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Brave women sound the alarm – representations of men and women in the Swedish media coverage of #MeToo



In autumn 2017 in Sweden, the #MeToo movement and sexual assault became a focus of broad debate. Swedish media coverage of the movement was centred around the many petitions made by anonymous groups of women to illuminate the extent of the problem of sexual assault, as well as a few cases of accusations against well-known and powerful men in both the culture and media industries. In order to elicit common representations of men and their female accusers, this study applies critical discourse analysis (CDA) to news media coverage and Facebook comments of three of those accused men: TV personality Martin Timell, journalist Fredrik Virtanen and culture personality Jean-Claude Arnault. The results indicate that representations of women as both witnesses and heroines work to reinforce notions of female responsibility as a means to halt sexual assault, while representations of men as sexual predators build on demarcations of illegal and mere misogynistic or “bad” behaviour, which in turn reinforce notions of male victimhood. These representations point to legal discourse as hegemonic, as it seems to limit the discussion and only present individual solutions, such as women bearing witness, to the structural problem of sexual assault. Simultaneously, the results indicate that the #MeToo movement and other feminist discourse have also had an effect on news media representations of sexual assault by broadening the concept beyond the consent/rape dichotomy.
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Brave women sound the alarm
– representations of men and women in the
Swedish media coverage of #MeToo
Karlstad University
Stockholm University
In the autumn 2017 in Sweden, the #MeToo movement and sexual
assault became a focus of broad debate. Swedish media coverage
of the movement was centred around the many petitions made by
anonymous groups of women to illuminate the extent of the problem
of sexual assault, as well as a few cases of accusations against well-
known and powerful men in both the culture and media industries.
In order to elicit common representations of men and their female
accusers, this study applies critical discourse analysis (CDA) to news
media coverage and Facebook comments of three of those accused
men: TV personality Martin Timell, journalist Fredrik Virtanen and
culture personality Jean-Claude Arnault. e results indicate that
representations of women as both witnesses and heroines work to
reinforce notions of female responsibility as a means to halt sexual
assault, while representations of men as sexual predators build on
demarcations of illegal and mere misogynistic or “bad” behaviour,
which in turn reinforce notions of male victimhood. ese represen-
tations point to legal discourse as hegemonic, as it seems to limit the
discussion and only present individual solutions, such as women
bearing witness, to the structural problem of sexual assault. Simul-
taneously, the results indicate that the #MeToo movement and other
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 15
feminist discourse have also had an eect on news media represen-
tations of sexual assault by broadening the concept beyond the con-
sent/rape dichotomy.
#MeToo, Sweden, media, discourse analysis, representations, sex-
ual harassment
In 2017, fuelled by the many allegations of sexual assault against
Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein, the #MeToo hashtag grew
into a movement. In October of that year, the #MeToo movement
gained momentum from a Twitter post by actress Alyssa Milano
who called on all women who had been victims of sexual assault or
harassment to reply to her tweet with the words ‘me too. Originally
coined in 2006 on Myspace by women’s rights activist Tarana Burke,
by the autumn of 2017, the ‘MeToo’ phrase erupted into an extensive
social movement in many countries. In Sweden, the #MeToo move-
ment led to a wide range of public reactions, as well as ignited exten-
sive news media coverage. Street protests were organised, many
women took to social media to tell their own stories and several lead-
ing politicians, including the Prime Minister, showed their support
for the movement. From a vast array of dierent industries, women
came together to talk anonymously about their experiences of sexual
assault in the workplace, resulting in over 70 petitions (including
various calls for action on social media and debate articles published
in the news media) and the birth of new #MeToo-related hashtags
including #tystnadtagning, #medvilkenrätt, #deadline, #imakten-
skorridorer and #tystiklassen (by actors, lawyers, journalists, politi-
cians and teachers, respectively). In July 2018, the Swedish law on
sex crime was changed to include an armative consent clause. e
Swedish media coverage of the #MeToo movement included the
aforementioned petitions as well as stories of individual accusations
against powerful men within both the media and cultural sectors.
16 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
In October 2017, only a few days after the New York Times rst
published the accusations of Harvey Weinstein, the Swedish former
TV show host Lulu Carter published a post to Instagram likening the
Hollywood producer to a former colleague of hers, TV personality
Martin Timell. Two days later, Alyssa Milano’s tweet would inspire
thousands of women to tell their stories, one of whom was Swedish
journalist and activist Cissi Wallin. In a post on Instagram, she named
journalist Fredrik Virtanen as her rapist, alluding to an assault that
took place in 2006. e two stories were picked up by Swedish news
media, which described further female accusations against the men
as well as their individual explanations and denials. On 21 Novem-
ber 2017, the major Swedish newspaper Dagens Nyheter published
an extensive investigation into a powerful, semi-public gure within
the cultural sphere, Jean-Claude Arnault, otherwise known in Swed-
ish as “Kulturprolen” (the Culture Personality). According to the
news article, Arnault had allegedly sexually assaulted a considerable
number of women, 18 of whom were interviewed individually by
journalist Matilda Gustavsson. Arnault was subsequently named in
the media and due to his close personal ties to the Swedish Academy
(his wife is a member), the 2018 Nobel Prize in Literature was soon
thereafter postponed.
is study uses critical discourse analysis (CDA) to analyse news
media articles, op-eds and Facebook comments concerning the
three men: Arnault, Timell and Virtanen. e study’s aim is to elicit
overarching themes and subject positions in order to identify pos-
sibilities and limitations in the news media and audience discourse
in regard to both sexual assault and its relationship to the #MeToo
movement and dominant discourse on sexuality.
The following research questions were used:
1. How are the men and their behaviour represented and
explained in news media articles, opinion pieces and Face-
book comments?
2. How are the women and their behaviour represented and
explained in news media articles, opinion pieces and Face-
book comments?
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 17
Previous research and theoretical background
Using discourse theory as a point of departure, this study builds on
previous research regarding both media representations of rape and
the possibilities of hashtag movements.
Media coverage of sex crime: Rape myths and counter-discourse
e idea guiding research on media representations of sex crime
is that the representations have an eect on audience perception of
the typical rapist, the behaviour of a rape victim and the cause of sex
crime (Worthington 2008, Hamlin 1988, Johnson 1999, Franiuk, See-
felt & Vandello 2008). Jody Freeman (1993) and Marian Meyers (1997)
claim sex crime stereotypes are circulated back and forth throughout
societal institutions via the media as they pick up stories from public
debate, the justice system and interviewed police ocers. In media
research, these stereotypes are often referred to as “rape myths”, as
they limit the notion of what a “real” rape is. Several researchers
claim rape myths result from a view of the world as controllable and
fair, which may be unwillingly subscribed to by journalists, media
producers and the media audience (Franiuk et al., 2008, Ardovini-
Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald 2002). With this unconscious
worldview, only “bad” men commit rape and only “bad” women
(behaving in socially unacceptable ways) are rape victims. Moreover,
in these terms, only an assault in a public place by a stranger is con-
sidered “real rape” (ibid, Meyers 1997, Hinck & omas 1999).
