#Metoo: One Year Later

THE FOUNDER OF THE # METOO MOVE­MENT ON THE RIG­OR­OUS WORK THAT STILL LIES AHEAD

Variety - - Contents - BY TARANA BURKE PHO­TO­GRAPH BY NYRA LANG

The move­ment’s next steps are crit­i­cal as it builds pro­grams and part­ner­ships to work to end in­sti­tu­tional sex­ual vi­o­lence.

By TARANA BURKE

TWELVE YEARS AGO, I C OULD NEVER HAV E PRE­DICTED ALL THAT has hap­pened in the past 12 months. His­tor­i­cally, in this coun­try, there has been very lit­tle space to talk about sex­ual vi­o­lence in ways that fo­cus on sur­vivors and so­lu­tions, es­pe­cially in the me­dia. Cases that should have sig­naled a se­ri­ous, per­sis­tent prob­lem were re­duced to sala­cious gos­sip and tawdry head­lines; the last year hasn’t done much to change that. ¶ Some might see the cases of Har­vey We­in­stein and Les Moonves as book­ends to this year. But look closer and you’ll find at both the be­gin­ning and the end are sur­vivors and al­lies re­fus­ing to stay silent while peo­ple in power in­flict harm with­out re­course. And we’ve just scratched the sur­face. To many in the pub­lic, that seems to trans­late to the be­lief that the out­ing of per­pe­tra­tors is the main goal of the #Metoo move­ment when that is the fur­thest from the truth. Call­ing out in­di­vid­ual bad ac­tors doesn’t get us to the root of the prob­lem.

It’s no se­cret that Hol­ly­wood runs off power, priv­i­lege and ac­cess, and be­cause of that it is im­por­tant in this mo­ment to also ex­am­ine the ways that unchecked priv­i­lege and power ac­cu­mu­late and are wielded against the most vul­ner­a­ble. We know this doesn’t just hap­pen in Hol­ly­wood, so we have to do the same kind of rig­or­ous in­ves­ti­ga­tion and anal­y­sis of the cul­ture within all our ma­jor cor­po­ra­tions and com­mu­ni­ties that con­sis­tently al­lows sex­ual vi­o­lence to oc­cur again and again.

What the world rec­og­nizes as the #Metoo move­ment was built on the la­bor of ev­ery­day peo­ple who sur­vived sex­ual vi­o­lence in a num­ber of forms. Some were ha­rassed, some sur­vived child sex­ual abuse or other kinds of sex­ual as­sault, but all of them en­deav­ored to stand in their truth. All at once start­ing last Oc­to­ber, mil­lions of peo­ple raised their hands and voices to be counted among the num­ber of peo­ple who had ex­pe­ri­enced sex­ual ha­rass­ment, as­sault and abuse. More than 12 mil­lion in 24 hours on Face­book. Half a mil­lion in 12 hours on Twit­ter. And the num­bers kept grow­ing. But as soon as the main­stream me­dia got over the shock of the sheer vol­ume of those who counted them­selves in, it im­me­di­ately piv­oted back to what was hap­pen­ing in Hol­ly­wood. While that was driven by the dy­namic in­ves­tiga­tive jour­nal­ism of peo­ple like Ro­nan Far­row of The New Yorker,

what was hap­pen­ing around the world was driven by the courage of peo­ple from all walks of life. If we don’t shift our fo­cus and ac­tu­ally look at the peo­ple say­ing, “Me too,” then we are go­ing to waste a re­ally valu­able op­por­tu­nity to change the na­ture of how we think about sex­ual vi­o­lence in this coun­try.

If we could pull back from fo­cus­ing on the ac­cused and zero in on the ones speak­ing out, we would see com­mon de­nom­i­na­tors that bridge the di­vide be­tween celebrity and ev­ery­day cit­i­zens: the di­min­ish­ing of dig­nity and the de­struc­tion of hu­man­ity. Ev­ery­day peo­ple — queer, trans, dis­abled, men and women — are liv­ing in the after­math of a trauma that tried, at the very worst, to take away their hu­man­ity. This move­ment at its core is about the restora­tion of that hu­man­ity.

