Photo of Rosalind Gill

Rosalind Gill



Training Location(s):

PhD, Loughborough University (1991)

BA, University of Exeter (1986)

Primary Affiliation(s):

City, University of London (2013–present)

Psychology’s Feminist Voices Oral History Interview:

Other Media:

Professional webpage

Career Focus:

Cultural and creative labour; gender and media; media and intimate life; the dynamics of discrimination and inequality; discursive, visual, and psychosocial methods


Rosalind Gill was born in the town of Hyde in Manchester, England on April 22, 1963. Gill credits her turbulent, politically-charged upbringing as the foundation for her activist and psychological work. Her early family life was characterized by constant moving, which prevented Gill from putting down roots and developing a consistent social network. This gave rise to feelings of isolation and exclusion, but also curiosity. Having grown accustomed to integrating herself in new social circles at different schools, Gill became fascinated by the social and political processes and functions of group formation. Coupled with her family’s open conversations about politics and the historical backdrop of Thatcherism, these formative experiences spurred Gill’s involvement in nuclear disarmament and anti-war activism. It was not until after Gill’s A-Levels that her feminist identity came into sharper focus, when she was invited to a pro-choice rally by her sociology lecturer, Lesley Smith. Through political engagement like "leafletting and demonstrating and speaking to people on the street” Gill began to question the paradoxical functions of capitalist ideology: Why do we cling to a system that benefits so few of us while harming so many others? And it was from this vantage point that Gill embraced psychology, as the discipline to answer hard questions about why people resist change or progress. Applying these overarching questions to the context of her own research, Gill sought to examine why women continually reinvest in patriarchal, regulatory regimes which uphold their purported inferiority?

Gill’s interest in the psychology of social change was supported throughout her undergraduate degree in Sociology and Psychology from Exeter University, where she studied with Steve Reicher. Working alongside Reicher, Gill learned how powerful psychology could be as a political project. Optimistic about the potential for psychology to enable her to not just be “sitting on the sidelines,” but to push for positive change, Gill began her PhD with Michael Billig in Social Psychology at Loughborough University in the Discourse and Rhetoric Group. During her PhD, discursive psychologist Margaret Wetherell also became a “… really wonderful and supportive and academically brilliant kind of mentor” for Gill; someone who took her seriously as an early researcher and later on, as a collaborator. For her dissertation, Gill employed discourse analysis to grapple with the racism and sexism of popular radio, like BBC1. Gill described her concerns with how women and racialized people were derided through the “ideological features of DJs' on-air talk,” while radio hosts repeatedly denied their own capacity to be racist or sexist.

Following the completion of her PhD in 1991, Gill continued to research the changing relationship between politics, media representation, and gender. Between 1991 and 1997, Gill lectured at Brunel University, Goldsmiths College, and Kings College, and co-edited The Gender-Technology Relation, Contemporary Theory and Research: An Introduction (1995) with Keith Grint. Writing widely about new masculinities, sex and technology, the contradictions of sexual subjugation and liberation, and emerging reproductive technologies, Gill became known for her incisive analyses of the changing tides of feminism. These efforts secured her position as the first tenured lecturer at the Gender Institute of the London School of Economics. Intrigued by the nexus between neoliberalism, individualism and feminist thought, in 2007 Gill published perhaps her most well-known work, “Postfeminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility,” which nuanced the concept of postfeminism. Conceptualizing postfeminism as a sensibility that underscored the changing relationship between women and feminism during the ‘girl-power’ era, Gill qualified postfeminism as a “distinctive pattern of ideas and feelings and practices that kept on recurring, that seemed not exactly to be feminist in the way that I understood it but they also weren’t exactly anti-feminist.” Postfeminism mobilized choice feminism, self-discipline and empowerment, all whilst essentializing femininity and sex difference. Since publication, Gill’s theorization of postfeminism has become widespread across sociology, social psychology, and gender studies, with many articles that have sought to expand her theorization and an edited volume with Christina Scharff entitled, New Femininities: Postfeminism, Neoliberalism and Subjectivity (2013).