At the same time, several researchers believe that feminist move-
ments, public debate and changes in legislation on sex crime have
all had an impact on news media representation of rape, dating back
as early as the 1980s (Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald,
2002, Lós & Chamard 1997, Serisier 2017). ese researchers claim
that this has resulted in a widening of the concept of rape to include
attacks carried out not only by “psychopathic strangers” but also by
acquaintances. Furthermore, the researchers describe how a femi-
nist impact on media representations of rape seems to have resulted
in a shift towards focusing on the point of view of the victim. How-
ever, during the same time period, research also points to the preva-
lence and reinforcement of rape myths (ibid.).
18 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
In today’s media landscape, representations of rape are, more so
than before, a result of several actors writing about, interpreting,
discussing and questioning the incident. Nancy Worthington (2008)
describes this as an ongoing struggle by media producers and con-
sumers alike for hegemony within the discourse on sex crime. She
claims that universal access to social media networking sites, blogs,
etc., suggests that the position of power is no longer solely reserved
for traditional media producers, which in turn opens up possibili-
ties for resistance and subversion (ibid). Simultaneously, research by
Jemma Tosh (2016) and Emily omas, Michelle Lafrance, and Mon-
ika Stelzl (2018), which looks into social media discussions on sexual
assault, identies a need for an expanded debate. Tosh and omas,
Lafrance and Stelzl claim the discussion needs to move away from
the consent/rape dichotomy and towards more nuanced ways of
talking about negative sexual experiences.
Possibilities and limitations of hashtag movements
e #MeToo movement may be described as shifting the media
discussion on sex crime in this suggested direction — that of creat-
ing more nuanced ways of discussing negative sexual experiences.
Rosalind Gill and Shani Orgad (2018) suggest that much of the suc-
cess of the movement has to do with the heterogeneity of the stories
brought forward within it, creating a collective spirit and a worldwide
spread. is theory supports earlier research describing feminist
hashtag movements as eective ways of creating counter-discourse
by linking together large quantities of personal stories (Clark 2016,
Barker-Plummer & Barker-Plummer 2017). According to Rosemary
Clark (2016), feminist hashtag movements typically result in more
accurate media reports on sex crime while at the same time produc-
ing gendered solidarity.
Although the #MeToo movement seems successful in this regard
(Modrek & Chakalov 2019, Schneider & Carpenter 2020, McDon-
ald 2019), several researchers suggest that as it makes the problem
with sexual assault relatable and easy to understand, #MeToo also
risks oversimplifying complex issues. One such risk is individu-
alisation of the problem of sexual assault by reinforcing neoliberal
ideas of female sexuality, such as responsibility for conveying con-
sent (McDonald 2019, Modrek & Chakalov 2019, Gill & Orgad 2018,
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 19
Worthington 2020). Considering readers’ reactions to an op-ed piece
about sexual assault accusations against comedian Aziz Ansari,
Worthington (2020) notes that the more popular (upvoted or liked)
comments reinforced neoliberal notions of individual responsibility.
However, she did nd that some comments emphasised rape culture
as a structural problem. us, hashtag movements such as #MeToo
can create counter-discourse from linking together large numbers
of personal stories, but might risk oversimplication of structural
problems that in turn reinforce hegemonic neoliberal ideas. At the
same time, hashtag movements provide opportunities for counter-
discourse that can encourage structural change to emerge and pos-
sibly make its way into the media discourse on sex crime.
The #MeToo movement in the media
In Sweden, the #MeToo movement was successful in creating an
extensive media discussion that spread to the political world and the
public debate. Tina Askanius and Jannie Møller Hartley (2019) sug-
gest that the movement had a larger impact in Sweden than in Den-
mark; many media entries were positive towards the movement and
critical towards patriarchal culture. Although Askanius and Hartley
found that #MeToo news media coverage predominantly framed
sexual assault as an individual rather than a societal problem in both
countries, Swedish media used a frame of understanding sex crime
as a structural problem more often than Danish media (ibid). e
same can be said for UK news coverage of #MeToo, according to Sara
De Benedictis, Shani Orgad and Catherine Rottenberg (2019). ey
claim that the UK reporting did show support for, and expanded the
reach of, the movement. However, they also suggest that British news
coverage focused largely on individual celebrities and failed to dis-
cuss potential solutions to the problem of sexual assault other than
“empowering women to speak out” (ibid: 15). is suggests that the
Swedish media coverage of the #MeToo movement employ a frame
representing sex crime as a structural and societal problem, more so
than the Danish and British coverage.
20 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
Discourse theory: Hegemony and subject positions
e study uses discourse theory as a point of departure, focus-
ing mainly on the concepts of hegemony and subject positions. We
draw on both discourse theory developed by Ernesto Laclau and
Chantal Moue (1985) and critical discourse analysis as dened by
Lilie Chouliaraki and Norman Fairclough (1999). ese two theories
depart from a view of the social world as socially constructed and
language as an important constituent. Discourse is language struc-
tured in social practice, linguistic elements articulated together and
dialectically related to other social practices and the social world
as a whole (Laclau & Moue 1985, Chouliaraki & Fairclough 1999).
Since discourse is related to the social world in this way, these theo-
ries point to discourse being both a creative resource and a limiting
power. is makes discourse theory useful in this study since it aims
to understand possibilities and limitations of the #MeToo movement
in relation to dominant discourse on sexuality and sexual assault.
Hegemony is a concept used to explain this limiting property of dis-
course and its connection to ideology. When some discourses seem
more true, neutral and objective than others, they have a hegemonic
stance. is relates to ideology in that the above-mentioned dis-
courses both limit the possibilities of interaction and uphold rela-
tions of power, which in turn shapes discourse and naturalises some
discourses over others (Laclau & Moue 1985, Chouliaraki & Fair-
clough 1999).
As discourse is seen as an important constituent of the social
world, it is also related to identity. Social identities are produced in
discourse (Laclau & Moue 1985). ese socially constructed, lin-
guistic identities are referred to as subject positions in this analysis,
meaning exible discursive resources drawn on by social actors.
Subject positions are, in this way, both limiting and creative possi-
bilities that relate to power and ideology. Hegemonic discourse pro-
duces a limited repertoire of social positions available to social actors
and, as other discursive elements, these positions derive meaning
from their relations to each other (Laclau and Moue 1985). In this
study, the concepts of hegemony and subject positions are used as
tools to understand how some explanations and interpretations of
sexual acts might appear truer than others due to expectations tied
to social identities.
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 21
Feminist movements and institutionalised injustice
As this study explores the possibilities and limitations of a mod-
ern feminist hashtag movement by analysing news media cover-
age of #MeToo and its audience reactions, we suggest an analytical
approach inspired by the critique against modern day leftist and
feminist movements put forward by, among others, Nancy Fraser
(2003). She describes the justice claims of such movements as too
focused on the social/cultural dimension, which she refers to as
recognition and explains as cultural and symbolic deconstruction.
Fraser proposes that this is related to the hegemony of a neoliberal
view of social justice and that these movements need instead to focus
on both recognition and economic redistribution, as well as repre-
sentation — a dimension of injustice concerned with who gets to be
included in society’s justice concepts (Fraser 2005, 2011). is three-
dimensional model of justice is needed, Fraser states, to eliminate
injustice from all social arenas where it has been institutionalised.
is is in line with Laclau and Moue’s (1985) claim that the gen-
der system is a consequence of the institutionalisation of discursive
constructions of two distinct sexes and traits belonging to them.