This is one rea­son that the weaponiza­tion of #Metoo has been so shock­ing. Sev­eral men and some women, many of whom are rich and pow­er­ful, have mis­char­ac­ter­ized this move­ment out of their own fears and in­abil­ity to hold a nu­anced per­spec­tive. These same folks are quick to as­sign blame to the vic­tims of vi­o­lence based on the me­dia’s ob­ses­sion with who will be “found out” next. So, in­stead of hom­ing in on the per­va­sive­ness of sex­ual vi­o­lence, the fo­cus is on the ac­cused and what’s at stake for them: What's go­ing to hap­pen to their ca­reers? What are the con­se­quences for the com­pa­nies that em­ployed them? What are the con­se­quences for the in­dus­try they’re in? But how many ar­ti­cles were writ­ten about the con­se­quences for the women still work­ing at places like NBC and CBS? The de­tails of those ex­pe­ri­ences are go­ing to mir­ror those of so many peo­ple. Know­ing those sto­ries gives voice to those who sur­vived sex­ual vi­o­lence as op­posed to the peo­ple who per­pe­trate the vi­o­lence.

All of the shout­ing and head­lines about who #Metoo is go­ing to take down next cre­ates a kind of care­less per­cep­tion that in­val­i­dates the ex­pe­ri­ences of sur­vivors who risk ev­ery­thing com­ing for­ward, whether it’s telling their sto­ries, shar­ing a hash­tag or be­ing trans­par­ent and vul­ner­a­ble about some of the worst things that have hap­pened in their lives.

The din of naysay­ers has, in many re­gards, se­verely over­shad­owed the beauty of what has hap­pened this year. It has been a year of great lib­er­a­tion and em­pow­er­ment. Ev­ery day I meet peo­ple who have moved from vic­tim to sur­vivor by sim­ply adding their own “Me too” to the cho­rus of voices. They have freed them­selves from the bur­den that hold­ing on to these trau­mas of­ten cre­ates and stepped into the power of re­lease, the power of em­pa­thy and the power of truth. They have looked their demons in the face and lived to see an­other day, and they have be­come the em­pir­i­cal proof that we can win the fight to end sex­ual vi­o­lence.

Mov­ing into 2019, some con­crete things must hap­pen in order to build on the mo­men­tum we have gained in the last year, start­ing with chang­ing how we talk about the #Metoo move­ment. This is a sur­vivors’ move­ment cre­ated for and by those of us who have en­dured sex­ual vi­o­lence. The goal is to pro­vide a mech­a­nism to sup­port sur­vivors and move peo­ple to ac­tion. Any other char­ac­ter­i­za­tion se­verely hand­i­caps our abil­ity to move the work for­ward.

We also need to have a more in­ten­tional pub­lic di­a­logue about ac­count­abil­ity, and not just the kind that fo­cuses on crime and pun­ish­ment, but on harm and harm re­duc­tion. Nar­row­ing our fo­cus to in­ves­ti­ga­tions, fir­ings and prison can hin­der the con­ver­sa­tion and the re­al­ity that ac­count­abil­ity and jus­tice look dif­fer­ent for dif­fer­ent peo­ple. We need to re­fine our ap­proaches for seek­ing jus­tice to ref lect that di­ver­sity. Sex­ual vi­o­lence hap­pens on a spec­trum, so ac­count­abil­ity has to hap­pen on a spec­trum. And that means var­i­ous ways of be­ing ac­count­able are nec­es­sary. Sur­vivors have to be cen­tral to that ac­count­abil­ity, and they must be the ones lead­ing and dic­tat­ing what that ac­count­abil­ity looks like. With­out that, there’s no clear path for peo­ple, es­pe­cially pub­lic fig­ures, to re­gain the trust of those they’ve harmed and let down. This is play­ing out pub­licly as many of the celebri­ties and en­ter­tain­ers whose be­hav­ior was ex­posed are now at­tempt­ing comebacks with­out hav­ing made amends to those they harmed, pub­licly apol­o­giz­ing, or ac­knowl­edg­ing how they’re go­ing to change their be­hav­ior, in­dus­tries, or com­mu­ni­ties to help end sex­ual vi­o­lence.

