UAF hosts talk by #MeToo founder Tarana Burke

Tarana Burke (Flickr photo by Penn State)

The #MeToo movement is being mischaracterized in popular culture. That was a primary message of #MeToo founder Tarana Burke, who spoke at the University of Alaska Fairbanks on Friday. Burke says the power of Me Too lies with individuals, not the media.

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“It’s your movement. It’s our movement. It is a survivors movement. You are in it if you say you’re in it,” Burke said. “You know, if you need to see MSNBC declare that so-and-so is part of the #MeToo movement, it won’t happen.”

Burke first began using the words “Me Too” as a means of connecting with young women she counseled in Alabama, but dispels the common belief that #MeToo is solely a women’s movement, emphasizing that people of both genders can be victims of sexual violence. Burke is also critical of media over focus on powerful men identified as perpetrators, which she says misses the point of why so many victims of sexual violence are coming forward.

“These people who are standing up are asking for healing. They’re asking for resources,” Burke said. “The other stuff, the punitive stuff, is very… not even secondary. And so this is not a movement about taking down powerful men.”

Burke cautions that there’s a lot at stake.

”I feel like we’re in a unique historical moment,” Burke said. “And if we don’t reshape the narrative, we are going to miss an opportunity to really shift the culture.”

Burke says she hopes people who hear her speak, leave thinking about their role in driving the movement forward.

“We can do this work. We don’t have to wait for somebody else to validate us,” Burke said. “So if y’all are willing to do this work, the only thing I can leave you with are these two words: Me Too.””

Tarana Burke was brought to UAF by the Nanook Diversity and Action Center.

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Dan Bross is a reporter at KUAC in Fairbanks.