MIT honours #MeToo movement trailblazers

Sherry Marts, Beth Ann McLaughlin and Tarana Burke. (Ed Boyden/Twitter)

Sherry Marts, Beth Ann McLaughlin and Tarana Burke. (Ed Boyden/Twitter)

The Massachusetts Institute of Technology Media Lab has awarded three leaders behind the #MeToo and #MeTooSTEM movements with the 2018 Media Lab Disobedience Award for their roles in taking a stand against sexual assault and the treatment of survivors.

The three winners are Tarana Burke – the founder of the #MeToo movement, neuroscientist and professor BethAnn McLaughlin and biologist Sherry Marts – who both brought the #MeToo discussion into the science, technology, engineering, and mathematics fields.

Burke launched the#MeToo movement in 2006, 11 years before the hashtag went viral and the movement gained global traction. The movement was initially launched to provide survivors of sexual violence – particularly black women and girls from disadvantaged backgrounds –  with the help and resources they need.
Burke herself is a survivor of sexual assault who has said that her experiences inspired her to dedicate herself to fighting for the rights of women.

Once the movement gained momentum, it provided a platform for survivors of sexual abuse from all walks of life to share their stories, expose their abusers and share the challenges they faced in getting justice – and in many cases, not getting justice at all. 

Burke was named TIME magazine’s 2017 Person of the Yearas well as TIME’s “100 Most Influential People of 2018.”

McLaughlin pushed for the #MeTooSTEM movement with the support of students and professors who were disillusioned with the inaction of organisations in the STEM fields against individuals harassing and assaulting women trainees and professionals.

McLaughlin has braved ostracism from her academic peers in the STEM fields by calling for leading science organisations such as the National Academy of Sciences and the American Association for the Advancement of Science to hold members found guilty of sexual assault or misconduct accountable and to revoke their membership.

Marts is a consultant advising nonprofit and academic organisations on how to become more inclusive and how to deal with sexual harassment. She experienced harassment while in graduate school which fueled her to pursue a career making organisations aware of the issues that sexual abuse survivors face.

According to the Media Lab Disobedience Award website, this award was established two years ago to recognise a person or a group participating in “an extraordinary example of disobedience for the benefit of society” in ways that are nonviolent and call for accountability.

Candidates for the award can come from across the world and from any field ranging from arts and academia to science and social advocacy.

Burke, McLaughlin and Marts will share a $250 000 cash prize. 

Mashadi Kekana

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