Empowerment through Empathy~Me Too

The ‘Me Too’ campaign is nothing new.  It was started over 10 years ago by Tarana Burke, founder of Just Be Inc. which is a grass roots movement out of Philadelphia that focuses on the health and well being for women of colour.  The ‘Me Too’ campaign began as a way to help survivors of sexual assault .  The ‘Me Too’ campaign was started to allow those who were victimized know that they were not alone and had support from others who had the same experiences.

It was important for me to preface this post by making that clear.  This is not a campaign started by Hollywood.  This is not a campaign started by young, white actresses to bring attention to a long time creep of a producer.  This was started for women of colour to know that they are not alone.  This campaign was started by survivors to help other survivors.

From what I have read over the last few days, Ms. Burke was given kudos for starting it, but I will guarantee most people think it is was started by Hollywood.  She has been asked about the trending hashtag and has responded that  “It made my heart swell to see women using this idea – one that we call ‘empowerment through empathy’”  

The ‘Me Too’ hashtag has taken over social media over the last few days in light of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.  Women (and some men) from all over the world are including themselves as part of this movement by tagging their social media sites with this hashtag.  In order to bring attention to how wide spread the problem of sexual harassment and abuse is all over the world and in all walks of life, the ‘Me Too’ campaign allows for those who may not have spoken out before, to have a voice.  This collective voice will hopefully reach out to those who may have crossed lines in their own lives and give them a chance to reflect and change their behaviour.

I have read many stories posted by friends and strangers regarding their own experiences.  I have seen responses showing support from men and other women.  I don’t know the numbers, but this hashtag is everywhere you look.

The popularity of this hashtag is sad on many fronts.

Most of us didn’t know anything about this campaign until it was brought to us by Hollywood.  The fact that this campaign was started 10 years ago to bring empathy and support to women of colour and is trending now that Hollywood has taken hold of it, is just a glimpse of a bigger issue.

Why wasn’t this campaign viral when Hollywood wasn’t involved?

Why does it take a popular white actress to make this a movement?

These questions make us (and by us, I mean white women) uncomfortable.  We know why.  We were incapable of showing the support when we thought is wasn’t about us.

Now, I know this campaign is serving a greater good.  I am not dissing on the campaign as it is being used now.  Like I said, the popularity of this hashtag is sad on many fronts.

The fact that we (all women) have been lead to believe that we should put up with, feel guilty about, and ignore verbal or physical harassment or abuse is deplorable.  We have been told that ‘boys will be boys’ for too long.

Men need to be told that there is no tolerance for this type of behaviour.

Boys need to be educated on what is acceptable and what is not.

Girls need to be told that they will be believed.

The campaign began by Tarana Burke over a decade ago is about ‘empowerment through empathy‘ If we truly believe in this model and we are posting ‘Me Too’ to our own social media accounts, let us all really understand that statement and use it everyday.

The ‘Me Too’ hashtag is not meant to be a fading trend.  If you really believe in the intention, then live it.   Empathy means to be able to feel what someone else is going through; to feel what they are feeling.

If we have any chance of the ‘Me Too’ campaign making a long lasting difference, we need to embrace and remember its initial intention.  Then, and only then will we be able to make the changes necessary to make sure there are no more victims.

So instead of posting my own ‘Me Too’ experiences, which I had initially planned on doing, I will say ‘Me Too’ with the intention of empowering through empathy.  I will use this as opportunity to listen and feel.  I will use this opportunity to look beyond my own experiences and reach out to others who are struggling with their own.

To Tarana Burke, you are the backbone of this movement and for everyone who is taking part, and for this we are grateful.




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