#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke on What Needs to Happen After the Hashtag
I have to admit that when actress Alyssa Milano first tweeted #MeToo, my initial reaction was panic. What if this becomes a popular hashtag, I thought, but it’s not related to the groundwork I laid out? You see, I first came up with the phrase in 2006, after an experience with sexual violence left me searching for the right words. Ever since, I’ve gone to schools and community groups all over to connect with young women—mostly black and brown girls—to let them know, “You’re not alone. This happened to me too.”
After the hashtag began trending, a friend said, “Insert yourself into the conversation.” So I posted a video to Twitter about how empathy can help survivors of sexual assault. It went viral in a way that was like, “We won’t let this black woman be erased from her work.” Then, a different kind of panic set in. I thought, “oh my god. This is mass disclosure across the internet and there’s no after care. Who’s going to have the discussion of what #metoo is really about?” I had to get my arms around it.
Since, I’ve been trying to pivot the conversation to what the solutions are. The hashtag has been amazing at drawing the kind of attention we’ve never seen to sexual violence. But, each and everyone of those people who shared it is an individual person who has a story and took a chance. So a few things have to happen next.
To me, 2018 will be all about processing #MeToo. The next step in the movement will be helping women navigate what happens after they disclose an experience. It’s about what happens if someone posts #MeToo and nobody “likes” their status and how to be advocates in our communities. How to talk to children about this. Discussing the sexual harassment teenagers deal with in school.