The #MeToo campaign that we have seen rise up on social media was first conceived by a black woman named Tarana Burke.
Burke is the found of the youth organization Just Be Inc. and she started the Me Too campaign back in 2007. The now 44-year-old says that she started it as a grass-roots movement to reach sexual assault survivors in underprivileged communities.
“It wasn’t built to be a viral campaign or a hashtag that is here today and forgotten tomorrow,” Burke told Ebony magazine. “It was a catchphrase to be used from survivor to survivor to let folks know that they were not alone and that a movement for radical healing was happening and possible.”
It was recently turned into a hashtag when actress Alyssa Milano asked people on Twitter to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment using the phrase. She did not take credit for inventing the term in this context but it was widely attributed to her.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 16, 2017
Burke says it’s “powerful” to see the hashtag trending. “What’s happening now is powerful,” she stated. “And I salute it and the women who have disclosed but the power of using ‘me too’ has always been in the fact that it can be a conversation starter or the whole conversation ― but it was us talking to us.”
Just Monday, Milano tweeted that she is now aware of “an earlier #MeToo movement” and linked to Burke’s story on Twitter.
Burke says that as a survivor of sexual violence, she used the phrase “me too” to connect with others who had survived similar situations, specifically women of color.
“[I was] trying to find a succinct way to show empathy,” Burke said. “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.
“The point of the work we’ve done over the last decade with the ‘me too movement’ is to let women, particularly young women of color know that they are not alone ― it’s a movement.”