Femininity has been constructed as subordinate to masculinity
on the social/cultural level, but feminist movements also have to
address the fact that this value system is institutionalised, which has
led to injustice on other levels (ibid.). is critical outlook on modern
day feminism may assist in analysing the debate regarding #MeToo.
Hashtag movements aimed at shining light on the issue of sexual
assault, as well as media coverage of such movements, have been
criticised for reinforcing an oversimplied and individualised view
of complex structural issues (e.g., De Benedictis, Orgad & Rottenburg
2019, McDonald 2019, Worthington 2020).
Method and material
e study looks at a small representation of Swedish news media
coverage of the #MeToo movement and comments from its audi-
ence. Chosen for the analysis were three cases involving accusations
against famous men: TV personality Martin Timell, journalist Fre-
drik Virtanen and culture personality Jean-Claude Arnault. All three
22 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
of these men received large media coverage early on in the #MeToo
movement. e aim of the study is to identify possibilities and limita-
tions of news media representations of the #MeToo movement rela-
tive to power relations. We use critical discourse analysis (CDA) to
elicit subject positions and overarching themes from news articles
about the men, as well as related op-eds and Facebook comments.
us, the study shows how discourse might work as a limiting force
reinforcing asymmetric power relations (Chouliaraki & Fairclough
1999, Winther Jørgensen & Phillips 2000). We chose to include news
articles, op-eds and Facebook comments to explore how dierent
actors in dierent contexts made sense of descriptions of sexual
assault and how this might be related to possibilities and limitations
of the #MeToo movement.
Since this is a qualitative study, the analysis points only to themes
emerging from this particular sample of texts and makes no claims
of generalisation. As the material consists of dierent genres, news
articles, op-eds and reader comments on Facebook, the analysis
was conducted in three steps, each pertaining to a dierent genre.
e material was read through several times and notes were taken
on how the women and the men, as well as their respective actions,
were portrayed and discussed, and how this related to the specic
context tied to each type of material. e analysis was guided by the
following questions: How are the men and women referred to? How
are their actions described and explained in regard to motivating
factors? After analysing the dierent genres separately, we sought to
identify any common themes and contradictions across and between
the genres.
e news articles and op-eds were identied using the media
archive Retriever, a Nordic news media archive that gathers mate-
rial from print and digital media, radio and TV. We selected only
articles published in the press between October 2017 to December
2017, with one exception, as Arnault rst stated his opinion (through
his defence attorney) in an article published on 8 March 2018. e
time period was chosen in order to capture the initial media cover-
age of the cases. As the men had yet to be tried for any crimes, we
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 23
anticipated the depictions of the events in the press would be the
most homogeneous during this initial moment. e names of the
accused men and the epithets used for them in the media coverage
were used as search terms. e number of search hits for the time
period selected were 8,360, 3,077, and 20,497 for Timell, Virtanen
and Arnault respectively, as shown in Table 1.
In order to narrow the sample while at the same time keeping
the selection comprehensive, included were only articles from the
four largest national newspapers in Sweden, the broadsheet papers
Dagens Nyheter (DN) (liberal) and Svenska Dagbladet (SvD) (liberal
conservative), the tabloid newspapers Aftonbladet (social demo-
cratic) and Expressen (liberal), as well as the public service media
house Sveriges Television’s news site SVT Nyheter. Similar articles
that built on one another were grouped, and the initial version was
selected for the sample. Additionally, only those texts thoroughly
depicting the men accused and the women accusers, as well as the
behaviour leading to the accusations, were selected. One or two
texts were chosen to represent the commencement of the coverage
of each case, and approximately eight texts were selected to repre-
sent responses consisting of interviews and opinion pieces. Included
in the sample were eleven articles and op-eds about Timell, seven
about Virtanen and ten about Arnault, coming to a total of 28.
Case Search hits in media archive Retriever Number of texts in sample
Martin Timell 5,252 using the name, 3,108 using the
epithet ”TV4-profilen” (TV4 profile) 11
Fredrik Virtanen
2,623 using the name, 454 using the
epithet ”Aftonbladetprofilen”
(Aftonbladet profile)
Jean-Claude Arnault
3,335 using the name, 17,162 using
the epithet ”Kulturprofilen” (Culture
Table 1: Number of search hits in media archive Retriever and number of texts in
sample for each of the three cases.
In 2019, as Facebook was used by 74% of Swedish internet users
over the age of 12 — making it the most popular social networking
site in Sweden (Internetstiftelsen 2019) — we thus chose Facebook
comments to represent media audience commentary. e sample
includes all comments from four posts in which the selected news
24 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
media publications shared the commencement articles on their
respective ocial Facebook pages. Of the 380 comments, 169 came
from a post about Timell by Aftonbladet (19 October 2017), 110 from
a post about Virtanen by Svenska Dagbladet (25 October 2017), 52
from a post about Arnault by Dagens Nyheter (21 November 2017)
and 49 from a post again about Arnault by Expressen (1 December
2017), shown in Table 2.
Case Facebook page and date of post Number of comments
Martin Timell Aftonbladet, 19-10-2017 169
Fredrik Virtanen Svenska Dagbladet, 25-10-2017 110
Jean-Claude Arnault Dagens Nyheter, 21-11-2017 and
Expressen 01-12-2017 52 + 49
Table 2: The Facebook entries chosen and the number of comments for each
In Sweden, the press adheres to the Journalistic Code of Ethics, a
voluntary set of journalistic guidelines for news media. e guide-
lines state that news should be correct, respect personal integrity,
always depict both sides of an issue, and take care when publishing
names, among other things (Statens Medieråd 2020). Not following
these rules might result in the Swedish Press Council (Pressens Opin-
ionsnämnd) taking up an inquiry. is responsibility does not apply
to user comments on the ocial Facebook pages of news media
publications. However, the four publications, whose comment elds
are used in the analysis, have published guidelines for commenters
on their respective Facebook pages. Although the guidelines dier
somewhat, they all call for users to consider their own responsibility
to comply with the law and to make sure they do not insult or threat
anyone, nor make racist or sexist comments, etc. (SvD 2020, Afton-
bladet 2018, Expressen 2020, DN 2018). ese dierences in regulat-
ing principles of news texts and Facebook comments are considered
in the analysis.
As the analysed material was originally written in Swedish, it has
been translated by the authors. All comments from social media
were anonymised prior to the analysis. ey appear without editing,
except for the translation.
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 25
Firstly, it is worth noting that since the publication of the analysed
material, Jean-Claude Arnault has been sentenced to 2-½ years in
prison for two cases of rape. Martin Timell was tried in court for one
case of rape but was acquitted. Fredrik Virtanen was never tried in
court on the accusations of sexual assault, mainly because of the
expired statute of limitations. However, he himself did sue one of his
accusers, journalist Cissi Wallin, who was subsequently sentenced
for defamation.
As the three cases had dierent developments, the media coverage
of the respective cases changed and evolved dierently over time.
Nevertheless, this early coverage shows large similarities in how the
stories broke in the press. Although varying somewhat in size and
scope, the stories were initiated with reportages in which several
sources accused the then anonymous men of sexual assault. In the
media coverage that followed, the men were eventually named. is
decision was debated in the press and following this, several arti-
cles were blamed by the Swedish Press Council (Pressens Opinion-
snämnd) for breaking the Journalistic Code of Ethics. e three cases
dier in the number of women coming forward with stories, and
while Virtanen and Timell were interviewed by the press shortly after
their stories broke, Arnault made no statements to the press at the
time. e cases, however, are similar in that they portray men with
power in the media and culture industries. For an extended period of
time, all three men seem to have behaved in a sexually predatory way
towards women while still managing to maintain privileged careers.
