Founder of the Me Too Movement, Tarana Burke is in Kelowna to speak to students and the public March 6. Sydney Morton/ Kelowna Capital News

Founder of Me Too movement speaks in Kelowna

Tarana Burke says the movement has the ability to shift society’s perception of sexual violence

It’s no longer socially acceptable to light a cigarette in an enclosed building because of the risks of secondhand smoke for others.

Tarana Burke the founder of the Me Too Movement, that evolved into a hashtag and took off like lightning through social media news feeds around the world almost two years ago, and lit Hollywood as we once knew it on fire, hopes that society will view sexual violence in the same way as smoking.

“If someone lit up a cigarette (in a building) you would be appalled…but that wasn’t the case 30 years ago. They didn’t even think about it, they would smoke on planes and in offices. So you can change people’s thinking and shift the way people relate to one another,” said Burke.

It’s not about your own health, it’s about other people’s health. So we have evidence in our world that there are shifts in understanding, thinking and in our culture, it can happen… we need to be aware of how do we reimagine our lives so that we look down on sexual violence as something so distasteful like smoking, like drug use… to make sure people don’t have this experience in their lives.”

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Burke has risen to the forefront of media focus, however the activist has been pounding the pavement for her grass roots movement for 25 years, and first wrote ‘Me Too’ on a piece of lined paper in 2006 when she was frustrated with the amount of sexual violence in the world and the way it is spoken about. She says that what the movement has become most known for does not resemble what she first set out to create.

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“I don’t think it will ever be what it was when I started because it started as a grass roots movement in the South (Alabama, U.S.) so I think that coming up on two years, we are able to shift the narrative so that more people understand that it’s more expansive then what the media would lead you to believe. It’s more expansive then a hashtag, it’s all encompassing in ways that we don’t really get to see represented on a day to day basis. I don’t think it will ever be what it was… People who said, “Me Too” were talking about the entire spectrum, not just being harassed at work or just what is happening in Hollywood. They were talking about their real lived experiences.”

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Burke says that the media, though it has helped raise her voice, has failed to share the narrative that features the spectrum of sexual violence and that the movement has not scratched the surface of what is has yet to accomplish alongside the media such as questioning authority, sharing the stories of people with different sexual violence experiences and expanding the coverage of the topic instead of focusing on the celebrity angle.

“I think the media’s role is a big one. I think that people have also been socialized in a way to think about sexual violence in a way that is incredibly small,” said Burke. “The other side of things is I wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for the media, we wouldn’t be able to have this platform and talk about sexual violence the way that we do.”

Burke spoke at UBC Okanagan College March 6 to help students understand their role in the Me Too Movement as students as well as how to handle sexual violence on campus. Burke will also speak at the Kelowna Community Theatre March 6 at 7 p.m. until 9 p.m.

Tickets are available at www.events.eply.com

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@sydneyrmorton
sydney.morton@kelownacapnews.com

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