Narrative Form and Agency in #MeToo
As the hashtag #MeToo spread from Alyssa Milano to her multitude of followers and beyond in October of 2017, it became not just a hashtag, but a movement fueled by hashtag activism. Through retweets and the sharing of stories of sexual assault and harassment, appearing one after another on feeds and timelines in a tragic litany of cultural failure, each individual participant contributed to a larger narrative. This paper argues that those stories, taken collectively, have narrative agency and form as defined by Campbell (2005) as “the capacity to act . . . in a way that will be recognized” (p. 3). Her work was adapted for digital activism by Yang (2016), who treats hashtag movements as a form of digital rhetoric. Campbell (2005) has five criteria: that agency is “communal and participatory,” its authors are “points of articulation” rather than the origins of ideas, it “emerges in artistry,” has specific “form,” and is “perverse,” in that agency can be reversed or malicious (p. 1). The Me Too movement was analyzed using these criteria for narrative agency, and like Yang’s (2016) analysis of the #BlackLivesMatter movement, identified the narrative form of the overall movement. This analysis further establishes the use and adaptation of traditional rhetorical methods of analysis for the study of digital rhetoric.
Faculty Mentor: Dr. Elizabeth Johnson-Young