Are you familiar with Tarana Burke, the activist and creator of the #MeToo movement? It’s been nearly a decade since Burke first coined the phrase “#MeToo” in 2006 and started a movement that has gone on to reshape our definition of gender equality, empower victims of sexual abuse, and ignite one of the most significant conversations on safety for women, especially those of marginalized groups.
#MeToo has become an incredibly powerful force for change, offering a supportive platform for countless women (and men) who have experienced sexism or gender-related violence and giving voice to those whose stories were never heard before.
Who Is Tarana Burke?
Born in New York, Tanara Burke grew up in humble beginnings in a housing project. She experienced sexual assault and rape at a young age. With the support of her mother, Burke healed from those horrific acts and made it her mission to help other young girls who suffered similar hardships. She became an activist, and later in life, she worked very closely with other sexual abuse victims.
In 2005, Burke ran a wellness program for middle school girls in Selma, Alabama. In that program, she asked the young ladies to take a sticky note and write what they had learned that day or “me too” if they had gone through sexual violence. “Me and my home girl went back to our room, dumped the sticky notes, and there were all these ‘me toos.’ Seventy-five percent of these girls wrote ‘me too,’” she said during a panel at the University of Chicago. “We just cried. We were ill-equipped.” That experience was the start of the #MeToo Movement.
What Is the #MeToo Movement?
The #MeToo movement is a powerful campaign that gained momentum in 2017 after Alyssa Milano tweeted it as a hashtag and encouraged other women to do the same when sharing their stories of sexual abuse. Many of the stories came from well-known celebrities, which opened the floodgates. There were 12 million responses in 24 hours, according to Time Magazine. The #MeToo Movement has given a voice to many women across the globe and shined a light on just how prevalent sexual abuse is for women.
Burke has always maintained that her goal was to empower women through empathy and compassion, and she has done just that by bringing awareness to a taboo topic that affects so many.
The Impact of the #MeToo Movement Today
The #MeToo movement has undoubtedly made a huge impact on the way people view and address sexual abuse, even amid some backlash. The movement has helped to break the silence surrounding these experiences and has encouraged empathy and understanding for survivors. It has also resulted in a greater push for accountability and consequences for perpetrators of sexual abuse. We have shifted to replacing the word “victim” with “survivor.” Some employers have even instated new policies surrounding workplace sexual harassment.
The #MeToo movement makes it harder for higher profile abusers to get off the hook like they may have back in the day simply because of who they were and how much money they had. Burke's dedication and hard work make the world a better and safer place for women.
May the survivors still holding in their “me too” find the strength to tell their stories.