The creator of Me Too, Was Omitted From TIME Magazine’s Cover

Every year without fail, TIME publishes its “Person Of The Year” issue. The issue commemorates a person, a group, an idea, that has had significant influence on the events of the year.

This year, TIME magazine’s person of the year was  “The Silence Breakers”, in other words, those that played a pivotal role  in the #MeToo movement. And rightfully so. The movement has enabled individuals from all walks of life to speak out about a violence they have so long been told to be hush about. Across the globe, individuals have bravely decided to share their stories.

#MeToo has had an immensly powerful impact on the way that several industries address sexual violence today. From the film industry, to the news industry, to the music industry, to politics, to sports, the dominoes came tumbling down. Countless perpetrators of sexual violence were suddenly forced to be held accountable for abuses they thought would never come to light.

While #MeToo was catapulted when Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If all the women who have been sexually harassed or assaulted wrote ‘Me too.’ As a status, we might give people a sense of the magnitude of the problem.”, this is not where it began.

‘Me too’ was created in 2007 by activist Tarana Burke. It began as a safe space where vulnerable women and girls of color could speak out about the sexual violence they have faced. The movement could not have been more essential. Though survivors of all races find it difficult to speak out about the violence they have faced due to fears that they will be blamed or not believed, this fear is heightened for women of color due to combination of racism and misogyny.

It is no wonder that when Burke first saw Milano’s tweet, she panicked. 

“I felt a sense of dread, because something that was part of my life’s work was going to be co-opted and taken from me and used for a purpose that I hadn’t originally intended.”

And this is precisely what happened. When #MeToo went viral, the platform which was originally created to hold the stories of women and girls of color was drowned by stories that centered white women.  When women of color such Lupita Nyong’o did come forward, they received the type of dismissal that reminds us why Burke created #MeToo in the first place.

So when I discovered that the woman who had spent a decade of her life working on this issue had been omitted from TIME magazine’s cover, I was offended. TIME missed out on a beautiful opportunity to give recognition to a Black woman truly dedicated to the cause.

Now, not only was the original meaning of the movement erased, but Burke herself was erased. It reinforced the message that appropriating movements created by Black women is okay. It reinforced the the message that not valuing a Black woman for her labor is okay. It reinforced the message, that pushing Black women into the margins is okay.

While Burke may not be on the cover of TIME magazine, she is without a doubt, my person of the year.

 


Jacquelyn Iyamah is a UC Berkeley alumni with a deep background in race, class and gender issues. As an activist and content creator, she founded the Anti Misogynoir Project.Follow her work @jactivism