cheery salute and winking emoticon, suggesting friendship and parity. The third image, however, sees her perform an exaggerated re-enactment of the ‘duckface’, as if to emphasise its vulgarity. The last frame concludes with a statement, “it’s NOT cute!” and a knowing smile. The hand gesture progresses from greeting, to contemplative, to mocking, and finally to a prescriptive finger raised discipline1as if giving an order. This tracks the transitions observable in other contexts (women’s magazines and the ‘makeover’ format of reality television, for example), where ‘advice’ for women takes place on a continuum from friendly guidance to mockery and censure. This format of the four-part monologue has been used in a related context to criticise other behaviours which are not deemed acceptable for women, through slut-shaming (see image right). The act of describing and forbidding certain behaviours allows the person speaking to attain a level of agency and status by demonstrating knowledge about such activities and then positioning themselves as being distinct from, and ‘better’ than them. Ringrose and Renold suggest that this also serves as a means for expressing jealousy, which is “sublimated into a socially acceptable form of social critique of girls’ sexual expression” (2012).

Untitled1Numerous examples from the blog antiduckface.com feature images combined with a disparaging comment. Many of these focus on the perceived ‘unattractiveness’ of the women, their pose, or both. The first example, left, is captioned “oh yeah. that’s fucking HOT”[3] The sarcastic tone positions the commentator in a position of power, identifying the subject’s supposed aim (to look ‘hot’) whilst undercutting it. This perpetuates the idea of women striving, misguidedly, to attain attractiveness, and feeds into a wider discourse that serves to undercut women’s efforts and goals in general.duckface20

The caption alongside the second image, right, declares that “it’s an alien invasion, we tell you. it’s the only possible explanation for this sort of nonsense. fucking aliens, man. like, from mars or florida or some shit.”[4] The equating of an ‘undesirable’ gender performance with alien life might seem extreme, but it serves to firmly position the subject outside of the boundaries of acceptable behaviour. It also labels the subject as having a spoiled or undesirable identity, where actually being wrong is a consequence of merely doing something wrong. This demonstrates how a perceived transgression, however brief, can impact upon the subject’s socially-constructed identity.

* Spoiled Identity

Untitled2In the next example, we can see that as well as being ‘unattractive’, the pout is supposedly an extreme enough signifier of disturbance of what is ‘normal’ to be an indicator of mental illness. The linking of one minor action with something as severe as mental illness is not just ridiculous, it is also emblematic of the distorted significance given to the ‘transgressive’ actions of women. A minor misdemeanor is overplayed to the point of almost parody, but this still contributes a significant weight to the discourses of feminine behaviour. Not only is the pouting woman positioned as being stupid, unattractive and inferior to her peers, she is also supposedly mentally ill, and therefore subject to the numerous penalties and stigmas that such a negative combination of identities attracts.

This image also asserts that “sometimes, the victims gender become hard to determine” (sic). This emphasizes the ‘problem’ that lies at the heart of the ‘duckface’ trend – namely that it causes distress to the viewer of some kind or another. It might be that the viewer cannot enjoy a picture of an attractive woman, or that they are distracted by the subject not taking the viewer’s gaze and requirements seriously enough – or here, that the viewer might be uncomfortable if gender is not performed in accordance with social norms. The perceived lack of a clear gender identity is a problem for the viewer, not the subject, but it is a problem that is firmly leveled at the subject as being ‘their fault’. As with the other examples in this essay, the subject is positioned as being entirely responsible for making themselves attractive or in other ways acceptable to others.duckface22

The next image, right, again asserts the pouter has a spoiled identity by implying that they could only be attractive to a duck, perpetuating the link between the pout and the non-human. This image also states that “you got the attention you wanted”, suggesting that the pout is both a shameless grab for attention, and a marker of misplaced or even ‘perverted’, bestial desires.

