The Silence Breakers: Digital Feminist Activism and Narratives of Gender-Based Violence in the #MeToo Movement

Anna Gjika and Megan Stubbs-Richardson

The spread of the #MeToo movement since October 2017 has been accompanied by a growing body of research investigating its implications for survivors, as well as the problem of sexual violence, more broadly. Much of this scholarship centers on high-profile cases and victims, or media accounts of the movement, thus primarily presenting the dominant discourses around the sharing of sexual abuse captured by the hashtag. This paper, by contrast, uses Twitter as a data provider to select a 1% sample of all #MeToo related tweets occurring within the first two weeks of the campaign, with the additional criteria that each sample tweet received zero re-tweets. With this selection criteria, we sought to examine emergent themes in the stories of everyday users and the more marginalized topics surrounding the #MeToo movement. Drawing from qualitative content analysis and critical discourse analysis, we focus specifically on tweets that divulge information about personal experiences of abuse to analyze survivors’ goals and motives behind such disclosures, as well as identify and unpack narrative constructions of sexual violence in these testimonials. The implications of digital platforms and their affordances for both hegemonic and competing discursive practices about sexual harassment and abuse are examined.

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