An Analysis of Agitation and Control: Me Too Movement

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Throughout history there have been several movements and events to voice public concern. These efforts agitate the establishments in power and disrupt the social norms in place at that time. In “The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control”, Bowers, Ochs, Jenson, and Schulz describe agitation as an event or time when people outside of powerful establishments call for compelling social change and are met with resistance within the establishment. The response of the establishment in power is known as control. Instances of both agitation and control have been seen throughout history, for example, the civil rights and the women’s suffrage movements. However, agitation is not a fixture of the past. Currently, the #MeToo movement is advocating for sexual assault survivors, and relies on many of the strategies mentioned by BOJS to progress their efforts.

Although the Me Too Movement recently gained worldwide attention in 2017, it had its first roots ten years back. Founded by Tarana Burke in 2006, Me Too was originally created to help minority, low income survivors of sexual violence find resources for healing. The vision of the movement is to address the lack of resources and build community of survivors. The movement also calls for perpetrators to be held accountable and for implementation of systemic change. The nature of Me Too’s re-ignition displays the use of solidification to propel a movement.

Solidification is a strategy of agitation. According to BOJS this strategy involves using methods to unite the agitating group or to reinforce the groups unity. The sense of community gained in solidification can benefit the movement and will increase receptivity of the values held by the group. As mentioned by BOJS, slogans are a way to solidify an agitational effort. Slogans efficiently create identity, generate attention/awareness, and encourage people to join or spread the message of a movement. The use of the hashtag #MeToo was a major act of solidification on behalf of the Me Too Movement.

As mentioned previously, Me Too is not a new movement. The movement expanded past its grassroots beginning after social media and celebrity moved it to the spot light. Amidst a sea of sexual allegations rocking Hollywood, actress Alyssa Milano made the call for others to tweet #metoo if they had ever been sexually harassed or assaulted. The movement and its hashtag displays empathy and uses the sharing of stories to empower and display the magnitude of sexual assault and harassment. These actions not only catapulted the movement into the spotlight, but through social media, solidified the movement. Although a hashtag is not a slogan, on social media it can serve the same purposes.

For example, putting #metoo creates an identity on social media. When a user hashtags Me Too in their post, they are likely identifying themselves as a survivor and as a supporter of the ideals and goals held by the movement. Using this hashtag allows millions to join the agitating group via social media. Hashtags also generate attention like slogans. According to Xiong et al, “hashtags serve as an indexing system”. Simply clicking or tapping a specific hashtag allows users to see the conversation around a specific issue. With half a million responses to Milano’s tweet in 24 hours, the hashtag became hard for social media users to ignore, and made it very easy for users to view, if not join, the ongoing conversation. Ultimately, this drew media coverage and the hashtag was encouraging people to join the movement. With droves of new supporters, the movement began to polarize the public.

BOJS describe polarization as the assumption that if one does not support the agitating group they support the establishment in power. Polarization is essentially the idea of being with or against something, and in the context of social change it encourages the public to pick a side. Flag individuals are often use to progress these efforts. A flag individual is someone that becomes the face of the problem. When polarizing, focusing on a flag individual will help draw attention and make it more likely for people to side with the agitators. Polarization and the use of a flag figure was the next agitation strategy used by the Me Too movement.

After gaining a load of new supporters it was time to draw distinctions within the public. Although the movement wants to hold perpetrators accountable, it also wants bring focus back to the victims. This shifted the movement to a victim vs victimizer conversation. The Me Too movement was reignited at the same time Harvey Weinstein had decades of sexual abuse allegations against him. This made him the flag individual for the movement. Allowing a space for victims to share their experiences, especially on such a public scale, makes it very difficult for the public to side against the agitating group. Showing indifference or an ambivalent attitude towards such a sensitive subject, during a worldwide conversation, can make it seem like one is accepting of sexual assault/harassment, and therefore just as at fault as perpetrators like Harvey Weinstein. The empathy engrained into the movement, combined with these polarization efforts makes it much easier for people to side with the Me Too Movement.

