This weekend, many women (and a handful of men!) used two words, Me Too, as a call to arms. Spurred by the week of hell that involved the Harvey Weinstein allegations and initiated by Alyssa Milano, they took to social media to share their own stories about sexual assault and harassment. It’s been an eye-opening and promising movement which shows the magnitude of the problem. But as many are now recognizing, several days later, the hashtag didn’t just start this past weekend.
As Ebony points out, activist Tarana Burke started the movement 10 years ago. Through her organization, Just Be Inc., she created a safe space for a very specific group of people whose pain and suffering often gets swept under the rug: women of color in underprivileged communities. “It was us talking to us,” she told Ebony. Now, the conversation has been opened up to the world, yet Burke’s name has largely been left out of the conversation.
It probably wasn’t intentional. It’s hard to trace the origins of most things, especially on the black hole that is the internet. I didn’t know about Burke’s work until Twitter brought it to my attention, and I’d be willing to bet you didn’t either. But in amplifying other voices, hers was erased. And it’s important to give credit where credit is due.
Milano took to Twitter last night to do just that, likely due to the many people bringing it to her attention. But it’s also worth noting that it took white women being at the forefront of “Me Too” for anyone to even take notice. Which is something that happens far too often.
“I think that women of color use social media to make our voices heard with or without the amplification of White women,” Burke said. “I also think that many times when White women want our support, they use an umbrella of ‘women supporting women’ and forget that they didn’t lend the same kind of support.”
It’s not to say that the support isn’t appreciated, either. Having stars with large followings spread the message only helps the movement. As Burke wrote on Instagram, “It made my heart swell to see women using this idea—one that we call ‘empowerment through empathy’—to not only show the world how widespread and pervasive sexual violence is, but also to let other survivors know they are not alone.”
But, it’s unclear how willing everyone will able to help once the virality dies down. "Somebody asked me, does this [campaign] amplify your work?” she said in an interview with the Los Angeles Times. "And it does in a certain way, but also when this hashtag dies down, and people thinking about it, I'll still be doing the work."
You can head over to MeToo.support to help support Burke's "movement for radical community healing."