#HowIWillChange: A Failure to Listen


#HowIWillChange: A Failure to Listen


Arts & Letters


M.A. Lifespan & Digital Communication

Publication Date



On October 15, 2017, the #MeToo social media movement began on Twitter and quickly went viral. Women around the world shared their stories of sexual abuse and harassment in an effort to reveal the endemic nature of the problem. In response, the #HowIWillChange hashtag encouraged men to pledge how they would behave differently. As an ally movement, however, #HowIWillChange failed. Successful male allyship of feminist movements begins with empathic listening. Most of the Twitter users who represented themselves as male and tweeted affirmatively to #HowIWillChange did not display empathic listening. The very construct of the hashtag—men having a separate conversation to solve a societal problem that oppresses women—was telling. This paper argues that pro-#HowIWillChange responders did not demonstrate effective allyship due to powerful inhibiting forces, including Twitter’s platform affordances, the intersection of patriarchy and neoliberalism, and the social construction of masculinity—all of which precluded empathic posts. Instead, they responded with pledges to control their personal behavior and monitor that of other men, an approach that elided the systemic nature of the problem. If #MeToo is to reach its full potential to stimulate lasting structural changes in society, its followers might glean lessons from the #HowIWillChange experience in order to engage more effective male allyship going forward.


#HowIWillChange: A Failure to Listen