However, like any movement, there will be some form of opposition. In the case of social movements, control is the reaction to agitation that establishments use to remain in power. The Me Too movement did not attack a specific establishment, rather than social norms and constructs that allowed sexual abuse to proliferate and perpetrators to go unpunished. With that being said, societal opposition in general is what fights to keep these power dynamics prevalent. The popular method that opposition of the Me Too movement use to keep control is to deny credibility.

With a movement strongly rooted in social media, where anyone can present themselves as a survivor with the use of a hashtag, it can be difficult for everyone in the group to be on one page. Also, the social media aspect of the movement is based entirely off individual experience. Without a set standard of what experiences could count as being harassed or assaulted, many survivor accounts could be seen as frivolous and therefore distract from the true goals of the Me Too Movement. As mentioned by BOJS, people willing to join movements are “easily energized but difficult to control” and “must be molded into a functioning group” (29). This is extremely difficult when anyone with social media can join the movement. The lack of internal control in the agitating group makes it especially easy for opposition to deny the credibility of the movement.

With major Hollywood cases being a representation of the movement media coverage has saturated the movement. Burke, founder of the movement, even admits that media coverage has shifted the conversation to focus on individuals, instead of on power and privilege as the movement intends (Rodino-Colcino). Any individual claims found to be false or drastically exaggerated will weaken the entire movement and maybe even destroy any credibility it currently has and thus make it easy for the public to dismiss.

No matter how many support or oppose the Me Too movement, there is no doubt that #MeToo made waves and brought a major conversation about sexual assault and harassment to the table. The efforts to support victims and hold perpetrators accountable has shook the social constructs in place, and provides a great exhibition of agitation and control as it happens currently. In an increasingly social media inclined society, reigniting a movement through a hashtag has proven to be a significant action.

Not only does the use of hashtags solidify the revived movement, but it brings an important conversation to light. This conversation polarizes the issue and compels the public to separate themselves into one of two groups: survivors/supporters or perpetrators of sexual abuse. Such a sensitive topic being thrown into the limelight so suddenly is bound to have opposition. Societal opposition to the Me Movement relies on denying credibility to the many who choose to share their story accompanied with the distinct hashtag. Currently, with no substantial way to control the millions who have joined the movement, it may be difficult to keep real goals as the focus of the movement. As the initial resurgence of the movement plateaus, but sexual misconduct/abuse stays a topic of social media conversation, it will be interesting to see which strategies of agitation can be used to keep the Me Too movement afloat.

Works Cited

  1. Bowers, John Waite, et al. The Rhetoric of Agitation and Control. Waveland Press, 2010.
  2. Burke, Tarana. “History & Vision.” Me Too, metoomvmt.org/about/#history.
  3. Rodino-Colocino, Michelle. ‘Me Too, #MeToo: Countering Cruelty with Empathy.’Communication and Critical/Cultural Studies, vol. 15, no. 1, 2018, pp. 96-100.
  4. Xiong, Ying, Moonhee Cho, and Brandon Boatwright. ‘Hashtag Activism and Message Frames among Social Movement Organizations: Semantic Network Analysis and Thematic Analysis of Twitter during the #MeToo Movement.’ Public Relations Review, vol. 45, no. 1, 2019, pp. 10-23.

Cite this paper

An Analysis of Agitation and Control: Me Too Movement. (2022, Mar 18). Retrieved from https://samploon.com/an-analysis-of-agitation-and-control-me-too-movement/



What is MeToo movement in USA?
The MeToo movement is a movement in the United States that started in October 2017, in which people publically share their experiences of sexual harassment and assault. The goal of the movement is to raise awareness and hold accountable those who have committed these acts.
What is the Me Too movement quizlet?
The Me Too movement is a campaign against sexual harassment and assault. The campaign was started by Tarana Burke in 2006, and gained national attention in 2017 after allegations of sexual misconduct against Harvey Weinstein.
What is the message of the Me Too movement?
The Me Too movement is about empowering women to speak out against sexual harassment and assault. The movement also seeks to hold perpetrators accountable and to create a safer world for everyone.
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