Ahead of the fourth Democratic 2020 presidential primary debate Tuesday night, the founder of the #MeToo social justice movement launched a new voter mobilization campaign, urging the recognition of survivors of sexual violence and harassment as a "power base."
Tuesday marked the second anniversary of the viral hashtag #MeToo, which garnered millions of responses in just 24 hours after actress and activist Alyssa Milano posted a tweet asking her followers to respond, "Me too" if they had survived sexual assault or harassment.
Tarana Burke, who originally began using the phrase "Me Too" on social media in 2006 to show solidarity with women of color who had been abused, called on supporters to identify themselves as "Me Too Voters"—a constituency which will demand that elected officials prioritize the issue of sexual violence as the labor, human rights, and public health issue that it is.
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.#metooMVMT pic.twitter.com/EtoviigCGz
— Tarana (@TaranaBurke) October 15, 2019
In a country where more than one in three women and more than one in four men will experience sexual violence in their lifetimes, the campaign argues, political leaders must share concrete ideas for legislation that would make sure survivors are supported after they experience trauma and make it easier to hold perpetrators accountable for harassment or abuse—particularly in fields like domestic work, in which the vast majority of workers are not covered under the National Labor Relations Act (NLRA).
Last week, Burke wrote an op-ed in Time magazine asking why 2020 presidential candidates have rarely addressed issues affecting survivors of sexual violence and harassment, and why moderators of the three debates that have taken place so far have hardly touched on women's rights, including reproductive rights.
"Candidates have a responsibility to address the rampant sexual violence that permeates all of society's systems and structures, including government," wrote Burke. "Policies around race, immigration, and healthcare 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. Sexual violence is a national problem that deserves a national response."
Burke was joined by National Women's Law Center (NWLC) president Fatima Goss-Graves, Ai-Jen Poo of the National Domestic Workers Alliance, and Mónica Ramírez of Justice for Migrant Women in a video produced by NowThis News, explaining the need to expand the #MeToo movement into a #MeTooVoter movement.
"We know that survivors collectively are a force, and they're a force as voters," Goss Graves said.
‘When you have 12 million people respond to a hashtag in 24 hours, we have a public health crisis’ — Leaders @TaranaBurke, @MonicaRamirezOH, @FGossGraves, and @aijenpoo are transforming #MeToo into #MeTooVoter to hold politicians accountable pic.twitter.com/mkm4ZfVbZI
— NowThis (@nowthisnews) October 15, 2019
"Preventative and post-trauma measures" including sex education, resources on college campuses for survivors beyond support in the immediate aftermath of violence, and revised workplace protections across industries were among the reforms the #MeTooVoter leaders urged the 2020 candidates to address.
In her op-ed, Burke noted that during her presidential campaign Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand (D-N.Y.) centered women's rights—"but she's no longer in the race."
On Twitter, presidential candidate Julian Castro responded to the #MeTooVoter campaign with a pledge to "listen to survivors and work to end sexual violence in our country."
Two years after #MeToo went viral, its founder Tarana Burke, is mobilizing survivors to use their power to create electoral change.
As President, I will listen to survivors and work to end sexual violence in our country.https://t.co/luZwgtVufL
— Julián Castro (@JulianCastro) October 15, 2019
In an opinion piece at CNN Tuesday, Goss Graves called on debate moderators at the fourth debate to address three questions:
- Do you think every person in the U.S. should be able to access abortion care, no matter where they live or the money they make?
- What will you do to make sure that all families have access to affordable, high-quality child care?
- What will you do to address sexual harassment and make workplaces safe and fair for all workers?
A number of women's rights advocates expressed their support for the #MeTooVoter movement on social media.
Today marks two years since #MeToo went viral. That cataclysmic, earth shaking moment was felt around the world—but there’s still so much work to be done. With critical elections in 2019 + 2020, we will use our votes to help build the world survivors deserve. #MeTooVoter
— #VOTEPROCHOICE (@VoteChoice) October 15, 2019
#MeToo catapulted survivors of sexual violence into the spotlight, forcing the world to hear their stories. I applaud @TaranaBurke's new #MeTooVoter initiative, which will help turn those stories into policy solutions. https://t.co/w0suGUTcxw
— Carolyn B. Maloney (@CarolynBMaloney) October 15, 2019
— The New York Women's Foundation (@NYWomensFdn) October 15, 2019
— Voto Latino (@votolatino) October 15, 2019
"Millions of women will be watching on Tuesday," wrote Goss Graves at CNN. "Moderators owe them the chance to hear about candidates' plans to tackle issues that directly affect their lives. Women are more than half of this country, and it's time for candidates to answer to them."