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International Symposium: Comparative Perspectives on #MeToo
University of Kentucky
Lexington, KY, USA
April 8-9, 2019

Co-organized by M. Cristina Alcalde (University of Kentucky, USA) and Paula-Irene Villa (Ludwig Maximilian University of Munich, Germany)

In 2017, Time Magazine featured the #MeToo movement as its “Person of the Year,” reminding readers of the pervasiveness and multiple manifestations of violence in women’s lives. In India the #MeToo movement has gained momentum and attention; in other parts of the world similar movements have also become prominent as women continue to publicly disclose harassment and abuse. In France the #BalanceTonPorc (“squeal on your pig”) movement has encouraged the uncovering of alleged abusers, and in China #WoYeShi is having a similar effect, while the distinct but similarly concerned #NiUnaMenos movements in Latin America continue to be at the center of mobilizations of women and allies.

Gendered and sexualized violence has long been a focus of (feminist and otherwise) critical political movements. Violence based on and performing certain notions of gender and sexuality is embedded in and used to reinforce institutionally embedded structures of inequality, dominance, and power and takes place in a range of contexts, from intimate family spaces to armed conflicts across the globe. Physical and verbal harassment has become a normalized part of women’s lives both in public and professional contexts. While women remain a main target of gendered and sexualized violence, this type of violence is not limited to women and girls. Boys and men also experience sexualized aggressions, in religious, military, and other societal institutions. Transgender and non-binary people are also significantly harassed and threatened in regard to gender and sexuality. In short: violence and aggressions based on gender and sexuality serve as display or enforcement of institutionalized structures of power. #MeToo and other similar movements bring attention to and can help mobilize against multiple manifestations of gendered and sexualized violence. They further question the normalized deeper texture of gendered norms regarding sexuality, intimacy, work, organizations, and behaviors as well as societies in general.

What do the #MeToo and similar movements around the world mean for women, for men, for children, for non-binary persons? How does #MeToo affect gender relations now, and possibilities for change in the future? How do these movements articulate regionally, and what do they have in common? How can we learn from each other through these movements? More broadly, how do we address the simultaneous universality and specificity of gendered harassment and violence?

This two-day interdisciplinary symposium will bring together scholars and activists from Africa, Asia, Europe, Latin America, and North America to explore the impact, scope, connections, and challenges associated with #MeToo and similar movements. We envision this international symposium as a space of dialogue and learning among scholars, activists, and students from diverse social sectors and disciplines, and as a space in which to also plan future collaborative efforts between scholars and institutions.

To create a fully interdisciplinary, transnational space of dialogue, panels will feature speakers from different geographic locations, disciplines, and backgrounds as much as possible. Each panel will include ample time for discussion with the audience as part of the broader space of dialogue central to the symposium. Individual presentations will be limited to 20 minutes, to ensure a space of dialogue in which all can participate and learn from one another.

Symposium topics include:

  • The role and experiences of #MeToo and similar movements in your institution, community, or country
  • Role of social media in different cultural contexts in the age of #MeToo
  • Government, higher education, and NGO responses to different forms of harassment
  • Women & Gender in academia (women in science, in humanities, in social sciences; gendered structures of hierarchies)
  • Power and privilege in the workplace
  • Intersectional framings of gendered/sexualized violence, harassment, etc., e.g. violence against immigrant women, harassment in religious contexts, age-related specificities, racialization and violence, etc.
  • Conceptual tools for understanding the complexity of gendered/sexualized power
  • LBGTQ narratives of harassment, abuse, and resilience
  • Bystander initiatives, programs, and approaches
  • Men and women as victims, offenders, allies