Analysing only the rst months of press coverage and reactions
from the media audience allows for identifying common themes in
the media coverage of the three cases before they began to dier,
as the accusations were further investigated. e results show that
although the material is diverse, the subject positions for the men
and women build on similar gendered notions of responsibility and
victimhood. News texts, op-eds and Facebook comments are ana-
lysed respectively below, and this is followed by a concluding dis-
cussion of how the overarching themes relate to both the #MeToo
movement and dominant discourse on sexuality.
26 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
News texts: Women-as-witnesses and men-as-victims
e reports and news articles in the material express an intertex-
tual news genre in which principles of journalistic ethics seem to
integrate with the use of legal language. e women’s acts of talking
to the press about their experiences of sexual assault are often times
described as witnesses coming forward and making accusations. Sev-
eral times in the news articles, references are made towards women’s
credibility, for example, by referring to the fact that multiple inde-
pendent sources tell similar stories of encounters with the men, or by
using quotes from other sources saying that they believe in the cred-
ibility of the stories because they know and trust the women. us,
the news texts create an almost court-like setting where the women
making justice claims also bear the burden of proof and can be ques-
tioned in terms of their motives and credibility. In the following news
article excerpt, published in Svenska Dagbladet (SvD), accusations
against Virtanen are reported as issued by several women indepen-
dently of one other and wherein one particular woman’s story is
partly conrmed by her male friend.
“Independently of each other, they describe in detail the same
foul and sexual language and invectives for women they claim the
Aftonbladet journalist uses. Here is a selection of the women’s stor-
In the beginning of the 00’s, Lisa is subjected to the Aftonbladet wri-
ter on a night out in Eskilstuna, she tells SvD. Towards the end of
the night, she tags along with the writer to the Stadshotellet for an
after party. In the taxi is also Lisa’s friend Erik, who has confirmed
his presence.
Lisa describes coming along with the Aftonbladet journalist to his
room, expecting others to join in.” (“Tolv kvinnor anklagar Virtanen
för sextrakasserier och övergrepp”, Svenska Dagbladet)
Legal language is also used in the breaking news stories regarding
Arnault, published in Dagens Nyheter. When no other witnesses were
able to back up the women’s stories, the journalist went on to inter-
view others to provide credibility, as seen below.
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 27
“Out of the 18 women I have interviewed, five tell stories of inci-
dents that lack eyewitnesses. In those cases, their stories are veri-
fied by people close to the women, as well as their therapists with
whom I have been in contact.”
The ninth woman:
“I really wanted to work in the culture industry, and he [Arnault]
approached me at an art exhibition. He was insistent afterwards
and I allowed it. I felt that a job at the Club [Arnault’s culture estab-
lishment in central Stockholm] would be good for my career. I went
to a couple of events and at one of them, he made advances and I
did not like that. When I refused, he became very aggressive. I was
scared of him and it got worse when I started working at the Club.
On one occasion, he forced himself on me…” (“18 kvinnor: Kultur-
profil har utsatt oss för övergrepp”, Dagens Nyheter)
e use of legal language achieves the goal of giving credibility to
the women and their stories, but at the same time might make them
susceptible to notions of doubt. Such notions are reinforced by the
frequent use of modality markers such as “supposedly”, as seen here:
“[a]n incident supposedly occurred in the hot tubbetween Martin
Timell and the woman…” (Oxblod, Nilsson & Malmgren 2017-10-19),
although this is arguably a way for the journalists to full journalistic
ethics and principles. Furthermore, the articles describe the wom-
en’s various motivations to speak out about their experiences. While
the idea of revenge is oated a few times in the material, the articles
are centred around the idea of providing warnings and helping other
women. e excerpts below illustrate how the women’s motivations
are portrayed.
“In 2011, Cissi Wallin chose to report Fredrik Virtanen to the police,
but the investigation was dropped because illegal activity could
not be proven. When she published his name in connection with
#MeToo, it was not to get revenge, she says.
– I did it because I know many others do not have access to my
voice, platform and ‘capital’.” (Cissi Wallin i unik intervju om Virta-
nen: Hans skydd är att vara i förnekelse, SVT Nyheter)
28 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
“Many of those I have interviewed say they decided to talk about
their experiences because of #MeToo, and in order to help others.
I choose to talk about this for her sake, and for other women. In
order for this to end.” (“18 kvinnor: Kulturprofil har utsatt oss för
övergrepp”. Dagens Nyheter)
“Decorator and TV personality Lulu Carter was the first one to sound
the alarm about Martin Timell having subjected her and others at
TV4 to sexual harassment and assault.” (“Lulu Carter i öppenhjärtig
intervju om Martin Timell”, Expressen)
Accordingly, the suggested motivations introduce a notion of
female responsibility for putting a stop to the problem of sexual
assault for the sake of other women. is notion of female responsi-
bility is perhaps an extension of the idea that neoliberal discourse on
female sexuality creates a female responsibility for conveying con-
sent (Worthington 2020). However, the news media coverage focuses
largely on the experiences of the victims, which might point to an
eect of feminist discourse on media reports of sex crime, as sug-
gested by several researchers (Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Mac-
donald, 2002, Lós & Chamard 1997, Serisier 2017). Several women
victims talk about giving consent out of fear, shame and to protect
their careers, indicating a move away from both narrow rape myths
— where so-called “bad men” rape so-called “bad women” (Franiuk,
Seefelt & Vandello 2008, Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald
2002) — and female responsibility to convey consent (Worthington
2020). us, as the intertextual nature of the news media coverage
produces women-as-witnesses, it simultaneously challenges rape
myths and introduces a new form of female responsibility. is is
further reinforced through the representations of the accused men.
To establish a portrayal of Virtanen, Timell and Arnault, the vari-
ous journalists conduct interviews not only with the men themselves
(with the exception of Arnault), but also with acquaintances and
friends of the three men. roughout the news media coverage, these
actors seem to recognise the men’s behaviour as wrongful and hurt-
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 29
ful while at the same time suggesting doubt in regard to their illegal-
ity. us, the men can claim victimhood by expressing innocence.
Soon after being named in the press, both Virtanen and Timell give
interviews. eir stories are similar in that they construct demarca-
tions between illegal and simply “bad”, “stupid” or “outdated” behav-
iour for which they claim some responsibility (see excerpts below).
Arnault is never interviewed but is said to be “distressed” by the
accusations, which, like Virtanen and Timell, he also denies, accord-
ing to his defence attorney (“Kulturprolens advokat: ‘Hela hans liv
har slagits i spillror’, Dagens Nyheter 8 March 2018). Elsewhere in the
news coverage, Arnault is described as inhabiting a “arty masculin-
ity” (kulturmaskulinitet), having a liking for “younger women” and
acting like a “gentleman” (“Kulturprolens maktspel – hot, löften
och misstänkta sexövergrepp, Expressen 1 December 2017). Conse-
quently, the men can deect responsibility on the basis of demarca-
tions between illegal and merely misogynistic behaviour. e quotes
below by Virtanen and Timell reinforce this deection of responsibil-
ity, as they both claim their behaviour has now changed for the better
and that they want to apologise to the women if they got hurt by their
past actions:
“– I am of course very sorry if I upset people. It is disgusting and
sad and I am very sorry about it.
