- Tarana Burke is the founder of the Me Too Movement.
- Burke said that the movement is not about “naming and shaming,” but about changing culture in ways that end sexual violence, support survivors, and eliminate toxic office spaces through open dialogue.
- This article is part of BI’s ongoing series on Better Capitalism.
- See the full list of the 100 people transforming business here
In the fall of 2017, actress Alyssa Milano responded to a New York Times exposé on producer Harvey Weinstein’s alleged history of horrific sexual abuse with a Twitter hashtag that went viral: #MeToo.
It was the same phrase that activist Tarana Burke had begun using 11 years earlier as a way to empower survivors of sexual assault. Burke and Milano ended up working together to turn #MeToo into a global phenomenon.
Now, Burke has officially established the Me Too Movement as an organisation that will carry on her work, regardless of whether its namesake phrase is trending on social media. The biggest goal she’s taking on this year is “fighting for narrative shift,” she told Business Insider in an interview for the “100 People Transforming Business” list.
That shift has to take place regarding of the conversations around both sexual abuse and harassment, she explained.
“We’re still talking about individuals that had acted, and we’re still talking about who can come back to work or not and that kind of stuff, as opposed to talking about all the people who said, ‘Me too.’ What do they need? What are they doing right now? How is their life being affected?”
As for the workplace, Bloomberg reported in December that interviews with 30 Wall Street senior executives showed an industry where even hiring women has become, as one put it, “an unknown risk.”
“What they’re saying really is, ‘I want to continue to behave the way I’ve been behaving,'” Burke told us in response. She doesn’t want the movement to result in work environments that are tense for anyone. The whole point is to create environments where women don’t have to feel belittled or threatened, and men respect that without adopting a victim complex.
“This is not some new age where people are now uncomfortable suddenly by unwanted touching or unwanted advances or what have you,” she said. “It’s always been inappropriate.”
Burke said she wants to see more open dialogue in workplaces, and cited Accenture as a company that has done it well. Conversations around policies on harassment that are held only in closed-doors meetings foster this culture of defensiveness, which Burke, of course, doesn’t justify in any way, but sees as avoidable.
Going forward, Burke wants “Me Too” to not be a divisive issue, but a common-sense one – where it stands for supporting survivors of violence and creating inclusive workplaces.
“I think our job right now is to make sure people understand that this movement is expansive, it’s not going anywhere, and we have a lot more work to do,” she said.
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