#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke Launches New Hashtag Mobilizing Voters

The new hashtag, #MeTooVoter, was unveiled on October 15, the Associated Press (AP) reported. In an interview with the AP, Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, said Democratic candidates need to use their platform to discuss issues of sexual violence in the country.

“You can’t have 12 million people respond to a hashtag in this country and they not be constituents, taxpayers, and voters,” Burke told the AP. “We need these candidates to see us as a power base. So many people engage with survivors from a place of pity.”

The #MeToo movement was launched in 2006 by Burke to help survivors of sexual violence, particularly women of color from low-income communities, according to the movement’s website. In October 2017, actress Alyssa Milano asked her Twitter followers to reply with “me too,” in reference to Burke’s movement, and millions of people responded to the hashtag.

On the night of the fourth Democratic Debate, Burke urged her followers on Twitter and those watching the Presidential debate to use the hashtag #MeTooVoter and #AskAboutMeToo to prompt the presidential candidates to start talking about the movement.

“Tonight, on the anniversary of #metoo please join us in watching the Presidential debates and sharing your concerns on social media using the hashtags: #metooVoter and #askaboutmetoo... Let the candidates know that we are more than survivors we are voters,” Burke tweeted.

Burke said none of the Democratic candidates have used their platforms to speak about sexual violence. According to the AP, she is considering hosting a town hall about the issue to hear more from candidates about how they propose to end sexual violence in the US.

In an op-ed published in Time, Burke said the Democratic candidates “have a responsibility to address the rampant sexual violence that permeates all of society’s systems and structures, including government.”

“If we are talking about sexual violence as a public-health crisis — and with more than 19 million respondents to the #MeToo hashtag in the first year alone, and a record numbers of calls at rape crisis hotlines across the country, I feel confident doing so — then it should be talked about with the same seriousness as other topics that have received far more attention,” she wrote.

“Policies around race, immigration, and health care have rightfully taken center stage during the recent presidential debates, but something as prevalent as sexual violence, an issue spanning and intersecting with all of the above, has been largely overlooked.”

Burke emphasized that sexual violence is a national problem. She wrote that supporters of the #MeToo movement and those against sexual violence should speak up and demand that candidates who want to be elected as president talk about it on their platforms.

“With no presidential candidate that seems willing to truly and publicly grapple with this bipartisan issue, we must once again raise our voices. We must demand that the men and women who want to represent us in the White House and other political offices speak directly to and respond to our needs. And we must be clear that we are ready to vote for accountability in 2020,” Burker wrote. “We deserve a country that values our safety, since its health and prosperity depends on our well-being.”

Although sexual violence was not discussed during the latest Democratic presidential debates on October 15, Senator Kamala Harris, one of the candidates running for president, did bring up reproductive rights. The California senator had criticized an earlier debate on Twitter after there were no questions on reproductive rights. During the debate on October 15, Harris responded to a question on healthcare by noting that there had been no discussion in the debate about “women’s access to health care.”

“It’s outrageous,” Harris said during the debates, according to Vox. “There are states that have passed laws that will virtually prevent women from having access to reproductive health care. It’s not an exaggeration to say women will die because these Republican legislatures in these various states, who are out of touch with America, are telling women what to do with their bodies.”

About the Author

Maria Perez is a breaking news writer for The North Star. She has an M.A. in Urban Reporting from the CUNY Graduate School of Journalism. She has been published in various venues, including Newsweek, Juvenile Justice Information Exchange, City Limits, and local newspapers like The Wave and The Home Reporter.