* Framed within Context of Male Desire

A female with a marginalised, devalued identity is identified as someone who continues to do something that has not been sanctioned by her male viewers. The importance of satisfying the male gaze is implied by the coercion to appear ‘attractive’, but is made explicit in duckface23numerous references to the ‘duckface’. The Morpheus meme (where that character from The Matrix dramatically reveals a piece of information relating to popular culture) here states that “duckfaces are extremely unattractive to men”. Not just unattractive, but unattractive to men, presumably a significant deterrent in its creator’s eyes, and by implication, the reader’s. The fact that this is presented as a revelation – “what if I told you” – emphasizes the prevalent point in these examples that women are viewed as lacking self-knowledge, and require the guidance of a benevolent male adviser.Untitled3

The next image places a type of everyman figure in the context of a nightclub where women (and only women) are shown to be posing and gurning for the camera. This behaviour, whilst not directly impacting or reflecting upon him, is nevertheless enough to prompt the statement “I fucking hate clubs”. Perhaps here the problem is precisely that this behaviour, looking at and performing for the camera, is excluding the male viewer, both at the time of capture, as well as afterwards in not producing an image which suits his ‘needs’ (i.e. taste). The group of women depicted in this cartoon are highly visible, and engaging in being so, but in a way that contravenes the normative assumptions governing how a woman should appear in public. The pout, once it is photographed and shared, can be added to the category of misdemeanors that contains public drunkenness and overt displays of sexuality, all of which position transgressive women as being outside of the bounds of acceptability and normality – and therefore ‘fair game’ for abusive comments and exclusion.

duckface25The third image addresses “all girls out there”, and explains to them what is (presumably in their eyes, ‘objectively’) “fucking HOT” and what is “SHIT”. This kind of simplistic binary division acts a coercive device, where if you are not one thing, you are by implication the other. What makes this distinction all the more arbitrary is the fact that the images have much in common with each other. Both are deliberately posed, horizontal self-shots, in which the subject stares out at the viewer and contorts their mouth in a deliberately ‘sexy’ manner. The acceptability of the lip bite relative to the pout is similar to the preference for ‘natural’ beauty, where women enacting one type of behaviour are arbitrarily positioned as being superior to another, in a way that is then presented as being ‘common sense’ or the ‘obvious’ choice.

duckface26The disdain for the pout shown by the male, heterosexual voice is stronger in the next two examples, where it is seen as being an obstacle to the fulfillment of male sexual desire. In the first example, it is ruining “a perfectly good set of boobs”, thereby reducing a woman to just her (now flawed) breasts. The second example dramatically states that “duck lips kills Untitled4erections!” The irritated or horrified tone expressed in these examples not only underscores the function of women to service male desire, but also the warning that trying to be desirable and failing is as unacceptable as not trying at all, if not more so. Being desirable is therefore a dangerous and difficult undertaking – apparently obligatory, but also loaded with responsibilities and the threat of censure. The imperative to accept that male desire is the priority for women’s actions prioritizes men and their needs over women’s, and positions women’s behaviour in relation to numerous minute regulations.

duckface28The next example makes the connection between the ‘duckface’ and male desire by suggesting that the origin of the pout lies in fellatio. There is a strong sense of injustice when it becomes feasible for men to chastise women for their lack of desirability, when at the same time accusing them of emulating the archetypical figure who services male desire, namely the porn actress. The latent misogyny that lies behind much of the derisive comments about the pout becomes more visible here, as well as the double standard relating to female sexuality. Whereas the porn actress serves as an example of the woman who attains and satisfies male desire, she is also a figure to be spurned, rather than emulated, even though the dividing point between ‘sexually attractive’ and ‘slutty’ can be very small indeed.

Alongside galleries of ‘duckface’ photos, several sites I looked at also hosted galleries of women’s self-shot portraits, which were presented as featuring women the viewers would find sexually attractive. The difference between these and the dreaded ‘duckface’ images seemed to be very narrow at times, with a high instance of pouting and posing still occurring. The difference is of degree rather than of type, and the cherished cultural knowledge appears duckface29to relate to knowing when one has reached ‘the limit’ of acceptability. The image, right, is from one such gallery, where this dividing line has been ‘successfully’ negotiated, and the result is duckface30perceived to be ‘hot’. The next image  also serves to show how the pout can still be observed in contexts of approval, such as the gallery “Jaime Laycock: Your New Internet Crush” [5]. The inconsistent manner in which the ‘rules’ are applied fosters a climate of uncertainty, in which a female viewer receives conflicting messages regarding how she ‘must’ behave and appear. Uncertainty, as Foucault (1977) described, is a tool for enacting power, through encouraging self-monitoring and self-regulation.