After postfeminism, Gill honed her interdisciplinary analysis, melding psychology, media studies, and feminist theory to nuance debates regarding “the sexualization of culture.” For Gill, this sexualization was not as straightforward as previous scholarship had propounded, but instead varied across difference. Moreover, Gill found sexualization to be mediated by media: a mediated intimacy, wherein intimacy is structured through media consumption, such as within women’s magazines or Twitter. Gill co-authored the 2018 book, Mediated Intimacy with Meg-John Barker and Laura Harvey, which grappled with the ways in which media constructs quotidian understandings of consent, relationality, and sexuality.

Gill’s fascination with technological mediation led her to experiment both methodologically and theoretically. Theoretically, influenced by Italian Marxist Autonomists, Gill’s research turned toward critiques of immaterial labour, technology, and subjectivity. Methodologically, Gill embraced new media through her study of objects such as the “media video diary component of a ‘tween’ popular culture” or in her use of focus groups in a qualitative study of sexting practices. In this study for the National Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Children, Gill, Jessica Ringrose, Sonia Livingstone, and Laura Harvey established a gendered discrepancy in the violence attributed to sexting and critiqued the myth of stranger danger, reporting that girls’ peers are far more of a threat than any potential stranger. The authors also prepared a set of policy recommendations for schools, parents, internet service providers and the state that were heavily cited in government documents following the report’s publication in 2012. Gill’s research on sexting was also the foundation for Sket (2016), a play by Maya Sondhi.

In October 2013, Gill joined City, University London as Professor of Social and Cultural Analysis, where she continues to teach. Her book, Confidence Culture (2021), co-edited with Shani Orgad, demonstrates how confidence is mobilized in feminist discourse as the means to even the playing field, but functionally obfuscates the real “social transformation that’s needed.”

Throughout her career, Gill has found great pleasure as an editor and reviewer for journals such as Feminism & Psychology and Feminist Media Studies. She considers these journals to be “vital spaces,” that are more hospitable for junior scholars and colleagues, swerving away from the blunt, brutal criticism she received in her earlier years. She has supervised over 50 graduate students, in addition to her informal mentorship role with many undergraduate and high school students who write to her. Though Gill has previously been directly involved in the “anti-nuclear movement and anti-apartheid and anti-racist politics and…in the Nicaragua Solidarity Campaign back in the 80s,” these days she has little time for direct activism due to her family and academic commitments. However, Gill’s political spirit shines through in her writing, and continues to manifest in her commitment to her union and through her volunteer work at a local food bank.

By Josh Falek (2023)

To cite this article, see Credits

Selected Works

Gill, R. (1995). Relativism, Reflexivity and Politics: Interrogating Discourse Analysis from. Feminism and Discourse: Psychological Perspectives, 9, 165.

Gill, R. (2007). Postfeminist media culture: Elements of a sensibility. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 10(2), 147–166.

Gill, R., & Gill, R. M. (2007). Gender and the Media. Cambridge, UK: Polity Press.

Gill, R., & Pratt, A. (2008). In the social factory? Immaterial labour, precariousness and cultural work. Theory, Culture & Society, 25(7–8), 1–30.

Gill, R. (2009). Beyond the “sexualization of culture” thesis: An intersectional analysis of “sixpacks”, “midriffs” and “hot lesbians” in advertising. Sexualities, 12(2), 137–160.

Gill, R. (2011). Sexism reloaded, or, it’s time to get angry again!. Feminist Media Studies, 11(01), 61–71.

Ringrose, J., Harvey, L., Gill, R., & Livingstone, S. (2013). Teen girls, sexual double standards and ‘sexting’: Gendered value in digital image exchange. Feminist Theory, 14(3), 305–323.

Gill, R., & Orgad, S. (2015). The confidence cult(ure). Australian Feminist Studies, 30(86), 324–344.

Gill, R. (2017). The affective, cultural and psychic life of postfeminism: A postfeminist sensibility 10 years on. European Journal of Cultural Studies, 20(6), 606–626.

Gill, R., & Orgad, S. (2018). The shifting terrain of sex and power: From the ‘sexualization of culture’ to #MeToo. Sexualities, 21(8), 1313–1324.

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