Website Graphic reading "Belief and Backlash After #MeToo

Belief and Backlash after #MeToo

October 5, 2023 5:15pm-7:30pm
  • Annenberg School, Room 109

The Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication invites you to celebrate the launch of two incredibly pertinent books on October 5th.

Join us to celebrate the publication of Believability: Sexual Violence, Media, and the Politics of Doubt by Dean Sarah Banet-Weiser and Kathryn Claire Higgins, and The #MeToo Effect: What Happens When We Believe Women by Leigh Gilmore.


The book launch will be held in person at the Annenberg School for Communication in Room 109 and the Forum from 5:00 to 7:30pm EST and is open to the public. To be followed by a drinks reception nearby.

This event is proudly co-sponsored between the Center for Collaborative Communication (C3) and the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) as a subset of their joint programming “Identity at the Limits of Representation.”

About the Book

Believability: Sexual Violence, Media, and the Politics of Doubt

The #MeToo movement created more opportunities for women to speak up about sexual assault. But we are also living in a time when “fake news” and “alternative facts” call into question the very nature of truth.

This troubling paradox is at the heart of this compelling book. The convergence of #MeToo and the crisis of post-truth is used to explore the experiences of women and people of color whose claims around issues of sexual violence are often held in doubt. Banet-Weiser and Higgins investigate how the gendered and racialized logics of “believability” are defined and contested within media culture, proposing that a mediated “economy of believability” is the context in which public bids for truth about sexual violence are made, negotiated, and authorized today.

About the Authors 

Sarah Banet-Weiser

Sarah Banet-Weiser (she/her) is the Walter H. Annenberg Dean of the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania and its Lauren Berlant Professor of Communication. In addition, she is a research professor at the University of Southern California’s Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the founding director of the Center for Collaborative Communication at the Annenberg Schools (C3). Her teaching and research interests include gender in the media, identity, citizenship, and cultural politics, consumer culture and popular media, race and the media, and intersectional feminism. Committed to intellectual and activist conversations that explore how global media politics are exercised, expressed, and perpetuated in different cultural contexts, she has authored or edited eight books, including the award-winning Authentic™: The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture (NYU Press, 2012) and Empowered: Popular Feminism and Popular Misogyny (Duke, 2018), and dozens of peer-reviewed articles, book chapters, and essays. She was formerly the editor of the flagship journal of the American Studies Association, American Quarterly, as well as co-editor of the International Communication Association journal, Communication, Culture, Critique, and was the founding co-editor of the New York University Press book series, Critical Cultural Communication Studies. Her latest book (co-authored with Kathryn Higgins), Believability: Sexual Violence, Media, and the Politics of Doubt (Polity, 2023), explores the convergence of the #MeToo movement and the crisis of post-truth.

Kathryn Claire Higgins

Kathryn Claire Higgins (she/her) is a Lecturer in Global Digital Politics in the Department of Media, Communications and Cultural Studies at Goldsmiths, University of London. A former Postdoctoral Fellow in the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication (C3), she is a critical scholar of communication, culture, and our contemporary politics of vulnerability. Her work focusses primarily on how different practices of state and social violence – from regimes of bordering, to endemic sexual assault, to the criminal legal system – are stabilized and/or contested in the terrain of media culture. Believability is her first book, and her research and writing are additionally published in Feminist Media Studies, Journalism, Television and New Media, and Visual Communication, among other outlets. She is currently writing her second book, Victimcould: Vulnerability Politics, Media, and the Imaginary Future.

About the Book

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.

About the Author 

Leigh Gilmore

Leigh Gilmore (she/her) 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.

About the Centers

Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication

The Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication (Annenberg C3) enables scholars to think and work across institutional, geographic and disciplinary divides. Jointly established by the USC Annenberg School for Communication and Journalism and the University of Pennsylvania’s Annenberg School for Communication, the center’s faculty, postdoctoral fellows and doctoral students seek to address emerging global issues broadly across the field of communication and media.

The first-of-its-kind center not only explores what “collaboration” means for the field of communication and media, but also provides critical infrastructure for reimagining and potentially revolutionizing how collaborative communication can be used to address complex issues such as health care, data privacy, cultural and demographic change, politics, new media, gender/racial equity and justice, media literacy and policy, journalistic trust, and the restructuring of media industries in an evolving age of streaming and networked distribution.

Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication

The Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) at the Annenberg School for Communication at the University of Pennsylvania is an institute that produces and promotes critical, interdisciplinary, and multimodal research on global media and communication. We aim to bridge academic scholarship and public life, bringing the very best scholarship to bear on enduring global questions and pressing contemporary issues. CARGC is dedicated to supporting early-career scholars worldwide and offers fellowships at the undergraduate, graduate, postdoctoral, and faculty levels.

This event is a part of the “Identity at the Limits of Representation” series co-sponsored by the Center for Advanced Research in Global Communication (CARGC) and the Annenberg Center for Collaborative Communication (Annenberg C3)

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