×
You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

How Me Too Founder Tarana Burke Wants to Shift the Movement’s Narrative

Six months ago, a hashtag started a movement. Actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the message #MeToo, sparking a global conversation on sexual violence. But the Me Too initiative started long before any viral tweet.

Activist Tarana Burke launched Me Too back in 2006, and more than a decade later, Burke — a survivor of sexual violence herself — says there’s still much more work to be done.

“We have had a sustained national dialogue for less than six months, and people are saying it’s too much,” Burke says.

“We’ve got to shift from that,” she adds, urging the conversation to refocus on survivors rather than criticism. “Narrative change in this movement is so important because if we keep on talking about this in the ways that we’re talking about it, we’re going to lose an opportunity.”

Calling out the likes of Alec Baldwin, Sean Penn and self-help guru Tony Robbins, who have all fulminated against Me Too, Burke slams the critics: “How dare you say it’s too much?”

Tarana Burke Variety Power of Women NY Cover 2018
CREDIT: Brigitte Lacombe for Variety

Despite the criticism, Burke is laser-focused on capitalizing on this moment so that she can use her newfound visibility and Hollywood resources to help survivors. She is a lifelong activist who began fighting for human rights at the age of 14 when she organized around the Central Park jogger case in 1989 (and against Donald Trump, who at the time called for a return of the death penalty in the state as punishment for the five black and Hispanic teens who were convicted of the crime but years later turned out to be innocent.)

The Me Too movement is raising funds to “build something that doesn’t exist” — a global community, both online and offline, to help guide survivors of sexual violence. So far, the movement has raised just over $100,000, with Viola Davis being one of the first to donate, after speaking to Burke at this year’s Golden Globes. Burke says she needs more than 10 times that amount to reach her goal of helping survivors reclaim their power.

“We were intentional about not asking for money in the very beginning until we were super clear about how we could scale up the work that we started on a community level in a way that could meet the needs of all of the survivors who we are hearing from regularly,” she explains.

While the discussion surrounding Me Too has become polarizing, Burke points out the severity of sexual harassment and abuse in the workplace and beyond.

“In the first 24 hours of #MeToo going viral, just on Facebook there were 12 million engaged with the hashtag,” she says. “If, in this country, we had an outbreak of some communicable disease that 12 million people got in a 24-hour time period, we would be focused solely on the cure. That’s the difference in how people think about the disease of sexual violence.”

More Biz

  • Timbaland

    Hipgnosis Songs Acquires Timbaland Catalog

    The fast-rising Hipgnosis Songs Fund Limited continues its aggressive growth surge, acquiring a catalog from songwriter-producer-artist Timbaland that comprises 108 albums and songs. Timbaland is one of the most successful songwriter-producers in the hip-hop/R&B realm: The catalog includes hits by Justin Timberlake, Missy Elliott, Aaliyah, Jay-Z, Nelly Furtado, 50 Cent, Madonna, 2Pac, Rihanna, Drake and [...]

  • Rufus Wainwright Signs With BMG for

    Rufus Wainwright Signs With BMG for New Studio Album

    Singer-songwriter Rufus Wainwright has signed a new global recordings agreement with BMG to release his upcoming studio album. The still-untitled album, Wainwright’s ninth of original material and first since 2012, is described in the announcement as “a return to form and his most accessible album to date.” To that end, it is “the bookend” to [...]

  • Kevin Feige Marvel Studios Variety Cover

    Kevin Feige Named Chief Creative Officer of Marvel

    Kevin Feige’s universe continues to grow. The mastermind of the Marvel Cinematic Universe has been named Chief Creative Officer, Marvel in addition to being president of Marvel Studios, Variety has learned. He will now be responsible for the overall creative direction of Marvel’s storytelling across mediums, including publishing, film, TV, and animation. Marvel Television and [...]

  • China presentation mipcom

    Reality Shows, Rom-Coms and Ping Pong Dramas: Chinese Producers Show Off TV Exports

    At its best, television serves as a mirror for its audience. This year, the Mipcom conference trained its annual country-of-focus spotlight on original TV content produced in China. That proved to be a timely choice as the conference came on the heels of last week’s headline-making clashes between Chinese and Western cultural values in the [...]

  • Felicity Huffman

    Felicity Huffman Reports to Federal Prison to Serve Two-Week Sentence

    Felicity Huffman reported to federal prison in Dublin, Calif., on Tuesday morning to begin her two-week sentence for paying to cheat on her daughter’s SAT test. Huffman pleaded guilty to one count of fraud, admitting that she paid $15,000 to consultant Rick Singer to boost her daughter’s SAT score. Judge Idira Talwani sentenced her last [...]

  • Sallie Krawcheck

    Sallie Krawcheck's Ellevest Launches Women-Focused Impact Investment Platform

    Ellevest, the female-focused investment platform headed by Sallie Krawcheck, has launched an impact investment fund that will court high-net-worth women in entertainment and other sectors who want to tailor their stock portfolios to favor companies with good track records on a range of social concerns. Krawcheck, who was one of the highest-ranking women on Wall [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content