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Visible lesbians and invisible bisexuals: Appearance and visual identities among bisexual women

Hayfield, Nikki; Clarke, Victoria; Halliwell, Emma; Malson, Helen


Nikki Hayfield
Associate Head of Department in Research and Knowledge Exchange

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Dr Victoria Clarke
Associate Professor in Qualitative & Critical Psychology

Helen Malson
Associate Professor in Social Psychology


A number of feminist scholars have argued that dress and appearance can be used to critique the dominant culture and explore alternative subjectivities. Research on non-heterosexual visual identities has explored the role that appearance and clothing practices can play in the construction of individual identities and collective communities. However, bisexual women are largely invisible in these discussions. The minimal existing research suggests that bisexual women are unable to communicate their sexuality through their clothing and appearance. This study explored how bisexual women manage their bodies and appearance in relation to their bisexuality. Qualitative interviews were conducted with 20 self-identified bisexual women and the data were analysed using thematic analysis. The participants reported particular visual aesthetics associated with an embodied lesbian identity; however, they reported no visual image of bisexual women. Nonetheless, despite their lack of access to a distinct visual identity, the women negotiated ways in which to incorporate their bisexual identity into their dress and appearance, and considered their bisexuality an important aspect of their identity, which they would like to be recognised and acknowledged.


Hayfield, N., Clarke, V., Halliwell, E., & Malson, H. (2013). Visible lesbians and invisible bisexuals: Appearance and visual identities among bisexual women. Women's Studies International Forum, 40, 172-182

Journal Article Type Article
Publication Date Aug 26, 2013
Deposit Date Aug 28, 2013
Journal Women's Studies International Forum
Print ISSN 0277-5395
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 40
Pages 172-182
Keywords appearance, bisexuality, identity, interviews, thematic analysis, visual identity, body image
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Hayfield Clarke Halliwell Malson Appearance & Bisexuality Pre Proof.pdf (716 Kb)

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