The promises and pitfalls of digital activism: Fighting for #MeToo under the Great Firewall of China

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Karen Zhang


digital media, digital activism, sexual harassment, censorship, china, chinese politics, feminism, gender studies, cultural studies, #MeToo, information and communication technology, ICT, activism, media studies, asian studies, chinese studies


In 2017, the #MeToo movement swept across the globally interconnected digital sphere, exposing cases of sexual assault and harassment across a plethora of industries worldwide, with Hollywood in particular dominating the spotlight. However, little research has been conducted into how this movement translates in non-Western online domains, and the efforts of survivors and grassroots activists in sustaining change online in the face of digital censorship. This essay provides critical insight into how #MeToo has manifested in the Chinese digital sphere, and how these digital movements often struggle to operate and survive within an authoritarian context. It explores how Chinese netizens have thus articulated and cultivated a participatory presence online, carving out a malleable creative space for survivors and activists that is constantly circumventing and adapting to the boundaries of online censorship. Through the evaluation of tactics used by Chinese activists in the #MeToo movement, this essay highlights the complex and dichotomous utility of digital media, through its promises and pitfalls in generating tangible sociocultural transformation.

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