Apolo­gies, in and of them­selves, are not work. They pre­cede work. The men who are try­ing to come back have not done any work. Not that I have seen. Of­ten­times it’s about in­tent ver­sus im­pact. So even if you think you’re in­no­cent of the ac­tions you’re be­ing ac­cused of, hu­man de­cency dic­tates that you say, “OK. I want to hear what your ex­pe­ri­ence in that mo­ment was.” Terry Crews is a per­fect ex­am­ple. He said, “My ex­pe­ri­ence with this thing was that you made me feel that I was hu­mil­i­ated. I was over­pow­ered. You took away my dig­nity.” There is not a plot to ex­com­mu­ni­cate peo­ple for life, but the ac­cused should have the re­spect, at least, to show that they’re com­mit­ted to change. Show your work.

It is also nec­es­sary for us to ex­pand the scope of the move­ment in the main­stream. In 2006, I launched the #Metoo move­ment be­cause I wanted to find ways to bring heal­ing into the lives of black women and girls. But those same women and girls, along with other peo­ple of color, queer peo­ple and dis­abled peo­ple, have not felt seen this year.

Silent No More Thou­sands of women in Los An­ge­les joined the #Metoo Sur­vivors’ March in No­vem­ber.

Whether it was the near aban­don­ment of Lupita Ny­ong’o when she re­vealed her ex­pe­ri­ence with We­in­stein, or Lena Dun­ham’s sup­port of the man Au­rora Per­rineau ac­cused of rape, there was a sharp dif­fer­ence in the re­sponse to black women com­ing for­ward. Rus­sell Sim­mons has 18 ac­cu­sa­tions of rape, sex­ual as­sault and sex­ual mis­con­duct against him, largely by black women, and yet there is no me­dia frenzy around him or his ac­cusers. The depth and breadth of sex­ual vi­o­lence in this coun­try can’t be quan­ti­fied, but it def­i­nitely doesn’t dis­crim­i­nate, and we won’t be­gin to re­ally un­der­stand its im­pact un­less we look at the whole story.

I can’t stress how crit­i­cal our next steps are. It’s been al­most 30 years since Anita Hill tes­ti­fied in front of the Se­nate Ju­di­ciary Com­mit­tee about the sex­ual ha­rass­ment she en­dured at the hands of now Jus­tice Clarence Thomas. It is so dis­heart­en­ing that we’re here again, but it’s just an­other re­minder about where we are as a coun­try and how this move­ment still has to be pow­ered by ev­ery­day peo­ple who vote, who are vo­cal, who are ac­tive, who are tuned in and aware of how it’s big­ger than Hol­ly­wood, and big­ger than pol­i­tics.

For our part we are build­ing out our work both on­line with the Oc­to­ber launch of our new com­pre­hen­sive web­site and on the ground through pro­gram­ming and part­ner­ships. We have also part­nered with the New York Women’s Foun­da­tion to cre­ate a #Metoo move­ment fund that will raise $25 mil­lion to put to­ward work­ing to end sex­ual vi­o­lence over the next five years. Our goal is to keep ex­pand­ing the work and build­ing the move­ment.

For too long women and oth­ers liv­ing on the mar­gins have man­aged to sur­vive with­out our full dig­nity in­tact. It can’t con­tinue to be our re­al­ity. The work of #Metoo builds on the ex­ist­ing ef­forts to dis­man­tle sys­tems of op­pres­sion that al­low sex­ual vi­o­lence, pa­tri­archy, racism and sex­ism to per­sist. We know that this ap­proach will make our so­ci­ety bet­ter for ev­ery­one, not just sur­vivors, be­cause cre­at­ing path­ways to heal­ing and restora­tion moves us all closer to a world where ev­ery­one knows the peace of liv­ing with­out fear and the joy of liv­ing in your full dig­nity. I in­tend to keep do­ing this work, from within this amaz­ing move­ment, un­til we get there.

AS TOLD TO DE­BRA BIRN­BAUM

Long­time civil rights ac­tivist Tarana Burke is the founder of the non­profit Just Be Inc., which pro­motes the health and well-be­ing of young women of color. She launched the Me Too move­ment in 2006 to raise aware­ness about sex­ual ha­rass­ment and abuse. When the phrase “Me too” went vi­ral as a hash­tag on so­cial me­dia in the days af­ter the Har­vey We­in­stein story broke, Burke stepped into the na­tional spot­light for her work on be­half of sur­vivors of sex­ual vi­o­lence. Va­ri­ety cel­e­brated Burke as one of our Power of Women hon­orees in May. "It is a mis­take to think of this as a mo­ment,” Burke said at the event. “Move­ments are long, and they are built over time. Move­ments are made from mo­ments.

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