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In Session: New Perspectives on South Korea’s #MeToo Movement: Historical Redress, Media Visibility, and Contemporary Feminist Activism
3: Thinking Beyond Media Visibility: #MeToo, Digital Media, and the Risks of Visibility
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Pennsylvania, United States
The study explores the changing nature of speech directed against sexual harassment in South Korea by focusing on the issue of visibility in the #MeToo movement. Since January 2018, when a prosecutor Seo Ji-hyun lodged accusations against her superior, Ahn Tae-geun, during an interview with JTBC Newsroom, the #MeToo movement in the country has gained new momentum. Following Seo’s interview, many victims have shared their stories of sexual violence, in the process revealing their identities on TV programs and such social media platforms as Facebook and YouTube. This change is significant given that victims’ identities have been mostly anonymized and protected through digital media platforms in the previous hashtag activism revelations. While recognizing the importance of supporting victims who speak out, I interrogate critically the implications and consequences of revealing their identities.
I first explore how anonymous revelations became increasingly synonymous with doubtful, untrustworthy, and even patently false accusations, thereby perpetuating the existing victim-blaming discourse and stereotypes regarding the nature of “real” victims. Victims taking part in the #MeToo movement were thus increasingly compelled to disclose their identities to render their accusations authentic and trustworthy. I further investigate how this visibility has exposed women who share their experiences of sexual abuse to online misogyny and trolling while their online attackers tend to enjoy anonymity. Finally, I discuss the risks of media visibility by focusing on commercial media platforms and their imperatives underlying the publication of #MeToo allegations.