A reaction to Tarana Burke’s visit to the University

Libby O’Hare, Contributing Writer

Tarana Burke, founder of the #MeToo movement, recently visited the University to help diminish misconceptions of the movement through a timeline that shed light on both the extensive history and purpose of the hashtag. Burke spoke at the Weis Center for Performing Arts on Feb. 18, where students gathered to hear not only her personal story, but also the goals of the movement and the hopes for its future.

Burke began by addressing the common misunderstandings about #MeToo. She confidently stated her discomfort with public speaking, but then explained how speaking out is the only way to grab back the narrative of what this movement represents. “In order to move the message along, we must confront these common misunderstandings,” Burke said.

Before hearing Burke speak about the purpose of this movement, I was one of those uninformed individuals who believed that the power of one woman speaking about her personal experience with sexual assault was significantly more influential than thousands of women coming out and telling their stories. At the time I thought that this “domino effect” of sexual assault experiences was just for publicity, and I was insensitive to the fact that these were real women with true courage, exhibiting sheer vulnerability to share their agonizing stories.

Clearly, I was wrong. Instead, #MeToo stands for empowerment through empathy. This movement creates a sense of community and is therefore a safe space for people to speak their truths. This community provides survivors with what they need in order to heal, and always keeps those survivors as the center of focus.

Burke assured University students that women just want to be heard, and need a place to tell their truths. It is not a movement to attempt to take down powerful men, is not exclusive to sexual harassment in the workplace, and is not a movement just for famous white cisgendered women. These common misconceptions threaten to tarnish the hashtag and the future of this movement.

Burke started #MeToo long before Alyssa Milano’s tweet got the movement trending. The conversation of #MeToo was formed to help victims of sexual harassment through the power of connection and the desire for empathy. This global movement has created a community of survivors who are committed to healing. The #MeToo movement is a way to help people cultivate joy and love as a form of healing. Burke believes that by leaning into their trauma, survivors give themselves a greater opportunity to heal.

But what happens after you say “me too?” What does the future hold for this movement? Burke is not quite sure what the future holds for this movement, although she believes that we can heal our communities together through empathy, connection, and spreading this message. Survivors need empathy, not sympathy. They need a powerful and meaningful connection and for someone to say, “Yes, I understand because that happened to me too.”

Burke says that we need courage, and if you’re not scared, then that’s not real courage. We must use this courage to constantly interrogate the culture on this campus, and start by making small changes because this will eventually lead to big results. The #MeToo movement is too big of an issue for people to conquer individually, so we must come together.

I was initially ignorant about #MeToo, yet now I am left finding my place in a matter that is new and groundbreaking. This matter has never affected me individually, but it is deeply rooted in values that align with my own. What I do know for sure is that I am ready for radical community healing. Are you?

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