Speak Up, Sis

Black women, race, and news coverage of the Me Too movement

Authored by: Tia C. M. Tyree

The Routledge Handbook of Gender and Communication

Print publication date:  November  2020
Online publication date:  November  2020

Print ISBN: 9781138329188
eBook ISBN: 9780429448317
Adobe ISBN:

10.4324/9780429448317-33

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Abstract

Problematic portrayals of Black women in mass media are multifaceted and longstanding, and often work in consort with depictions of Black people as criminals and not worthy of police protection. This serious problem poses unique challenges in the context of the Me Too (#MeToo) movement. While sexual violence is experienced by people of all ages and races, sexual violence is racialized in the United States, with privilege being afforded to whites. Understanding the constraints present within U.S. society and its media system, this study focused on uncovering how Black women were specifically framed in Me Too movement stories appearing in Black online news sources. Using discourse analysis, the author analyzed 47 news stories from three online news sources that were published in the six months following actress Alyssa Milano's famous tweet. Results showed Black women's voices, which are historically muted in traditional news outlets, were privileged in the Black press. Black women were afforded the space to share information, opinions, and personal stories. The Black press, its reporters, and its sources advocated for Black women and framed the issues of sexual violence and sexual assault as problematic. Discourse within stories also showed the layers of stigma and trauma associated with Black women being unbelievable, unrespectable, disrespected, and discredited, which pushed many into the proverbial shadows along with their allegations. Overall, Black women's existence in the United States was portrayed as being rife with divisions and differences that both legitimized and undermined their abilities to name their abusers or detail their experiences both within the Black community and U.S. society.

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