TIME magazine, which named the “Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo social movement as most influential in 2017, excluded the Black woman who founded the movement — Tarana Burke — from the cover.
Burke got it right when she created the movement more than a decade ago in 2006, but an editorial team that is almost 100 percent white and mostly male, didn’t see fit to place her on the cover of one of its most popular issues published last week.
Even though Burke had been raising awareness about sexual harassment and assault for years, “Me Too” has only caught the attention of major media outlets following the more than 50 leading white Hollywood actresses, including Gwyneth Paltrow and Angelina Jolie, accusing Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment in October.
“Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me,” the TIME article begins. “They’re svelte, glamorous, self-possessed. They wear dresses we can’t afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew.”
They’ve made the focus of the movement movie stars.
But, again, Black women are marginalized in the movements in which they started, such as the movement against Donald Trump being elected as president, for example. According to exit polls, more than 90 percent of Black women voted for Democratic candidate Hillary Clinton in the 2016 presidential election, while more than 53 percent of white women voted for Trump.
TIME magazine, recently sold to Meredith Corporation and the deal is linked to the politically active Koch brothers, frames the narrative of the #MeToo movement as if it weren’t for Milano sharing the hashtag, what the magazine calls, “one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s,” may not have taken place.
In the cover story, Burke is mentioned in passing:
“This was the great unleashing that turned the #MeToo hashtag into a rallying cry. The phrase was first used more than a decade ago by social activist Tarana Burke as part of her work building solidarity among young survivors of harassment and assault.
“A friend of the actor Alyssa Milano sent her a screenshot of the phrase, and Milano, almost on a whim, tweeted it out on Oct. 15. ‘If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,’ she wrote, and then went to sleep. She woke up the next day to find that more than 30,000 people had used #MeToo. Milano burst into tears.”
TIME’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal wrote a column on why the “silence breakers,” women who spoke out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, were chosen as “person” of the year.
Felsenthal quoted Milano:
“‘I woke up and there were 32,000 replies in 24 hours,’ says actor Alyssa Milano, who, after the first Weinstein story broke, helped popularize the phrase coined years before by Tarana Burke. ‘And I thought, My God, what just happened? I think it’s opening the floodgates.'”
He then made a parallel to civil rights icon Rosa Parks.
“To imagine Rosa Parks with a Twitter account is to wonder how much faster civil rights might have progressed.”
Never mind that in 2006, Burke, a three-time sexual violence survivor, created Just Be Inc., a nonprofit organization focused on the health, well being and wholeness of young women of color. Over the years many survivors of abuse have credited her for helping them.
A woman tweeted in October:
— Mr. President (@natashaapple_) October 30, 2017
Then, a follow-up article, “’Now the Work Really Begins.’ Alyssa Milano and Tarana Burke on What’s Next for the #MeToo Movement’” highlights an appearance the woman made on the “Today” show, where the two met for the first time.
“Alyssa Milano, who has roused thousands of women to speak out about their experiences of sexual harassment and assault, joined #MeToo movement creator Tarana Burke on Wednesday to call for more change after Time revealed its 2017 Person of the Year: ‘The Silence Breakers.’”
TIME did publish an article in October talking about how Burke created the Me Too movement. But for the Person of the Year issue, the focus of Burke’s original endeavor is framed by the one tweet from Milano. A Black woman’s quest to change society for the better is now better accepted because a white advocate can also be the face of it.
In an interview with The New York Times last week, actress Gabrielle Union, who is a survivor of sexual violence, pointed out that the #MeToo movement that now exists empowers white women as the plight of women of color has not been taken as seriously.
“I think the floodgates have opened for white women,” Union said. “I don’t think it’s a coincidence whose pain has been taken seriously.
“Whose pain we have showed historically and continued to show. Whose pain is tolerable and whose pain is intolerable. And whose pain needs to be addressed now.
In her candid memoir and in a new television project, Union continues the dialogue on race in America.
“If those people hadn’t been Hollywood royalty,” she said. “If they hadn’t been approachable. If they hadn’t been people who have had access to parts and roles and true inclusion in Hollywood, would we have believed?”
Also in October, actress Lupita Nyong’o was the first Black woman to publicly accuse Weinstein of sexual assault, describing the details in a New York Times op-ed. In his denials of wrongdoing, Weinstein has not specifically named any of his more than 50 white female accusers. But he made a public statement responding to Nyong’o’s claim — to flat-out deny it and put the blame on her.