The founder of the Me Too movement had no idea it would strike such a chord a decade later, as the Harvey Weinstein allegations open the floodgates on sexual harassment.
Hundreds gathered in Hollywood on Sunday (12 November) to protest sexual harassment and abuse, as allegations of assault and inappropriate sexual behaviour in the film and TV industry continue to roll in.
With two marches joining forces – the Take Back the Workplace March and the #MeToo Survivors March – Tarana Burke, who created the original Me Too movement, reiterated what the day was about in a speech.
Taking to the stage near Grauman’s Chinese Theatre to speak, Burke said: “I don’t want to spend a moment of my time calling names of folks who don’t deserve breath with me. This day is not for them. This day is for us.”
The movement was popularised as a hashtag by Alyssa Milano last month in the wake of the Weinstein allegations. It was widely used across social media by men and women to tell their own experiences of sexual harassment, assault and abuse, and helped highlight just how widespread – and cross-industry – a problem it is.
According to deadline.com, Burke used her speech to honour survivors of sexual abuse, and went on to remind people to remember that each #MeToo story had a person behind it, saying: “We are human beings and not hashtags.”
“Every time you see ‘#MeToo’ it represents a story that was created in tragedy but found its way to triumph,” she told the crowd, describing the rally as a “glorious rejection” of sexual violence.
Burke’s original campaign was intended to shine a light on abuse suffered by women of colour in particular, and during her speech, she reiterated the need for the current movement to be inclusive.
“You can’t get to Gretchen Carlson without Anita Hill; you can’t get to Alyssa Milano – who I pay homage to by the way — without Tarana Burke,” she said.
“I want to be clear that women of colour have been on the front lines for years – the Me Too movement is a spoke in a wheel of a larger movement to end gender-based violence.”
It’s symbolic that the marches occurred in Hollywood, given how the multiple accusations of assault and rape against Weinstein sparked a wider conversation about sexual harassment in society – something that affects both men and women, but is disproportionally experienced by women.
In recent days, more and more high-profile names have been accused of sexual misconduct, while others have gone public with their experiences. Over the weekend, actor Ellen Page claimed she’d been outed against her will by director Brett Ratner – who is facing several allegations of harassment – who made a sexual comment when she was 18 years old.
Posting on Facebook, Page said: “I was a young adult who had not yet come out to myself. I knew I was gay, but did not know, so to speak. I felt violated.”
Meanwhile, Rebel Wilson used Twitter to allege that “a male star in a position of power” had repeatedly asked her to perform a sexual act, and says she was “threatened” when she later didn’t want to “support” the unnamed star.
She also discussed another incident with a director, saying that the recent conversation had been “hard” to hear and “saddening”.