* Direct Orders

The next category of images sees the viewer’s voice move on from stating that the subject looks ‘unattractive’ or ‘stupid’, to issue a direct order to cease behaving a certain way. The earlier examples implied (albeit heavily) that women should stop pouting; these examples duckface31take that a step further and make the coercion explicit. The first example does this in a fairly humorous way, addressing the subjects as “Dear all women” and using slang to request that they “stop this shit”. The accompanying caricature underscores the perceived unattractive nature of the pout, emphasizing the huge lips and Untitled5chin. The second example also addresses the subjects as “Dear” and refers to the pout as “this shit”, but takes a more abusive stance by labeling those who pout as “whores of the internet”. The capitalization and exaggerated size of the text, as well as the double exclamation marks underscore the urgency and apparent severity of the statement. The red circle around the woman’s mouth is feature shared with some gossip magazines, in which the offending item is identified, as if providing evidence for their condemnation.

The next example takes the form of a text box, appearing on one of the numerous Facebook sites dedicated to ridiculing the ‘duckface’duckface33 [6]. The order to stop doing the ‘duckface’ is part of a longer list of instructions, relating to performing a more acceptable, “beautiful” version of femininity, and the avoidance of looking “easy”. The promised result of obeying such orders is that the subject will now be able to enjoy the attention of “RESPECTABLE” guys. The implied aim here remains to attract the attention of men, but the ‘right’ kind of men, and it is down to the subject to ensure she behaves in a manner which will get her the ‘right’ result. This makes a connection between women’s behaviour and appearance, and men’s behaviour in response to it, which although appears innocuous in this context, becomes more dangerous when extremes of male desire in the form of sexual assault are also taken to be the responsibility of the woman. In this way we can see how discourses relating to women’s depiction in photographs fits into a much wider, and more serious, context of female sexuality and gender equality.

* Threats of violence

The last category of images contains those which either imply or directly illustrate acts of violence being carried out on women who ‘do the duckface’ in photographs. The prevalence of comments describing such acts illustrates the extent to which violence against women is still widely accepted and expressed online.

The first example features a woman with a piece of tape covering her mouth, accompanied duckface34by the caption “She pulled a duck face, I gave her a duct face. Duct tape: Fixes everything”. The (presumably) male speaker presents his actions as logical and warranted: she did this, so I did that. He explains that he has ‘fixed’ the problem that she represented by intervening and forcibly modifying her body so that she cannot transgress any further. The fact that this intervention also takes the form of silencing the woman reinforces the difference between the speaking, problem-solving male and the silent, problematic female. The female body is again shown to be a domain where the male has not only the right to express opinion, but also the ability to physically intervene.

This description on Buzzfeed of the ‘duckface’ takes a faux-serious tone, making the link between the pose and other markers of unacceptable femininity, such as heavy make-up:

Symptoms of Duck Face include lips thrust forward in an imitation of water fowl, usually accented with heavy eyeliner, glowing orange skin, and occasionally strange Emo hair-dos…if you see the warning signs of the dreaded Duck Face happening to a friend or loved one, slap the shit out of them. You too, can help prevent this horrible disease from spreading. Educate yourself so that you and your friends won’t fall victim.[7]

The suggestion that the mere act of making a certain expression warrants these women having ‘the shit’ slapped out of them is of course alarming, but especially given the instructional tone within which this is presented. Violence here is not just presented as being a solution to a problem, but also as a positive act that can prevent not only undesirable behaviours, but also stop “this horrible disease from spreading”. Forum user Fitzgerald77 agrees with this approach, making the connection between the pout and a spoiled feminine identity that somehow merits a violent response: “anytime I see that face I must fight the urge to slap a ho”[8]. Another commenter, Curly, sees the pout as an invitation to sexual assault, suggesting that “as far as I’m concerned, if they’re making a duck face they’re really just asking for dick in there”[9].

