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Charis and Agnes Scott College welcome Leigh Gilmore in conversation with Nicole Stamant for a discussion of The #Metoo Effect: What Happens When We Believe Women. The #MeToo movement inspired millions to testify to the widespread experience of sexual violence. More broadly, it shifted the deeply ingrained response to women’s accounts of sexual violence from doubting all of them to believing some of them. What changed?
Leigh Gilmore provides a new account of #MeToo that reveals how storytelling by survivors propelled the call for sexual justice beyond courts and high-profile cases. At a time when the cultural conversation was fixated on appeals to legal and bureaucratic systems, narrative activism―storytelling in the service of social change―elevated survivors as authorities. Their testimony fused credibility and accountability into the #MeToo effect: uniting millions of separate accounts into an existential demand for sexual justice and the right to be heard.
Gilmore reframes #MeToo as a breakthrough moment within a longer history of feminist thought and activism. She analyzes the centrality of autobiographical storytelling in intersectional and antirape activism and traces how literary representations of sexual violence dating from antiquity intertwine with cultural notions of doubt, obligation, and agency. By focusing on the intersectional prehistory of #MeToo, Gilmore sheds light on how survivors have used narrative to frame sexual violence as an urgent problem requiring structural solutions in diverse global contexts. Considering the roles of literature and literary criticism in movements for social change, The #MeToo Effect demonstrates how “reading like a survivor” provides resources for activism.
Leigh Gilmore is professor emerita of English at the Ohio State University. She is the author of Tainted Witness: Why We Doubt What Women Say About Their Lives (Columbia, 2017), The Limits of Autobiography: Trauma and Testimony (second edition, 2023), and Autobiographics: A Feminist Theory of Women’s Self-Representation (1994), as well as coauthor of Witnessing Girlhood: Toward an Intersectional Tradition of Life Writing (2019). She contributes regularly to WBUR’s Cognoscenti.
Nicole Stamant’s work takes as its primary focus historically marginalized populations and historically marginalized forms of literature: Life Writing Studies, ethnic American literatures, and the literatures of gender and sexual minorities. She is the author of Memoirs of Race, Color, and Belonging (Routledge 2022) and Serial Memoir: Archiving American Lives (Palgrave 2014), and has recently contributed to the edited collections Consumption and the Literary Cookbook (2020), American Literature in Transition: 1970-1980 (2018) and The Postcolonial Subject in Transit: Migration, Borders, and Subjectivity in African Diaspora Literature (2018). Her journal articles have appeared in ARIEL, MELUS, a/b: Auto/Biography, South Central Review, English Language Notes, and Studies in Comics among others. In 2018, she received Agnes Scott's Vulcan Materials Company Teaching Excellence Award and is currently working on a manuscript about hospitality in culinary memoir.
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The #MeToo movement inspired millions to testify to the widespread experience of sexual violence. More broadly, it shifted the deeply ingrained response to women's accounts of sexual violence from doubting all of them to believing some of them. What changed?
In The Limits of Autobiography, Leigh Gilmore analyzes texts that depict trauma by combining elements of autobiography, fiction, biography, history, and theory in ways that challenge the constraints of autobiography. Astute and compelling readings of works by Michel Foucault, Louis Althusser, Dorothy Allison, Mikal Gilmore, Jamaica Kincaid, and Jeanette Winterson exp
When more than 150 women testified in 2018 to the sexual abuse inflicted on them by Dr. Larry Nassar when they were young, competitive gymnasts, they exposed and transformed the conditions that shielded their violation, including the testimonial disadvantages that cluster at the site of gender, youth, and race.