Mean Tweets: The Ghomeshi Effect

The Ghomeshi Effect fights back against Twitter harassment with MEAN TWEETS fundraiser

Since submitting a grant application to the Ontario Arts Council (OAC) in early August 2016 for her project titled The Ghomeshi Effectlocal theatre director/producer Jessica Ruano has been repeatedly harassed on Twitter (see screenshots below). Now she is fighting back with Mean Tweets LIVE: The Ghomeshi Effect at The Gladstone on Sunday, September 18th, 2016 at 7pm.

Ottawa City Councillor Catherine McKenney’s office and the Canadian Centre for Gender and Sexual Diversity have also received phone calls and emails questioning their support for the project and demanding the title be changed. The OAC, too, has already received several calls from Twitter users requesting this project not receive funding.

“Even after I explained to them that the production is not about Mr. Ghomeshi, but rather the important conversation around sexual violence that has arisen due to the heavily-publicized trial, which has been described in multiple newspapers as a phenomenon called the ‘Ghomeshi effect’, these Twitter users continued to send me hundreds of messages, accusing me of slandering Mr. Ghomeshi and spending government funds on a trip to Portugal – which is funny, because I haven’t actually received the grant yet,” says Ruano.

Inspired by Jimmy Kimmel’s popular television gimmick Mean Tweets, in which celebrities read aloud negative comments that have been written about them on Twitter, the team behind The Ghomeshi Effect, a verbatim dance-theatre piece that tackles sexual violence in Canada and gives voice to survivors, has decided to hold a staged reading of the tweets aimed @ghomeshieffect and @jessicaruano.

Hosted by local actor Annie Lefebvre and featuring members of the local theatre community, this event is a fundraiser for the production itself, which premieres at The Gladstone from January 19-28th, 2017, as well as the Ottawa chapter of Hollaback! a movement dedicated to ending street harassment using mobile technology.

Event: Mean Tweets LIVE: Fundraiser for The Ghomeshi Effect & Ottawa Hollaback!
Location: The Gladstone, 910 Gladstone Avenue
Date: Sunday, September 18th, 2016
Time: 7pm doors open, 7:30pm start time
Advance Tickets: $25 and include the performance and a catered reception. Additional donations are gratefully accepted at

Just a short sampling of the hundreds of tweets received this month. For more information on the cultural context and importance of this subject, please see paragraphs below.

Social media harassment has become an increasingly prevalent problem for people of all ages. High school students, hoping to find a safe space online, experience bullying on Facebook and Twitter and online forums. Professionals, especially those in the social justice sphere, who use social media to connect with the world may face daily harassment from people who object to their work. This harassment may range from irritating to overwhelming to dangerous and violent.

“In 2012, after feminist Anita Sarkeesian started a Kickstarter campaign to fund a series of YouTube videos chronicling misogyny in video games, she received bomb threats at speaking engagements, doxxing threats, rape threats and an unwanted starring role in a video game called Beat Up Anita Sarkeesian. In June of this year, Jonathan Weisman, the deputy Washington editor of the New York Times, quit Twitter, on which he had nearly 35,000 followers, after a barrage of anti-Semitic messages. At the end of July, feminist writer Jessica Valenti said she was leaving social media after receiving a rape threat against her daughter, who is 5 years old.”How Trolls Are Ruining the Internet, TIME Magazine, August 18th 2016

With this event, we hope to raise awareness about the frequency and seriousness of this type of harassment, which is not often taken seriously by social media outlets and by the justice system, and show that we intend to continue in our work despite the backlash.