What is After #MeToo: A Discourse Analysis of Gender Conflicts in Chinese Online Feminist Movement


Originated in the United States in October 2017, the #MeToo movement is a feminist movement that sweeps the globe against sexual harassment and assault. This movement has caused a huge sensation in China, both gender issues and feminism have historically become hot topics on social media. In 2019, the #MeToo movement has gradually subsided, but there have been several major discussions on gender issues on the Chinese Internet. At this time, discourse became an extension of the social movement. Based on the above observations and judgments, this study attempts to figure out the following two questions:

1. What kind of discourse turn has taken place in the Chinese Online feminist movement after the #MeToo movement?

2. What kind of impact does this turn have on the Online feminist movement of China?

This article borrows concepts from social movements and uses a method of critical discourse analysis. The content of the hot events about gender in Chinese social media after the #MeToo movement is selected as the material, and it is interpreted from the text layer, the discourse practice layer and the social and cultural event layer. The study try to establish a link between the production, dissemination, and consumption processes of relevant information and the sociocultural significance of information. Three conclusions have been drawn:

1. Discussions on gender issues became routine and expressions became extreme. More people participated in wider discussions, which included topics such as sexual assault, domestic violence, and gender discrimination. Participants produced a large amount of extreme discourse through the critical object of 'patriarchy' in the discussion.

2. Discussions on gender issues became a means of identification. According to the new social movement theory, the feminist movement is an identity-driven movement. Online feminist activists have completed identity and mobilization through discourse battle in social media, while creating opposition. This confrontation is manifested by the gender identity of male and female, and also by the feminist and non-feminist actors. Opposition further brings more discourse conflict.

3. Production of opposite discourse brings a decline in empathy and frequent carnival incidents, which have become a factor hindering the online feminist movement. Feminist views and expressions have been borrowed and stigmatized to become online buzzwords, triggering discourse sprees like social imitating sentences. This led to the gradual dissolution of the feminist movement.

Overall, discourse is not only a weapon but also a plight of the feminist movement. The misogyny in the historical context, the entertainment tendency in the discourse production process, and the identity conflict behind the discourse are all factors that hinder the development of the online feminist movement in China. From the perspective of a longer social history, although the specific actions of the #MeToo movement in China tend to stop, its spillover effect is still obvious. In the future, the outcome of this social movement may affect the feminist movement and even other parts of society for a long time through the contents of the Internet.

Key words:#MeToo; Online Feminist Movement; Gender Identity; Misogyny; Discourse Analysis