The founder of the #MeToo movement is pushing back against one man’s characterization of the movement. While speaking a self-help event in San Jose, California, popular life coach Tony Robbins claimed women were using the #MeToo movement as an opportunity to use “victimhood” to gain “significance.” But the founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, says Robbins’ remarks are proof “his misogyny runs deep.”
In a video taken at an “Unleash the Power Within” event Robbins hosted in San Jose back in March, the popular self-help coach argues that women have used the #MeToo movement “to try to get significance and certainty by attacking and destroying someone else.” The life coach appeared to suggest women who speak out against sexual harassment and assault as part of the movement are using “a drug called significance to make yourself feel good.” He then argued that women had made themselves liabilities in the workplace by saying “enough is enough” when it comes to sexual harassment and assault.
As news of Robbins’ remarks began to pick up steam on social media, Burke announced Saturday that she’d been tipped off about Robbins’ comments by his “people,” who had reached out to her in an attempt to “do damage control” roughly 24 hours after his event. “They wanted to ‘give me context’ apparently,” Burke wrote in a tweet posted Saturday. “I don’t need any. I have eyes. The full video is 11 mins. And it’s gross.” Burke went on to applaud a woman in the audience who had pushed back against Robbins’ characterization of the #MeToo movement.
Neither Robbins nor Burke immediately responded to Bustle’s request for comment.
At his event back in March, Robbins claimed he wasn’t “knocking the #MeToo movement,” but rather “victimhood,” which he seemed to imply the movement was encouraging. But Burke, who created the #MeToo movement years ago in an effort to raise awareness of the widespread prevalence of sexual assault and harassment, has argued Robbins’ is out of touch with survivors of sexual assault and harassment.
“@TonyRobbins If you talk to more SURVIVORS and less sexist businessmen maybe you’ll understand what we want,” she tweeted to the life coach, adding that survivors like her wanted safety, healing, accountability, and closure. “We want closure. We want to live a life free from shame. That’s the reality of the @MeTooMVMT sir, do better.”
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As part of her criticism, Burke offered Robbins a 5-point “crash course” in sexual assault and harassment and what the #MeToo movement is really about:
- The #MeToo movement isn’t about victimization. “It’s about Survivors,” she wrote.
- Women aren’t to blame for “the deep seeded misogyny” men like the one Robbins claimed had refused to hire a woman — even though she was the most qualified candidate — because her attractiveness made her a liability in the workplace in wake of the #MeToo movement.
- Survivors share their experience to heal, not in an attempt to gain “significance.”
- Harassment can come in a number of forms, including physical intimidation. “Rewatch that video and then watch your step homie,” Burke tweeted in reference to Robbins’ attempt to prove that pushing back doesn’t make you safer by physically intimidating and lightly pushing a women who’d disagreed with his opinion until she walked backward through the audience.
- The #MeToo movement is about giving survivors “the resources to heal” and spurring survivors and advocates to come together in “a global community” to interrupt sexual violence.
Burke also expressed concern at how Robbins’ prominence and popularity might amplify his message’s reach. She claimed Robbin’s influence made his remarks especially damaging. “We have a hard enough time trying to shift the narrative about what this movement really is and he stands in front of thousands of his followers and completely misrepresents the @MeTooMVMT,” she tweeted.
But Burke isn’t the only one to have criticized Robbins for his remarks about the #MeToo movement. “What he is saying is a streaming pile of horsesh-t,” actress Gabrielle Union tweeted Saturday. “He is deliberately wrong about the movement in an attempt to absolve himself & his buddies of being accountable for deplorable behavior & working conditions.” Writers Ashley C. Ford and Roxane Gay, along with actress Daryl Hannah also criticized Robbins.