Buy It Now

Lessons from eBay

Buy It Now

Book Pages: 336 Illustrations: 24 illustrations Published: July 2012

Author: Michele White

Cultural Studies, Gender and Sexuality > Feminism and Women’s Studies, Media Studies > Communication

In Buy It Now, Michele White examines eBay and its emphasis on community and social norms, revealing the cultural assumptions about gender, race, and sexuality that are reinforced throughout the site. She shows how instructional texts, rule systems, and advertisements "configure the user," allowing eBay to indicate how the site is supposed to function while also upholding particular values and practices. White details how eBay reinforces stereotypes about gender and sexuality, looking, for example, at descriptions included in wedding dress listings, and how eBay directs individuals to the "Adult Only" part of the website when they use the search terms "gay" and "lesbian." She discloses the ways that eBay promises a caring community but its "Black Americana" category reproduces racism by allowing sellers' narratives that excuse and romanticize slavery and insult African Americans. White also looks at how participants challenge eBay's categories, rules, and values, examining widely used strategies of resistance by sellers and buyers in the lesbian and gay interest listings. By analyzing the organizational and cultural logics present in eBay, White emphasizes how other Internet settings, including craigslist, are not as transparent, community-oriented, and empowering as they claim. She proposes methods for researching and reconceptualizing new media sites.


“Throughout this painstakingly researched text, White provides examples of gender and sexuality stereotypes—including wedding dress categorization and symbolism, or ‘gay interest’ sellers who are often linked to underwear and swimsuits—within eBay that reinforce traditional gender role attitudes. . . . [A]n intriguing look at sociological implications of new media.” — Publishers Weekly

“With Buy It Now, White succeeds in posting a compelling call for further study of how eBay and other online communities shape and serve the expression, consumption, and perpetuation of key constructs of our culture and society.” — Susan Chenelle, Bitch

“[White’s] study might be useful for researchers studying similar ‘market-oriented sites such as Etsy and craigslist,’ and her approach would also be a useful guide for those thinking about how to study newer collection websites such as Pinterest and Goodreads. Recommended.” — S. Pepper, Choice

“This book ultimately makes a significant contribution to the field of social scholarship, where there has been a shortage of critical Internet studies. . . . This work provides brilliant insight into these dynamic power relationships, between workers and corporations, by exposing how businesses use the rhetoric of community to achieve dominance. . . . [A] timely text of significance for cultural studies scholars. . . . .” — Christopher T. Conner, Visual Studies

“The book is informative indeed and clearly shows the way in which social media is a powerful force that influences people’s perceptions and how these perceptions are then reiterated in every day society.” — Busisiwe Magagula, Journal of International Women's Studies

Buy it Now will find a receptive audience in scholars of internet and new media, gay and lesbian studies, museum studies, race studies and women and gender studies. It is suitable for graduate and capstone undergraduate courses.” — Michael Petit, New Media & Society

“White provides an insightful analysis of how eBay creates a culture that maintains and reinforces various forms of inequality. She draws on a variety of fields, including visual and media studies, sociology, feminist theory, and queer studies among others, to do so. The author’s work is thus interdisciplinary in its approach, making it appealing and useful to a wide audience, including those who study inequality, media, and culture, as well as those who are fascinated by the world of auctions and collecting.” — Jacqueline Clark, Contemporary Sociology

"Buy It Now is an excellent, solidly researched book on the ways in which online communities are formed within a context of commodity consumption. There is no other book that I know of that engages eBay community formation and member identity in such a thorough way." — Sarah Banet-Weiser, author of Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

"Michele White explores eBay as a brand community of monetary and affective circulation that encourages certain uses and, indeed, configures its users as certain kinds of consumers. By doing so, she makes a compelling argument for how identity categories and historical layers of representation are played out on eBay as an assemblage of sellers, buyers, lurkers, information architecture, interface design, business concepts, acts of branding, and item depiction. Critical and astute, Buy It Now pulls the rug out from under those who consider online marketplaces as the instrumental means to an end." — Susanna Paasonen, author of Carnal Resonance: Affect and Online Pornography


Availability: In stock
Price: $27.95

Open Access

Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Michele White is Associate Professor of Communication at Tulane University. She is the author of The Body and the Screen: Theories of Internet Spectatorship.

Table of Contents Back to Top
Figures vii

Preface and Acknowledgments ix

Introduction. Lessons and Methods from eBay 1

1. Between Security and Distrust: eBay's Brand, Fan, and Virtual Communities 24

2. Pins, Cards, and Griffith's Jacket: Producing Identity and Brand Communities through eBay Live! Conferences and Collecting 52

3. You Can "Get It On" eBay: Selling Gender, Sexuality, and Organized Logic through the Interface 84

4. eBay's Visible Masculinities: "Gay" and "Gay Interest" Listings and the Politics of Describing 110

5. eBay Boys Will Be Lesbians: Viewing "Lesbian" and "Lesbian Interest" Vintage Photography Listings 143

6. Re-collecting Black Americana: "Absolutely Derogatory" Objects and Narratives from eBay's Community 168

Afterword. Everything in Moderation: The Regulating Aspects of craigslist and the Moral Assertions of "Community Flagging" 203

Notes 219

Works Cited 289

Index 309
Sales/Territorial Rights: World

Rights and licensing
Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-5240-2 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-5226-6
Publicity material