On Sunday, women and men took to the high-traffic area of Hollywood and Highland in Los Angeles with passionate protest chants such as “Harvey Weinstein is a joke — women workers just got woke!” and “Your junk is not my job!” for two events in the wake of the flood of sexual harassment allegations that have been flooding Hollywood and beyond. The day started with the Take Back the Workplace March and then segued into the #MeToo Survivors March.
Tarana Burke, the creator of the “Me Too” movement which turned into a hashtag phenomenon on Twitter after Alyssa Milano promoted it over a month ago, took the stage at the rally saying that nothing could have prepared her for this moment which stemmed from an anti-sexual abuse campaign she started 10 years ago. She says that one of the most sensational results of the viral moment was seeing “the mighty fall,” that is not what she was there for.
“I don’t want to spend a moment of my time calling names of folks who don’t deserve breath with me,” she said to a crowd of about 200 people just steps away from Grauman’s Chinese Theatre on Hollywood Boulevard. “This day is not for them. This day is for us.”
She went on to honor survivors of sexual abuse and leaders of the movement including the march’s organizer, Brenda Guitierrez of California for Progress. “There’s a lot of talk about us right now and how the power of #MeToo could bring down Hollywood,” she said.
“Every time you see ‘#MeToo’ it represents a story that was created in tragedy but found its way to triumph.” She says that behind every hashtag is a person and that “we are human beings and not hashtags” and that the sexual violence people endured was an attempt to undermine their humanity and that today’s rally of unity is a “glorious rejection of that.”
Burke says that before a month ago many may have never known who she was and that the “Me Too” movement is rooted deep in marginalized communities. “It pains me that black and brown girls remain disconnected at this moment. If we are not centering and elevating voices that are often drowned out, then our work will ring hollow,” she said.
“You can’t get to Gretchen Carlson without Anita Hill; you can’t get to Alyssa Milano — who I pay homage to by the way — without Tarana Burke,” she adds. “I want to be clear that women of color have been on the front lines for years — The ‘Me Too’ movement is a spoke in a wheel of a larger movement to end gender-based violence.”
Prior to the #MeToo Survivors March, many of the women and men were at the Take Back The Workplace march which included numerous speakers including Civil Rights attorney Areva Martin, Senator Connie Leyva, Hollywood producer Cathy Schulman, California Democratic State Central Committee delegate Tom Bliss, comedian Tess Rafferty, and Los Angeles reporter Lauren Sivan, who was one of the first to go on record about being sexually assaulted by Harvey Weinstein.
“Today we are here to tell you that you will no longer keep us quiet — that ends now!” said Sivan during the press conference after that march.
Martin echoed that and emphasized that minority women suffer most in the workplace while Senator Leyva reiterated that she will be introducing of a legislation in January against “secret settlements” when it comes to sexual harassment in the workplace. “I got your back…we’re going to do this together!” said Leyva to a crowd of cheers.
Academy Award-winning producer of Crash spoke extensively about what she has experienced while working in the industry but answered the incessant question about why victims of abuse don’t speak up.
“It’s not that women won’t or can’t speak up, it’s what happens when they do, said Schulman. “We want to say something but we don’t want to lose everything. We need an environment where we can speak and we need to abolish the culture of silence.”
She goes on to say that we need to punish the “bigots, the power abusers, and the predators” and that their punishment must be public, non-negotiable and binding. “No coming back to the workplace after you fix your little problem,” she adds.
Schulman recognizes that the problem of sexual harassment goes beyond Hollywood and addresses those in media saying, “What we do matters.” She adds, “If we can see images of real diverse people — people everywhere will learn and understand one another a little better. Demand to see what you want to see and protect women from prejudice and abuse so they can take back the workplace.”