Date of Award

5-19-2019

Document Type

Honors Thesis

Department

Political Science

First Advisor

Toby Reiner

Second Advisor

Kathryn Heard

Language

English

Abstract

The #MeToo movement began in 2006 through the activism of Tarana Burke (MeToo 2018) and gained prominence in October 2017 when actress Alyssa Milano used the hashtag to encourage survivors of sexual violence to “share their stories of sexual harassment and abuse in order to illustrate the near universality of the problem” (Nicolaou 2018). In the months that followed, women and men alike used social media platforms like Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram both to say that they too had experienced 4 sexual violence and to express public solidarity with their fellow survivors.

How can the principles of deliberative democracy – like those of accountability, reciprocity, flexibility, and inclusion – be incorporated into the #MeToo movement such that it not only values the voices of those who have been historically overlooked, but also provides tangible solutions to the proliferation and pervasiveness of sexual violence? By way of answering this question, I first begin with an analysis of the social construction of gender and its relation to sexual violence, an analysis that then is used to illuminate the regulative effects of gender norms and who can be understood as a survivor or perpetrator of sexual violence. I then critically assess the strengths and weaknesses of deliberative democratic principles and their ability to contribute to the deconstruction of gender’s pervasiveness within the realm of sexual violence. Using this lens, I examine the compatibility of 7 the contemporary #MeToo movement with deliberative democratic principles and its future potential to ameliorate current shortcomings. Finally, I present theoretical and tangible solutions that provide ways to change sociopolitical and legal perspectives regarding sexual assault and harassment. Taken together, by examining deliberative democratic ideals as a solution to the endemic obstacle of sexual assault and harassment, there is the possibility that there will come a day in which no person (or at least far fewer people) will ever have to say, “me too.”

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