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Facing the Consequences: The Rhetoric of Denial During the #MeToo Movement

In 2017, when sexual assault and misconduct allegations against Harvey Weinstein were made public, the #MeToo movement erupted. Allegations against powerful figures across the nation came to light using the hashtag, prompting them to issue statements to neutralize the allegations. The research I conducted for this paper relied on criminological literature focusing on the neutralization of deviant behaviors, with an emphasis on Sykes and Matza’s neutralization techniques and Scott and Lyman’s theory of accounts. Using the techniques outlined by theorists, I conducted a content analysis of 97 statements from individuals responding to #MeToo allegations. I found that while techniques like apologies, justifications, excuses, and outright denial, as indicated by the literature, are still being relied upon, many individuals have introduced new techniques in order to effectively neutralize allegations. My research demonstrates how the neutralization of deviant behavior both evolves and stays the same as time progresses and culture shifts.

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