Tarana Burke, the activist who founded the “Me Too” movement, issued a statement in the wake of Harvey Weinstein’s conviction on Monday.
Burke begins her statement by saying, ““Today, a jury confirmed what we all know: Harvey Weinstein committed sexual assault.” She then decries the “incredibly narrow and unjust set of laws governing sexual assault,” blaming those laws for the fact that Weinstein was not convicted on all the charges he faced. Burke then wonders, “How many careers were derailed? How many entry-level assistants were fired or silenced? How many jobs were lost? How many news stories, that could have exposed Harvey sooner, were censored?”
After four and a half days of jury deliberation, Weinstein was found guilty in a New York City courtroom of committing a “criminal sexual act” and third-degree rape, but acquitted of two counts of predatory sexual assault.
In 2006, Burke began using the phrase “Me Too” to show how pervasive sexual violence was among the young girls she worked with as an organizer in marginalized communities. She first began the “Me Too” campaign on MySpace. In 2017, after the dam broke on the Weinstein story, leading to the larger reckoning about sexual harassment and assault, Alyssa Milano appropriated the phrase as the hashtag #MeToo to encourage people to come forward about their experiences. Burke had to advocate for herself to get credit for originating #MeToo. She was recognized as one of the “silence breakers” that were Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Burke keeps the Weinstein verdict perspective, saying the work has just begun, writing: “And, though today a man has been found guilty, we have to wonder whether anyone will care about the rest of us tomorrow. This is why we say MeToo.”
Here is Burke’s statement in full:
“Today, a jury confirmed what we all know: Harvey Weinstein committed sexual assault. This wouldn’t have been possible without the voices of the silence breakers in and outside of the courtroom, the survivors who courageously testified, and the jurors who, despite an unrelenting and unethical defense strategy, voted to find an unremorseful Harvey Weinstein guilty.
This jury worked with an incredibly narrow and unjust set of laws governing sexual assault, and though he was not convicted on all counts, Harvey Weinstein will have to answer for his crimes.
Harvey Weinstein operated with impunity and without remorse for decades in Hollywood. Yet, it still took years, and millions of voices raised, for one man to be held accountable by the justice system.
For some, this has been a Hollywood battle between famous actresses and a larger-than-life producer. Some, have tired and begun to ask whether we should care about these Hollywood celebrities.
We would do well to ask ourselves how many of these women’s names we can actually remember, beyond the boldface few? Certainly, Harvey’s name will be seared in our collective memories, but many of the survivors will be quietly taking stock of the impact.
How many careers were derailed? How many entry-level assistants were fired or silenced? How many jobs were lost? How many news stories, that could have exposed Harvey sooner, were censored? How many people could have spoken up, but didn’t? All in the name of protecting a violent sexual predator.
This case reminds us that sexual violence thrives on unchecked power and privilege. The implications reverberate far beyond Hollywood and into the daily lives of all of us in the rest of the world.
Whether you are an office worker, a nanny, an assistant, a cook, a factory worker— we all have to deal with the spectre of sexual violence derailing our lives.
And, though today a man has been found guilty, we have to wonder whether anyone will care about the rest of us tomorrow. This is why we say MeToo.”