So, you are saying this is an old behaviour, and that you are a
changed person now?
– Yes, I lead a very different life today. I haven’t visited a nightclub
in forever and I have a family and children. At work, our jargon is
sometimes harsh, crass or playful and, of course, I can’t guarantee
I never say anything stupid, but I do work hard to be a good per-
son. Of course, I am sorry and want to apologise to them — I don’t
know who they are — if I said something inappropriate or acted
improperly.” (“Virtanen: Jag har betett mig tölpigt och skitstövligt”,
“Timell says he meant nothing by his behaviour.
– From what I have read, I apparently touched her bottom in some
breakfast queue. This is eleven years ago. I have no recollection of
this, but her experience is accurate. Even if I don’t remember it. Of
30 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
course, I apologise for this as well. I have done things that I meant
nothing by. It was never intended as sexual harassment.” (“Martin
Timell bryter tystnaden – och erkänner”, Expressen)
ese demarcations between both illegal and misogynistic behav-
iour and past behaviour and current willingness to apologise might
invoke doubt in regard to the women’s stories. While the articles are
centred on women’s experiences, which supports earlier research
indicating the inuence of feminist discourse has widened the con-
cept of sex crime in news media reports beyond violent attacks by
strangers (Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald, 2002, Ser-
isier 2017), their use of legal language to frame the stories presents
an opportunity for the men to explain their behaviour by installing
doubt about its illegality. Arguably, these explanations are present
in the texts thanks to journalistic ethics and principles — accord-
ing to which both sides of a story need to be heard. However, they
also seem to construct notions of male victimhood. e two excerpts
below indicate a male subject position of victim of unjust media cov-
erage. While they indicate a fullment of journalistic principles and
rightfully suggest negative personal consequences for the men being
named in the media coverage, they also work to reinforce ideas of
false accusations.
“Timell calls the media coverage of him ‘a witch-hunt’.
– I have been chased around the clock for four weeks. They chase
me on the street. I’ve had to flee the country. And I have a family.
How do you think it feels,’ he says to SVT Nyheter.” (“Martin Timell:
‘Jag har fått fly landet’, SVT Nyheter)
How has he been affected by the allegations?
– He has suffered of course. His whole life has been more or less
torn to shreds by this, which he is not the only one to experience
in the aftermath of the MeToo campaign. Many have been accused
in this campaign and very few allegations have been properly fol-
lowed up. Those who are solely accused suffer greatly…” (“Kul-
turprofilens advokat: ‘Hela hans liv har slagits i spillror’”, Dagens
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 31
Do you think you have been innocently accused and harmfully por-
trayed by the media?
– Yes, I do think so. I think it’s a terrible thing that the internet has
been a place of lynch law. We have a judicial system in this country
that should handle all questions of criminal activity. I don’t think one
should name and shame people in social media. The accused is not
allowed to defend oneself.” (“Virtanen: Jag har betett mig tölpigt
och skitstövligt”, Aftonbladet)
As these texts invoke victimhood and doubt, they may skew the
focus of the coverage toward issues of journalistic ethics and the
consequences of accusations of sexual assault for the accused men.
In the third excerpt above, Virtanen contrasts the media portrayal of
him to a functioning judicial system. us, the formation of the sub-
ject position of “male victim” furthers a notion of the media coverage
accusations as pitted against an objective justice system. Although
the reports that initially broke the stories make use of legal language,
arguably in order to provide credibility and legitimacy to the stories,
both the demarcations between illegal and “bad”, and suggestions of
media witch hunts in the men’s stories, might deate the trustwor-
thiness of the women. Altogether, the coverage seems to prioritise
legal discourse as producer of objective truth, which might signal its
hegemonic stance (Laclau & Moue 1985, Chouliaraki & Fairclough
1999). us, the use of legal language to produce credibility for the
women witnesses might at the same time enable demarcations
between illegal and simply “bad” behaviour, consequently creating
notions of male victimhood as well as doubt in regard to the women’s
Opinion pieces: Women-as-heroines and powerful men
In the opinion pieces, the subject position of woman-as-witness
is supplemented with that of woman-as-heroine. e idea — that
some of the news articles seem to issue a warning and/or attempt
to help other women by encouraging them to speak up and discuss
their experiences — is visible here as well, but the language use is
32 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
inuenced by both literary and legal language. While the women
witnesses are constructed as brave heroines showing both courage
in speaking up and incurring inevitable negative consequences for
attempting to stop any further abuse from the men, the men are
depicted as “bad people” with power. e opinion pieces also sug-
gest that some of the men’s workplace and industry colleagues knew
about their behaviour but remained silent. ese depictions and
subject positions are visible in the following excerpts from opinion
pieces published in the tabloid newspaper Expressen (rst excerpt)
and the broadsheet newspaper Dagens Nyheter (second and third
“Isabel, 26, and Amanda, 30, are my heroines. [...] It was then that
Isabel, born in 1991, had to go to battle — with her body — and tell
the story of its implosion at the hands of her boss, she had to take
the risk and pay the price, with her name and her picture, to tell her
story. [..] It was #MeToo then, and this brave young woman had to
deal with something that previous executives should have rectified
earlier” (“Britta Svensson: Det är våra döttrar som har tagit stri-
den”, Expressen)
“It began with 18 women. Eighteen brave women who told stories
about harassment and grave sexual misconduct by a man with ties
to the 18 chairs [in the Swedish Academy], in Matilda Gustavsson’s
reportage in DN…” (“Björn Wiman: Att kvinnorna inte nämns är en
arrogans som gränsar till skamlöshet”, Dagens Nyheter)
“Man's terrifying informal power, the fear of falling into disgrace
in the eyes of the Swedish Academy — those are sociologically
informative explanations. But nevertheless, they are also depres-
sing depictions of submission to real or imagined authorities. There
are several reasons for this lack of moral courage. I think it is about
contempt or disloyalty for the victims. The same contempt and dis-
loyalty that victims of sex crime have been subjected to since the
beginning of time, and still persist today.” (“Malin Ullgren: Det är
djupt provocerande att höra alla som säger att de inget visste”,
Dagens Nyheter)
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 33
Although extracted from dierent publications, the excerpts put
forward similar understandings of both the #MeToo movement and
the media coverage of it. Men with power have had the opportunity
to behave badly towards women and still keep their powerful posi-
tions in part because the surrounding people involved stayed silent.
is depicts sexual assault as a structural problem, a depictive frame
used by Swedish media in their #MeToo coverage to a larger extent
than in other countries, as Askanius and Moller Hartley (2019) sug-
gest. In the fall of 2017, brave women came forward and gave tes-
timony, and as a consequence, the men lost their so-called power.
