The Grotesque Protest in Social Media as Embodied, Political Rhetoric

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The grotesque protest—emboldened through social media—employs the body’s fluids to push back against attempts to legislate bodies. Although social media use is commonly understood as engaging audience members who share ideological frames, it can instead diversify protest networks and encourage discourse. Social media provides individuals opportunities to resist attempts to control bodies and to reinsert individuals’ voices in political discourse aimed to exclude those bodies. The body functions as the modality in which the communicative act occurs, and the body’s fluids function as the medium for inventing disruptive, grotesque protest strategies. Activists such as Rupi Kaur, The Satanic Temple’s Jex Blackmore, and those using Twitter hashtags #periodsforPence and #PEEOTUS use bodily fluids and tissues to emphasize resistance to political movements attempting to control and legislate bodies. The protest campaigns show that the grotesque can be an effective tool for opening space, transgressing boundaries, demanding attention, and equalizing differential political power relations.

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Journal of Communication Inquiry