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#MeToo: What Does It Really Mean?

Ten years ago, activist and program director for Girls for Gender Equity Tarana Burke began a movement to help women of color who had survived sexual abuse, assault and exploitation. Since then, the movement has picked up now and again in small surges, but by far the largest wave of mutual support and participation began this past weekend, when actress Alyssa Milano (of Charmed fame) tweeted this statement, asking for those who have been sexually assaulted or harassed to reply to her tweet with #MeToo:

Now, this topic is obviously not an easy thing to talk about or publicize about oneself, even if it’s just a simple two-word hashtag. Burke herself has admitted that not only can this be a trying time for those who are sharing their stories, but for those who share similar experiences and are now unexpectedly exposed to it online. 

“I think the viral moment is great but the amplification of that — I worry about disclosing their status as survivors en masse on social media and not having space to process. I worry about survivors coming on to social media and being bombarded with messages of ‘me too,'” said Burke in an interview with CNN

The movement, at its core, is a way for both men and women to highlight just how prevalent this issue is. 

“I think the one responsibility we have as survivors — once we get to a place where we can — is to create an entry point to healing for other survivors,” Burke said to CNN. “For years I couldn’t figure out what that would be for me and then ‘me too’ became that thing.” According to CNN, Burke also said that she would “like to see conversations about what healing looks like,” and that she wants instances of assault and violence to be approached as social justice issues.

For those who are able to tell their stories, or simply say the words, #MeToo is a way of beginning the right conversation. 

As Burke is a survivor herself, she had previously used the “me too” phrase as a catalyst and method to connect with and support other survivors, mainly women of color.  

“[I was] trying to find a succinct way to show empathy … ‘Me too’ is so powerful because somebody had said it to me and it changed the trajectory of my healing process once I heard that. ‘Me too’ was about reaching the places that other people wouldn’t go, bringing messages and words and encouragement to survivors of sexual violence where other people wouldn’t be talking about it,” she said in an interview with Democracy Now

The movement itself is a way to bring facts about the frequency of sexual assault and harassment to the surface of our conversations. In light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, and those who have come forward to tell their stories (not to mention every other time such a topic is brought up), we seem to be amazed that this could be happening right under our noses — when it’s often not. It’s not happening where we can’t see it. It happens every day, everywhere, and can happen to anyone. We must, as a culture and a global network of humanity, bring justice, support and eventually — hopefully — an end to this social justice issue. 

Images: 1, 2, 3

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Rachel Walman

U Mass Amherst

Double major in English and Communications. Commonwealth Honors College Class of 2019.
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