On October 15th, 2017, following the Harvey Weinstein report by the New York Times, women across the internet shared their stories of sexual harassment with #MeToo. It became a world-wide trend that snowballed into the modern #MeToo movement — a largely undefined collection of stories, grassroots and institutional programs, and news reports that are changing how our society discusses sexual misconduct.
But long before that, civil rights activist Tarana Burke used those words to share her own story of sexual harassment, and to lead sexual violence support groups from 1998 to 2015.
"What actually happened on October 15  was people raised their hands to say, ‘Me too,’” Burke said in a video interview with The Cut. “They opened up and said, ‘Yeah this happened to me.’ And it was millions of people from all walks of life, every stripe, and I really feel like those people still have their hands up.”
However, she believes the movement has stopped centering survivors. Burke says there's a current obsession with perpetrators that needs to be corrected. By focusing on the drama of abuse stories — and by centering out-of-touch narratives of the wealthy in Hollywood— Burke argues the #MeToo movement doesn't address it's goal. She believes the only way to stop sexual violence is by reminding society that there is no archetypical story of abuse, and that survivors can make powerful change together.
“We have to shift the narrative that it’s a gender war, that it’s anti-male, that it’s men against women, that it’s only for a certain type of person — that it’s for white, cisgender, heterosexual, famous women," says Burke. "What #MeToo allowed people to do was create community with these shared experiences... You have a built-in group of people who automatically gets you, who automatically believes you, who automatically wants to hear you. That’s the wildfire of it.”
Burke has a three-part plan to correct the current narrative. According to The Cut, it begins with the launch of metoomvmt.org, a resource for survivors and their allies. She also hopes to "teach trainees to start their own survivor-support programs" and "institutionalize the healing circles that she began running more than a decade ago."
Watch the whole interview here.