A song about hating duckfaces on You Tube features the lyrics “thanks to you I threw up”, “take your lips and put them back to normal” and “all you dumb bitches look fucking retarded”[10], which combines themes we’ve already looked at such as disgust, ‘normality’ and perceived stupidity. The tone of the comments underneath the video continue the theme of mocking, referring to ‘stupid’ and ‘ugly bitches’. User MegaMushface, suggests that “all them girls deserve to die”, and BlackBombBird adds “KILL THEM ALL!!!!!!!! ALL WITH FIRE!!!!!!!!!!!!!” demonstrating how contexts such as this which normalize derogatory behaviour, also serve to normalize more extreme attitudes and expressions of hatred. One user who voices active distaste, Cupcakes Girl09, is hounded and insulted by other users. Her comment “how would you feel if people were rude to YOU just because of a facial expression???” is flagged as spam by multiple users and hidden from view, with replies ranging from “Go make me a sandwich bitch”, “GO AWAY responsible person STFU get off the internet” and “go blow a platypus with your stupid duck lips. cunt.” The ferocity of these comments demonstrates that coercive force of the discourse, where women are given the choice of either joining in with the ridicule, or become subject to it themselves. The imperative to “go away“ and “get off the internet” demarcates this space as being for people who share the opinions of the commentator, rather than an open forum for all. Dissenting voices are to be undermined, attacked and silenced.

The final three images are those which take the duckface35condemnation of the ‘duckface’ to an extreme, picturing the female offenders as valid targets for being shot in the head. The first image is part of an online game that references the 1984 Nintendo game “Duck Hunt”. In this new version, the faces of pouting women have been superimposed onto the ducks, so that the gamer can shoot at them and earn points [11].


The second image depicts a man who “takes it serious” (implying admiration) in the form of aiming a rifle at the back of a woman’s head as she photographs herself pouting in the mirror.Untitled7

The last example depicts Elmer Fudd frowning at a woman who pouts into a camera, before shooting her in the face. Fortunately, the woman remains unscathed, apart from having her pouting mouth moved to the back of her head, underscoring the ridiculous and unnatural qualities of the transgressive woman’s appearance.

* Acceptable Duckfaces

Interestingly, I did find examples where some exceptions to the rule were found, declaring certain ‘duckfaces’ to be acceptable. Unsurprisingly, however, they were examples where men were pouting, not women.




With these examples, I have tried to show how something as seemingly innocuous as pouting in photographs, and the comments that they generate, feeds into a wider discourse that restricts and punishes particular performances of female identity and sexuality. Rather than being harmless fun, the discourse regarding duckfaces, and those who do them, disciplines women into adhering to certain prescribed gender norms, realigns their priorities to match those of the (male) viewer, and promotes mockery and threat as legitimate forms of leisure. The discussion of women’s photographs on social media is therefore intricately linked with wider issues regarding social organisation, and gender equality.


Foucault, M. (1977) Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison. London: Allen Lane.

Shields Dobson, A. (2011) “Hetero-sexy Representation by Young Women on MySpace: The Politics of Performing an ‘Objectified’ Self”, Outskirts, Vol 25.

Ringrose, Jessica (2012). “Sexual regulation and embodied resistance”. Postfeminist Education?: Girls and the Sexual Politics of Schooling. Foundations and Futures of Education. Routledge. p. 93-94

[1] http://www.cosmopolitan.com/celebrity/news/death-to-celebrity-duckfaces, accessed 4th January 2013.

[2] www.antiduckface.com accessed 4th January 2013

[3] www.antiduckface.com

[4] www.antiduckface.com

[5] http://www.bromygod.com/2012/04/05/jaime-laycock-your-new-internet-crush/ accessed 8th January 2013.

[6] www.facebook.com/antiduckcoalition accessed 4th January 2013.

[7] http://www.buzzfeed.com/brandib6/duck-face-the-race-for-the-cure-53mh

[8] Duckface pictures Hot or Not, discussion on http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1197423-Duckface-pictures-HOT-or-NOT accessed 4th January 2013.

[9] Duckface pictures Hot or Not, discussion on http://www.mmo-champion.com/threads/1197423-Duckface-pictures-HOT-or-NOT

[10] http://youtu.be/itjHUM5B9uM accessed 8th January 2013.

[11] http://jozogames.com/action/duck-face-hunter accessed 8th January 2013.


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