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Tarana Burke's MeToo in 2023: A Look at Its History, Relevance, and Ongoing Challenges

by Mashaal Hussain

MeToo is a movement that brought justice to millions of girls around the whole world and gave them a platform to speak about the inequalities they face in the workplace. 

Going back to the noughties, lets discuss Tarana Burke. 

Burke is the founder of the MeToo movement and is a pivotal figure in the history of this social justice initiative. 

Her journey as a sexual assault survivor and advocate led her to coin the phrase 'me too' back in 2006, aiming to reassure women that they were not alone in their experiences. 

Her initial intent was to create a platform for women of color from low-income backgrounds, whose voices often went unheard. 

Burke's grassroots efforts laid the foundation for the movement's eventual global prominence, and her unwavering commitment to supporting survivors has been an inspiration to countless individuals seeking justice and solidarity.

She mainly wanted to help women of colour with low-income backgrounds as they didn't have a platform, and their voices were silenced. 

In 2017, this movement sparked when producer Harvey Weinstein was accused of sexual assault. Many actresses voiced their opinions about Weinstein's actions, encouraging other people to come out with their own experiences.

During this time, on Twitter, Alyssa Milano used the phrase' me too' to make other women realise that they have similar experiences and they can support each other throughout this. 

One tweet led to a phenomena. Millions of women and girls came out with their stories. Two words brought out a surge of women voicing their experiences and showed that this issue is widespread. This destigmatised the issue and broke societal norms. More survivors spoke up, and this led to many men losing their jobs and women getting the justice they deserved.

The MeToo movement has been quite successful and has given women a voice. 

On a federal level, the MeToo movement seems quite promising. States introduced 2,324 MeToo-related measures between 2017 and 2021, and 286 were approved.

In 2022, the infamous Heard V Depp trial sparked conversation for the MeToo movement. Depp filed a lawsuit against Heard in March 2019, claiming that a domestic abuse piece she wrote for The Washington Post was defamatory and seeking $50 million in damages. Heard launched a $100 million countersuit.

The trial began on the 11th of April 2022 in Fairfax, Virginia. After seven weeks, the jury awarded Depp more than $10 million in damages after concluding that Heard had slandered the actor in three statements.

The trial was on mainstream media and got a lot of awareness throughout. Heard got a lot of backlash, whereas Johnny Depp had a lot of support throughout the whole trial. 

Heard lost roles and friends, whereas Depp gained more. Amber Heard got mocked, and her character was criticised on multiple occasions even though she had evidence of the abuse she went through. People accused her of faking bruises and tailoring text messages. The unjust public reaction made a mockery of Heard's whole character, to the point her face was becoming a meme, and people undermined her whole story.

Now you may be wondering why this affected the MeToo movement - heard advocated for the movement and spoke up about her own experiences to help others come to terms with theirs. 

During the trial, the public turned her experience into a joke which made people question the MeToo movement. She was one of the faces of the movement, and as a result, she got punished, and so did the movement.

People started resenting the movement as they associated it with her and automatically assumed women lied about their experiences. 

This, as a result, was making more women scared to speak up about any issues they were facing as they feared public humiliation and social exclusion. The movement was ridiculed, and many people took this chance to say how the movement had gone too far, further pushing women into silence and isolation. 

Burke stated on Twitter, "The 'me too' movement isn't dead, this system is dead.”

The MeToo movement has had many successes, but there is still a long way to go. Women in low-income households and women of colour are still being silenced daily. Unfortunately, factors such as class and ethnicity affect who's story gets heard and who's doesn't. Women all around the world continue to get exploited, especially in workplaces.

But one thing is certain, the movement has helped with so many shifts in society and helped gender inequality in workplaces and given women the courage to speak out without facing backlash and having support. It will not overcome structural inequalities overnight, but it sure has jolted the world from the rose-tinted view it had.

Edited by Emily Duff

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