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Tarana Burke, Creator of the #MeToo Movement, Explained the Importance of Actresses and Activists Coming Together to Combat Sexual Harassment

Sunday night's Golden Globes seemed to commence as usual: the red carpet, the glamour, the designer clothing and Hollywood's most elite actors and actresses coming together to celebrate the best in the film industry. Look closer, though, and a significant difference from year's past transformed the 75th ceremony into a societal call to action. Together in a sea of black dresses, actresses and activists united on a public platform to continue the conversation about sexual harassment in Hollywood and throughout all industries worldwide.


The peaceful protest was initiated by actress Michelle Williams and Tarana Burke, creator of the #MeToo Movement. As Burke explains to ELLE.com, it all started when Williams, nominated for Best Actress, reached out to her a few weeks ago.

"We had an amazing conversation," she says in the interview. "But after she invited me, I started talking to her about how one of the things that makes me sort of uncomfortable is that the media tends to pick one person in a moment like this one and elevate them as the hero of the hour."

Burke wasn't interested in capitalizing on her newfound recognition, not unless her partners in justice were acknowledged, as well.

"I said to Michelle, 'I know so many amazing women.' She had said she wanted to give me space to talk about my work and use the red carpet to amplify what I do, and I thought, 'Well, what if we had more than just me. What if we gave other amazing women the chance to be there?'"

Needless to say, Williams was on board with the idea. The duo sparked a pattern as other honorees, including Meryl Streep, Emma Stone, Emma Watson, Laura Dern, Amy Poehler, Susan Sarandon and Shailene Woodley followed suit by taking several advocates as their guests to the show

Other activists in attendance include Saru Jayaraman, Co-founder and Co-director of the Restaurant Opportunities Centers United. She accompanied Amy Poehler as Emma Watson brought along Marai Larasi, executive director of Imkaan, a women's group determined to protect minority women from violence. And Shailene Woodley invited Calina Lawrence, a member of the Suquamish Tribe who works as a voice for environmental preservation. 

"It was just this beautiful collaboration of all worlds," Burke said of the women involved. "We wanted to change the narrative that this whole movement is just actresses giving power to powerless people because all of us carry power in our own right, and they're learning from us as much as we're learning from them."

Standing in solidarity for the Time's Up Movement, the women decided to make a visual statement rather than a verbal declaration of their protest against sexual assault. Burke emphasizes that the world underestimates actresses due to their fame, but their actions on this platform are nothing to discredit.

"The privilege is real, and these women are privileged," Burke admits. "But that doesn't make them not human. We can help them, and they can help us. And the conversation doesn't stop tonight."

She continues, "We all know how the red carpet works; these women may not have a chance to say everything they want to say, so a visual statement means something... They don't get a chance to make political statements. They don't get a chance to express themselves. The black dresses — they weren't trying to change the world with that. They were trying to be heard."

And heard they are. Their statement was simple, but their message is significant. The black dresses symbolize a powerful truth: women are not backing down from the fight against sexual assault. The more women who work together, the closer the world comes to gender equality. Burke says it best:

"At the end of the day, we have a unified goal. Domestic workers, restaurant workers, black and brown women, Asian women, disabled women, trans women, queer women — we may go about the work in different ways, but we all want to see the game changed."

Courtney is a Pop Culture Blogger for Her Campus National and contributor to the Her Campus Marist College chapter. She graduated with a Bachelor's degree in Communications, is an avid feminist and eventual professional journalist.
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