While this interpretation of the #MeToo movement may indicate
demands for justice concerning all three of Fraser’s (2005, 2011) jus-
tice dimensions: recognition (of guilt), redistribution (of power) and
representation (of brave women in the concerned workplaces), it
arguably reinforces the female responsibility suggested earlier in the
analysis. us, while the problem might be depicted as structural,
the solution seems to rely (although reluctantly) on individualised
female responsibility, possibly supporting the notion that #MeToo
and other hashtag movements might risk reinforcing neoliberal
notions of responsibility (Worthington 2020). However, the use of lit-
erary language might suggest that these opinion pieces function as
arenas for alternate discourse of sexual misconduct as they depart
from the constraints of legal discourse. Women-as-heroines are not
subjected to notions of doubt as much as women-as-witnesses are.
e opinion pieces describe the accused men as powerful and repul-
sive, the women victims as brave heroines and the surroundings
as responsible for having protected the men. us, they suggest a
shared responsibility for putting an end to sexual assault. Some of the
texts explicitly suggest that too little responsibility has been ascribed
to the men. Nonetheless, the position of woman-as-heroine subtly
reinforces the idea of female responsibility and by extension con-
structs the problem of sexual assault as solvable only when women
are brave, outspoken and able to warn others.
Facebook comments: Hypocrites and doubt
In contrast to the news articles, throughout the Facebook com-
ments, responsibility is arguably more dispersed between actors,
34 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
perhaps due to both fewer and less severe regulations of comment
elds than of journalistic material published in news media. All three
accused men are referred to with various negative monikers such as
“hypocrite”, “dirty old man”, “sex lunatic”, “a shame for the male spe-
cies”, shown in these comments:
“Hopefully someone will learn from this and it’s a pity for all invol-
ved that dirty old men think they can do whatever they want!!!”
(Comment from the article “Assistenten slog larm om sexanklagad
TV4-profil: ‘Jag fick högre lön för att vara tyst” about Timell, shared
on Aftonbladet’s Facebook page 2017-10-19)
“Get rid of him immediately. He is a shame for the male species.”
(Comment from the article “12 kvinnor anklagar Virtanen för sex-
trakasserier och övergrepp”, shared on Svenska Dagbladet’s Face-
book page 2017-10-25)
“[I] love that all these hypocrites in the culture and media world
are now getting caught for all their assaults...” (Comment from the
article “Känd kulturprofil anklagas för övergrepp” about Arnault,
shared on Svenska Dagbladet’s Facebook page 2017-11-21)
e men are more blatantly blamed here than in the news media.
However, the notions of male victimhood and female responsibil-
ity are reinforced here as well. Many comments invoke the judi-
cial system and journalistic ethics when talking about the women
and the media, which connotes distrust and doubt in regard to the
accusations and reinforces the male position of victim. is, again,
might skew the discussion towards focusing on the behaviour of the
women-as-witnesses and their decisions to blame the men through
the media, rather than the explicit behaviour of the men. In the
examples below, the comments use legal discourse to question the
media reports and the women.
“He [Arnault] is a suspect and reported to the police, but why por-
tray him as guilty. It will be very interesting to see what will be writ-
ten about him if he gets acquitted or if the case is dropped from lack
of evidence. Will they still argue his guilt at all costs, or will they
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 35
apologise and hope he won’t sue them? Regardless, the journalism
we can see as a result of ME TOO [sic!] is not worthy of a state
governed by the rule of law. Suddenly, accusations are enough to
condemn someone. It’s all gone to hell.” (Comment from the article
“Kulturprofilens maktspel: Hot, löften och misstänkta sexöver-
grepp” about Arnault, shared on Expressens Facebook page 2017-
“Oh, so he was named and shamed with his face and all, before any
trial and conviction.” (Comment from the article “Kulturprofilens
maktspel: Hot, löften och misstänkta sexövergrepp” about Arnault,
shared on Expressen’s Facebook page 2017-12-01)
“Commenter 1: No man can get away with it any longer! #MeToo
Commenter 2: Great attitude, go ahead and abolish the legal system
and instead we will introduce mob law where only those who make
the most noise gets heard. And the accused are assumed guilty.”
(Comment from the article “12 kvinnor anklagar Virtanen för sex-
trakasserier och övergrepp”, shared on Svenska Dagbladet’s Face-
book page 2017-10-25)
“I think it’s wrong to name and shame someone before they are
convicted!” (Comment from the article “Assistenten slog larm om
sexanklagad TV4-profil: ‘Jag fick högre lön för att vara tyst” about
Timell, shared on Aftonbladet’s Facebook page 2017-10-19)
Naming someone in the media prior to conviction is said by the
commenters to pose a threat to the justice system and rule of law. As
the news articles and opinion pieces discuss whether to name the
men or not from the point of view of journalistic ethics, it is perhaps
not surprising that the comments debate this issue as well. How-
ever, this critique forms a basis for the commenters to question the
experiences by the women depicted in the press. In regard to the
Virtanen and Timell cases, many Facebook comments question why
the women did not report the assaults to the police at the time of the
event. e comments below are examples of this:
“Why not report the crime to the police at the time, instead of
several years after the fact. Well, money. Makes you wonder!!!”
36 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
(Comment from the article “Assistenten slog larm om sexanklagad
TV4-profil: ‘Jag fick högre lön för att vara tyst” about Timell, shared
on Aftonbladet’s Facebook page 19-10-2017)
“Why so long to report? Seems like it’s been going on for a long
time!!!!” (Comment from the article “12 kvinnor anklagar Virtanen
för sextrakasserier och övergrepp”, shared on Svenska Dagbladet’s
Facebook page 2017-10-25)
In the case of Arnault, several comments also bring into question
his wife, arguably claiming she should have been aware of Arnault’s
behaviour and could have possibly stopped him.
“His wife must have known about his way of life; how does she
stand for this.” (Comment from the article “Kulturprofilens makts-
pel: Hot, löften och misstänkta sexövergrepp” about Arnault, sha-
red on Expressen’s Facebook page 2017-12-01)
“Don’t know who he is, but apparently he is disgusting to say the
least — what does the wife say?” (Comment from the article “Kul-
turprofilens maktspel: Hot, löften och misstänkta sexövergrepp”
about Arnault, shared on Expressen’s Facebook page 2017-12-01)
us, these comments reinforce notions of female responsibility
for ending the problem with sexual assault. When women victims do
not full this responsibility, their actions are depicted as question-
able. is installs a sense of doubt — did the assault really happen
the way she said it did — and reinforces the male subject position
of victim of unjust media coverage. However, the comments pro-
vide explanations for why women may have neglected reporting the
crime to the police and instead turned to the media. Several com-
menters suggest that the justice system provides limited possibili-
ties in convicting sexual oenders as “it’s one person’s word against
another’s and the victim will lose, and the perpetrator can claim it
didn’t happen” as one person writes in theVirtanen comment eld.
is is visible in the exchange below:
“Commenter 1: […]When a crime has been committed you should
always report it to the police, even though the case might be drop-
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 37
ped later. The same is true if you get set up on Blocket [a Swedish
website for classified ads] and know the investigation will be drop-
ped because if enough people report to the police, they have to act.
