#MeAfterToo—the hashtag that toppled hegemons? A feminist narrative case study of #MeToo
Unlike many less successful precursors, #MeToo exploded onto social media in a way in which previous viral feminist hashtags had not. Created by activist Tarana Burke and later picked up and amplified by multiple celebrity voices, such as Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan, #MeToo would be shared tens of millions of times by 2018, becoming an amplified vehicle for women’s voices and a means of denouncing violence and patriarchy across the globe. So widely amplified, in fact, that it began to topple real-world hegemons and a feminist battle-cry was born. Yet while some criticized hashtag activism as ‘slacktivism’, #MeToo managed to achieve what other hashtags did not, and few feminist scholars have been able to articulate the reasons why. This study looks at what propelled so many more individual women to suddenly opt-in to public discourse than ever before. In the film #MeAfterToo, I examine the ways that hashtag activism can evolve into visible, immutable, and compelling global protest, by highlighting several powerful individual narratives in order to uncover those ‘reasons why’. Illuminating myriad intersecting themes such as a lack of institutionalized gatekeeping and a facility of participation without qualification, as well as a time and place where feminist anger had reached a watershed, (bolstered by the fact that literally anyone could post a single word online in order to join the conversation), simplicity emerged as key. To best display the data, the case study’s film speaks to 6 individual women and 3 experts from Ontario, Canada, placing each of these narratives in conversation with one another in order to showcase personal faces and voices alongside real testimonial on questions of female agency, gendered power imbalances, workplace harassment and complaint structures, as well as prevailing attitudes toward rape-culture and normalized micro-aggression. From a feminist constructivist point of view, participants all agreed: a proverbial ice-burg has broken free such that the socio-political time for an emergence of far-reaching and long-term feminist disruption is, quite literally, now. Keywords #MeToo, #MeAfterToo, feminism, social media, sexual violence, rape culture, micro-aggression, sexual harassment, intersectionality, critical feminist theory, feminist constructivism.