Tarana Burke Talks About Feeling 'Numb' After All the Backlash Against MeToo

Illustration for article titled Tarana Burke Talks About Feeling 'Numb' After All the Backlash Against MeToo

It’s been over a year since the #MeToo hashtag went viral and sparked a conversation that is still going on about the extent of sexual harassment and misconduct in our communities and its lasting effects. But the work to open up the conversation around sexual abuse has been going on for far longer, thanks in part to Tarana Burke founding the MeToo movement in 2006. So it makes sense that the last year, with all the media attention given to the topic and the contentious debates happening between the right and supporters of survivors, has been tough on her.


In her first TED Talk, Burke opens up about feeling “numb” to all the noise, as the movement’s value and its aims are continuously dissected and called into question. All of the attention, it seems, has had the opposite effect that MeToo organizers intended. “Survivors of sexual violence are all at once being heard, and then vilified,” Burke says. “This movement is constantly being called a watershed moment, or even a reckoning,” she goes on. “But I wake up some days feeling like all evidence points to the contrary.”

It’s hard not to feel discouraged. Burke lists of several talking points that purportedly challenge or criticize MeToo, but actually mis-categorize it completely: that the movement is a witch hunt, that it’s setting fire to due process, that it’s a “vindictive plot against men.” “

But Burke adds that she find hope in contextualizing her feelings, that it comes from putting in the work, day in and day out. “It’s understandable that the push-pull of this unique political moment feels like an emotional roller coaster that has rendered many of us numb,” she says. This “collective trauma,” as she calls it, is in fact, valuable. To her, it is “the first step towards actively building a world that we want right now.” When we want to do away with the pain of this moment, we risk not having important conversations that need to be had in order to move forward. It’s a touching note and an important reminder; you can hear Burke’s whole talk here.

Senior Writer, Jezebel



I think the backlash really comes from the deeply rooted way of thinking that man behaving horribly is just “man being a man” in our society. The people who grew up on it still much alive. It will take a few generations to eradicate that in our culture.