2021 Winner: #MeToo: An Intersectional Interrogation and Centering of Black Women

Project Information
#MeToo: An Intersectional Interrogation and Centering of Black Women
FMST 195, Thesis Course
When I first started hearing about the MeToo movement through white, female celebrities on platforms like Facebook and Twitter, I was initially moved and excited by the widespread visibility of an issue long past due the attention it was starting to receive. My initial hope was that the movement would start the destigmatization process of sexual assault and harrassement, blending the private and the public and negating the norm that the two are inherently separate. Over time, however, I learned that the #MeToo slogan and movement was founded by Tarana Burke, a Black, female grassroots organizer and activist a few years before the hashtag #MeToo became somewhat of an online sensation. This did not come as a surprise, as western feminism has a long history of denying Black women the credit they deserve as fundamental and revolutionary actors in the advancements of modern feminisms. I wanted to take a closer look at how, over and over again, the feminist movement in the U.S. largely ends up centering the voices of the white elite white simultaneously excluding the experiences and voices of those most impacted, often Women of Color, particularly Black women. I wanted to interrogate this trend of exclusion through looking specifically at the origins, frameworks, attempted cooptations, goals and progressions of the #MeToo movement, a movement founded and advanced by Black women. I hope to shine a light on the work that Black women have been doing historically to combat this trend and tie it into work being done in our current climate by Black feminist scholars and activists contemporarily.

Throughout my thesis paper, I interrogate the centering of white, elite women within the #MeToo movement, highlight a lack of intersectionality and trace the historical and contemporary work that Black women have done on sexual violence and gender discrimination. I draw largely from Kimberle Crenshaw’s work on intersectionality to look at how the intersection of gender, race, class and sexuality operate to create a unique form of oppression and therefore discrimination. My paper asserts that, while the #MeToo movement has played a crucial role in calling international attention to the epidemic of sexual assault and harassment, it has fallen short in addressing the needs of non white, working class women. While the brave voices of well educated, white and celebrity women have been amplified throughout the movement, the voices of Women of Color, incarcerated women, undocumented women and women living at the intersection of various identity markers have been pushed to the back, if included at all. In order to strengthen the #MeToo movement, we must see the crucial way that race and class disproportionately influence the marginalized position of many women. It is becoming increasingly vital that the #MeToo movement amplify and uplift women living intersectional lives and view these differences as not a burden but a source of strength and solidarity.
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  • Amelia Claire Huster (Eight)