Many women recall the first time they saw #MeToo trending in social media. Alyssa Milano coined the phrase to start the social movement that magnifies the pervasiveness and severity of sexual assault. “me too”In a tweet After asking people for their responses, “me too”Milano asked them if they had been subject to sexual harassment or assault and replied with these words to their tweet. In a matter of minutes, #MeToo became a viral hashtag and women all over the world used it to speak out.
However, “Me Too” wasn’t invented on October 15, 2017 with Milano’s tweet. The “Me Too” movement began over a decade earlier. Tarana Burke, activist and leader of the organization, started the movement in 2006. She would use the phrase “me too”Young women and young people of color would reveal that they were sexually assaulted as teenagers. But in 2006, hashtags didn’t exist, and social media was still in its infancy. The movement would not gain worldwide attention for another 11 years.
‘It’s Beyond A Hashtag’
Burke was struck by #MeToo’s popularity on social media. She immediately thought about all the work she had done and those who preceded her. At the time, Burke felt a variety of emotions. She was thrilled to see women empathize with one another but also understood that hard and difficult work was only beginning. She knew from her experience that survivors of sexual abuse would need continued support once they had the courage to speak out.
Burke also recognized that she needed to say something if she didn’t want her work to be overlooked. Burke, as a Black woman, was concerned about being quickly expelled from the movement. An Interview with the Washington PostThe activist also shared her immediate reaction to the viral #MeToo hashtag. “I had to ring the alarm,”She made the comment. “One, before my work is erased, and two, because if I can support people, I have to do that.”
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Kurz after Milano had tweeted, Burke took to Twitter to share the #MeToo meaning and impact. “It’s beyond a hashtag. It’s the start of a larger conversation and a movement for radical community healing. Join us. #metoo.”
Burke didn’t stop there. Burke didn’t just add her voice to the conversation. She was able break through the hashtag to get the credit she deserved. Within days of #MeToo becoming a trending hashtag, EbonyShared an articleCrediting the leader of the organization with the creation of the movement. Many media outlets followed suit and Milano started giving Burke credit.
From Silence Breaker to Unknown Activist
Indeed, Burke’s work has been recognized over the past five years. She was named one of the top 100 women in 2017Time’s silence-breakers and received the award as Time’s Person of the Year. She’s won several awards since then. She was awarded the 2018 Ridenhour Prize for Courage for her work with survivors of sexual assault.
Burke is now also the author of two books. In 2021, Burke co-authored You are your best thing: vulnerability, shame resilience, and the Black Experience. Burke also published a memoir that year. She tells her story about sexual assault in Unbound: My Story of Liberation, and the Birth of The Me Too Movement.