Aspen Ideas notebook: ‘Me too’ founder embracing hashtag movement |

Aspen Ideas notebook: ‘Me too’ founder embracing hashtag movement

Journalist Alex Wagner interviews Tarana Burke, the founder of the 'me too' movement on Monday during the Aspen Ideas Festival.
Carolyn Sackariason/The Aspen Times

#MeToo founder embracing hashtag movement

Tarana Burke founded the #MeToo movement 12 years ago in order to raise awareness of sexual abuse and assault in society. Since 2006, she had been quietly working with young girls and other survivors of sexual violence.

Then on Oct. 15, 2017, the use of the #MeToo hashtag after the Harvey Weinstein sexual abuse allegations exponentially catapulted Burke’s work to empower victims onto the national stage.

It seems that the #MeToo movement has expanded into other equality and equity issues for women in the past several months. But that’s not what this is about for Burke, who spoke at the Aspen Ideas Festival on Monday.

“The hashtag is not a movement,” she said in front of a group of mostly women in the Greenwald Pavilion.

As a society, it’s easy to get lazy and attach messaging to a movement that’s got the attention of the public. However, it distracts from the mission of standing together as survivors of sexual violence and changing the culture so that behavior ends, Burke said.

But she’ll continue to embrace the growing movement. She noted that one of her pet peeves is that men will tell her they are behind her because they have daughters and don’t want them abused.

“What, like they weren’t human before?” Burke said with a laugh. “Whatever your entry point, I don’t care. We need them. There are enough of us (victims) in this country to sustain the work.”

Her advice to men is to stop saying “not me,” or “I don’t do that.” Instead, they need to interrogate how they move around in the world. Do they laugh at their co-workers’ demeaning or sexual jokes about women?

“You need to have patience and courage in this movement,” she said. “We love men. This is a pro-self movement.”

– Carolyn Sackariason

Brain power

Pink Brain, Blue Brain? Maybe not. Modern neuroscience research is showing there is no significant innate difference between the male and female brain in its structure or wiring — it’s a unisex organ.

So why are men and women so different in regard to nurturing and empathy, aggression, leadership and success? Neuroplasticity. From birth, men and women are socialized very differently in overt and subtle ways.

What each learns through social norms, expectations and modeling affects how the brain creates connections and patterns, and subsequently influences behavior.

For example, men and women as a whole are equally aggressive. However, men learn to express their aggression physically and women relationally.

So why is there such an enduring emphasis on looking for differences? During a session Monday at the Ideas Festival, Dr. Lise Eliot suggested it may be related to status and power. Specifically, those with power seek ways to justify their hold on it. By asserting that the male and female brains are different, there’s rationale to promote continued male leadership.

Focusing on gender difference instead of similarity also may be a social construct. Dr. Kimmel posed the question: Do perceived gender differences cause inequality, or does gender inequality create the differences we see?

– Lori Ann Kret


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