Commenter 2: It’s common that women don’t report sex crimes
because of how the police and the legal system treat women vic-
tims. Many say it felt like a second assault.” (Comments from the
article “12 kvinnor anklagar Virtanen för sextrakasserier och över-
grepp”, shared on Svenska Dagbladet’s Facebook page 2017-10-25)
Discussions such as this might problematise the privileged posi-
tion of the judicial system as the sole producer of truth. At the same
time, no comment in either comment eld suggests solutions to the
societal problem of sexual assault outside of legal proceedings, and
several comments suggest media coverage of the #MeToo movement
pose a threat to both the judicial system and the rule of law in society.
e dominance of legal language and the adherence to journalistic
ethics in the news articles work to limit the possibilities of under-
standing experiences of sexual assault prior to judicial proceed-
ings and convictions in the Facebook comment elds. As legal dis-
course seems to produce hegemonic notions of sexual misconduct
in the material as a whole, the need for expansion of the consent/
rape dichotomy suggested by Tosh (2016) and omas, Lafrance and
Stelzl (2018) might also be applicable here. At the same time, many
commenters agree that the men have behaved badly and that they
were protected by a culture of silence in both the media and culture
industries. is might suggest that the #MeToo movement has in fact
functioned as an arena for feminist discourse constructing sexual
assault as a structural problem via the linking together of many het-
erogeneous stories, as suggested by Gill and Orgad (2018) and Clark
is analysis of the news media coverage of three cases of accu-
sations of sexual assault against well-known men in the wake of
the #MeToo movement in Sweden, as well as some responses in
the form of opinion articles and audience comments on Facebook,
suggest legal discourse works to limit negotiations of the meaning
38 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
of unwanted sexual attention. By producing the subject positions of
women-as-witnesses, the news stories convey a sense that female
responsibility alone must function as the means to end the prob-
lem of sexual assault. At the same time, the seemingly hegemonic
position of legal denitions of sexual assault creates demarcations
between illegal and simply “bad” behaviour which instils a sense of
doubt in regard to the stories of the women. is works to produce a
subject position of men-as-victims in media “witch hunts. e judi-
cial system and journalistic ethics and principles are used to contrast
a suggested unjust treatment of the accused men in the media.
Many Facebook comments depart from this when questioning
the women for not reporting the events directly to the police and for
instead telling their stories in the media. Although the opinion pieces
deviate somewhat from legal discourse and use literary language to
describe the bravery of the women who came forward in the news
stories, they, possibly unintentionally, reinforce the idea of female
responsibility by producing women-as-heroines. e study thus
supports ndings from earlier research indicating media reports on
sex crime both reassure and challenge stereotypical notions of rape
(“rape myths”) (Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald, 2002,
Lós & Chamard 1997, Serisier 2017). Notions of “real rape” are con-
veyed through demarcations between illegal and “bad” behaviour,
but at the same time, the behaviour of the men is depicted as bad
and wrong throughout the material. us, the analysis indicates a
continuing struggle for hegemony within the discourse on sexual
assault, as indicated by Worthington (2008), and there still seems to
be a need of an expansion of the possibilities of negotiation beyond
the restraints of legal language and principles (Tosh 2016, omas,
Lafrance & Stelzl 2018). Otherwise, the discussion risks focusing on
how well women live up to their role of witnesses rather than focus-
ing on the behaviour of the men, as indicated in the Facebook com-
e study suggests that the news media coverage of the three cases
focuses largely on the experiences of the women who fell victim to
the assaults, which supports earlier research suggesting feminist dis-
course caused media reports on sex crime to concentrate on the vic-
tim’s perspective (Ardovini-Brooker & Caringella-Macdonald, 2002,
JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020 // 39
Lós & Chamard 1997, Serisier 2017). At the same time, the women
are depicted as motivated by a need to warn and help other women,
which creates a notion of female responsibility for putting an end
to the problem of sexual assault. Further reinforcing this gendered
responsibility are the descriptions of women-as-heroines in the
opinion pieces, as well as the questioning of the actions of the victims
and the wives of the accused men found in many of the Facebook
comments. is supports ndings from research on the #MeToo
movement and other feminist hashtag movements indicating that
while such movements are successful in linking together heteroge-
neous stories to produce discourse on structural explanations for
the problem with sexual assault, they might risk strengthening neo-
liberal notions of individualised female responsibility (Clark 2016,
McDonald 2019, Modrek & Chakalov 2019, Gill & Orgad 2018, Wor-
thington 2020).
Perhaps, as suggested by Askanius and Møller Hartley (2019),
the Swedish media coverage of accusations in the wake of #MeToo,
more so than in other countries, framed the issue of sexual assault as
structural. e fact that the Swedish law on sex crime was changed to
include demands for consent in 2018 is in line with this nding and
the analysis also indicates such structural explanations, for instance,
descriptions of a “silence culture” in many interviews and opinion
pieces. However, the study suggests neoliberal notions of female
responsibility are reinforced not so much in demands for convey-
ing consent but in how solutions to the structural problem of sexual
assault are presented. e positive images of the witness and the
heroine helping other women forties the idea of gendered solidar-
ity indicated in previous research on feminist hashtag movements
(Clark 2016), but might at the same time limit the #MeToo move-
ment by presenting outspoken women as an individual solution for
the structural problem of sexual assault (De Benedictis, Orgad & Rot-
tenberg 2019).
Fraser’s (2005, 2011) call for feminist movements to make justice
claims on three dimensions — redistribution, recognition and rep-
resentation — might provide a tool to circumvent this limitation. By
adding responsibility to claims of redistribution and recognition, so
that the solution to the structural problem of sexual assault is never
40 // JOURNALISTICA · NR. 1 · 2020
dependent on individual women speaking up (to a considerable
personal risk), but rather on workplaces, law makers, educators and
individual men taking responsibility, the #MeToo movement might
signicantly advance feminist counter-discourse in the media cover-
age arena of sexual assault. Recognition of notions of female respon-
sibility on a discursive level might provide possibilities for a redis-
tribution of the responsibility for halting sexual assault. is study
has indicated that even though Swedish news media coverage of
both the #MeToo movement and its audiences’ reactions make room
for feminist explanations of the structural nature of sexual assault,
the hegemonic stance of legal discourse limits the possibilities for
a redistribution of responsibility for ending the problem. However,
the sample is small and limited in both time span and scope, which
leaves much room for future research. Such studies might examine
the prevalence of counter-discourse and notions of female responsi-
bility in other parts of the media coverage of #MeToo in Sweden and
elsewhere, as well as in self-published experiences of sexual assault
in social media. User ethnography would provide an important per-
spective on how social media users relate to hashtag movements
when participating in the debate or in the movement itself.
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of Blame and Sympathy in Ten Rape Cases. e Justice Professional, 15(1),
Askanius, T. & Møller Hartley, J. (2019). Framing Gender Justice. A Compara-
tive Analysis of the Media Coverage of #MeToo in Denmark and Sweden.
