Tarana Burke, Fan Favorite: She’s the Mind Behind the Movement

December 24 - Sarah Ashlock
Politics/Activism
 

FIRST THOUGHT: Strength in Numbers

There’s a social-psychology theory called pluralistic ignorance. Put simply, it’s when the majority of group members believe they think or feel differently than each other. The result? The individuals go along with the status quo, the social norms. For instance, in season one of The Handmaid’s Tale (OTD required viewing), there are dozens of women in red habits and wings silently abiding by their society’s laws. Those who think differently find strength when another finds her voice and shares a dissenting opinion. “Strength in numbers” is more than a phrase; it helps women find the power they thought was lost.

WOMEN IN NUMBERS: 2 in 10

We at On The Dot haven’t shied away from the real issues affecting women, including harassment. And despite the growing movement to embrace harassment survivors, according to the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission, only two out of every 10 female victims of harassment ever file a formal complaint. There are a number of reasons this might be: Victims might feel hostility or a lack of support, may fear losing their jobs or may very well not even know their rights.

WOMAN TO WATCH: Tarana Burke, Founder of the Me Too Movement

Unless you’ve been living in a real-life version of Gilead from The Handmaid’s Tale, you’ve likely heard about the rapidly growing Me Too Movement. And I can’t wait to shed more light on the founder of that important crusade, Tarana Burke. She recalls scribbling down her “social justice fairy tale” a decade ago, and now finds it surreal to see it becoming reality.

As Tarana walked the red carpet at the Golden Globes earlier this year alongside actress Michelle Williams, attendees and viewers alike eagerly absorbed more knowledge about the strength and weight of the movement she started. Though it’s become a seemingly unstoppable campaign in the media of late, the Me Too Movement was actually an idea Tarana formed many years ago in an effort to help victims of sexual harassment and assault.

In fact, it was more than two decades ago when Tarana first sat down with a 13-year-old girl who recounted her history of sexual abuse. Hers was a harrowing story fraught with painful incidences and much anxiety and suffering. That story stuck with Tarana in the years to follow, guiding her to start Just Be Inc., a youth organization that provides resources for sexual harassment and assault survivors. Just Be Inc. offers workshops focused on healthy relationships, the media’s portrayal of women and girls of color and how girls can take ownership of their bodies.

Tarana called this lifelong pursuit of support and justice for sexual harassment and assault survivors the Me Too Movement. This simple phrase holds much power, helping to encourage girls and women to come forward and report sexual assault. Thanks to Tarana’s spectacular efforts, millions of women and men are now sharing their own stories of sexual assault, abuse and harassment via social media.

Over the last year, Tarana has seized on this momentum, where survivors’ voices are heard and believed as she continues to program an online presence. She’s not naïve; she knows that sexual violence won’t disappear completely. But, Tarana says, we do have the ability to change how we, as a society, react to it.

Tarana also says a culture shift needs to take place for real change to happen. As she reflects on what the Me Too movement has done, Tarana recognizes the negative response to it and the particular focus on the perpetrators. Her goal for the next year is to shift the focus off the salacious details and onto giving hope and connection to survivors.

A cultural shift starts with each of us being accountable for our actions, getting involved personally in our communities and teaching our children about the importance of consent. It’s only through such choices that we start to make a real and positive impact.

What Tarana started isn’t just a trend or even simply a movement. It’s a way of life. Stand up and tell your story. We’re listening.

QUITE THE QUOTE

Let these words from Tarana Burke inspire you today and every day:

“You don’t have to be anything but yourself to be worthy.”

#JoinTheMovement
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