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Barker-Plummer, B. & Barker-Plummer, D. (2017). Hashtag Feminism, Digi-
tal Media, and New Dynamics of Social Change: A Case Study of #YesAl-
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PhD Student
Department of Social and Psychological Studies
Karlstad University
Universitetsgatan 2, 651 88 Karlstad, Sverige
Dept. of Ethnology, History of Religions and Gender Studies
Stockholm University
Frescativägen, 114 19 Stockholm, Sverige
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Background: The #MeToo movement sparked an international debate on the sexual harassment, abuse, and assault and has taken many directions since its inception in October of 2017. Much of the early conversation took place on public social media sites such as Twitter, where the hashtag movement began. Objective: The aim of this study is to document, characterize, and quantify early public discourse and conversation of the #MeToo movement from Twitter data in the United States. We focus on posts with public first-person revelations of sexual assault/abuse and early life experiences of such events. Methods: We purchased full tweets and associated metadata from the Twitter Premium application programming interface between October 14 and 21, 2017 (ie, the first week of the movement). We examined the content of novel English language tweets with the phrase “MeToo” from within the United States (N=11,935). We used machine learning methods, least absolute shrinkage and selection operator regression, and support vector machine models to summarize and classify the content of individual tweets with revelations of sexual assault and abuse and early life experiences of sexual assault and abuse. Results: We found that the most predictive words created a vivid archetype of the revelations of sexual assault and abuse. We then estimated that in the first week of the movement, 11% of novel English language tweets with the words “MeToo” revealed details about the poster’s experience of sexual assault or abuse and 5.8% revealed early life experiences of such events. We examined the demographic composition of posters of sexual assault and abuse and found that white women aged 25-50 years were overrepresented in terms of their representation on Twitter. Furthermore, we found that the mass sharing of personal experiences of sexual assault and abuse had a large reach, where 6 to 34 million Twitter users may have seen such first-person revelations from someone they followed in the first week of the movement. Conclusions: These data illustrate that revelations shared went beyond acknowledgement of having experienced sexual harassment and often included vivid and traumatic descriptions of early life experiences of assault and abuse. These findings and methods underscore the value of content analysis, supported by novel machine learning methods, to improve our understanding of how widespread the revelations were, which likely amplified the spread and saliency of the #MeToo movement.
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This article examines the first 6 months of #MeToo’s coverage in the UK press, revealing how newspapers played an important role in heightening the campaign’s visibility. Using content analysis, our study demonstrates that the press contributed to expanding and reinforcing #MeToo’s visibility in important ways. In terms of reach, the UK press has expanded the movement’s visibility beyond social media, addressing potentially new and different readerships. This attests to the pivotal role that news media continue to play in disseminating global issues and debates for a national audience. Second, in terms of content, while the news coverage developed and consolidated stories that were originally revealed on social media, it also publicized new stories. However, our study also highlights how the press’ role in enabling and expanding the visibility of #MeToo has been characterized by a number of crucial and, we argue, problematic factors. First, while #MeToo was covered positively in all newspapers, there was significant variation within newspapers, which was largely consistent with their traditional ideological alignments. Second, the #MeToo coverage seems to have followed and reinforced familiar patterns with respect to news coverage of both sexual violence and feminism, namely, support of feminism alongside a concurrent de-politicization, an individualizing tendency through a focus on celebrity and the cultural industries, and the centring of the experiences of celebrity female subjects who are predominately White and wealthy.
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This article challenges common conceptions of the 1980s as simply a period of ‘backlash’ for feminism. Instead, it argues that remediatory cultural activism by feminists shifted discussion and understandings of rape in this decade in complex and contradictory ways. More space was given to feminist and survivor voices, even as survivors continued to be denied cultural authority. In addition, a lack of intersectional awareness allowed feminist understandings of rape to be incorporated within criminal justice discourses. The article illustrates these arguments through a 1990 media event, the publication by the Des Moines Register (Iowa) of a five-day series based on the experiences of a local rape survivor, Nancy Ziegenmeyer. The series was made possible through cultural antecedents, such as actor Kelly McGillis’ public disclosure of her experience of rape as part of the publicity for the avowedly feminist rape film, The Accused, and academic and Democratic political figure Susan Estrich’s public identification as a rape survivor prior to becoming the manager of Michael Dukakis’ failed 1988 election bid. Consideration of three media events helps to outline the complex cultural legacy left by feminist media activism around sexual violence in this decade.
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In 2009 a US based television programme, The View, discussed the arrest of film director Roman Polanski. Polanski was wanted for six outstanding charges related to the rape of Samantha Gailey in 1977. During this episode of the The View, Whoopi Goldberg made a controversial statement that Polanksi was not guilty of ‘rape-rape’. This statement along with the long history of Polanski’s avoidance of incarceration, illustrates the ongoing challenges for feminists to confront the trivialization of sexual coercion and violence. Goldberg’s comments initiated an enthusiastic response on online forums and reinvigorated debates around definitions of rape. In this paper, I analyse online discussions on a feminist blog using discourse analysis (Parker, 2014) and the importance of considering the interrelated concepts of consent/non-consent, pleasure/distress and power in understanding the complexity and diversity of experiences of sexual violence.
In January 2018, a feminist blog, babe, detailed an anonymous woman’s date with comedian Aziz Ansari, ending with her accusation that he had sexually assaulted her by escalating his sexual advances despite her verbal and nonverbal objections. Online reaction to the babe article was swift and plentiful, including a New York Times editorial written by conservative provocateur Bari Weiss entitled, “Aziz Ansari is Guilty. Of Not Being a Mind Reader.” Weiss’ piece drew 2953 online responses before the comment section closed the next day, with wide-ranging views addressing the respective behaviors and motivations of Ansari, “Grace,” and Weiss. The responses provide an opportunity to explore how commenters negotiate the boundaries of the #MeToo movement in the venue that had ignited the movement’s resurgence with the story of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein’s longstanding sexual abuse of women working in the film industry. This study applies quantitative and qualitative analysis to comment discourse and elicits three major themes: (1) expectations for seeking or conveying consent, (2) criteria for publicizing the private, and (3) demarcations between insensitivity and abuse. Justifications frequently offered for the positions articulated were based on references to personal experience, cultural expectations, the #MeToo movement, and feminism.
Purpose The purpose of this paper is to examine 2,102 #MeToo tweets and focuses on the content of the tweets and social reactions to these tweets. For a subsample of 912 tweets that included disclosures of sexual assault or harassment, the incident type and context, along with coping were also examined. Design/methodology/approach #MeToo tweets were retrieved from a 24 h time period immediately after the initial tweet prompting responses. Both sentiment analysis and content and context analyses were performed. Findings Although the overall sentiment of tweets indicated a negative tone, the majority of positive social reactions indicated validation and belief of survivors, offered emotional support and called for social change. Targets who disclosed generally described workplace harassment and assertive coping responses. Research limitations/implications Sentiment analysis can be limited given a lack of context. Not all targets using #MeToo shared details of their harassment or assault; those who did reported using more assertive coping responses than traditional samples of survivors. Practical implications Social media platforms offer unique opportunities for targets to share personal stories and receive emotional and social support they may not have access in-person. Social implications #MeToo provided targets with a groundswell of social and emotional support, along with a less frequent amount of backlash against the movement. Originality/value A multimethod approach was used with both sentiment analysis and text coding to examine #MeToo, allowing for a description of types of incidents shared, coping strategies and social reactions.
In this short article we will aim to do three things. First, we want to use this opportunity to reflect on some of the changes we have seen in the scholarly field of gender, sexuality, and intimacy over this period, and on new emerging directions. Second, we want to discuss the move away from discussions of ‘sexualization’ to a more critical and political register interested in a variety of ways in which sex and power intersect. Thirdly, we will discuss MeToo as an example of this shifted form of engagement, and raise some questions about its possibilities and limitations.
Use of names has little ef fect on howr eaders view either a rape story or the crime. Considering that and the possible harm to the victim, not naming the victim still seems to be the best policy.
News, Violence and Women News and the Mythology of Anti-Woman Violence The Murder of a Battered Woman Good Girls, Bad Girls and TV News News of Self-Defense 'Unusualness' and Crime News Reforming the News Conclusion