#MeToo Founder Tarana Burke Explains Why Wendy Williams' Comments Are So Problematic

Photo: Gary Gershoff/WireImage
Tarana Burke, the founder of the #MeToo movement, is not here for Wendy Williams' problematic comments on R. Kelly.
The talk show host, famous for her hot takes on celebrity gossip, caused major controversy on Thursday during her show when she brought up the allegations of sexual misconduct against R. Kelly. The major takeaway, many people felt, was that Williams was placing blame on the women the "Step In The Name Of Love" singer allegedly abused.
After learning that the hashtag #MuteRKelly was trending on Twitter as a protest to remove Kelly from the music industry, a seemingly annoyed Williams shared her own opinion on the matter with her audience.
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"There are so many people who are like, 'He didn't do it,' or whatever," Williams stated of Kelly's multiple accusations of sexual misconduct. "The #MeToo movement hasn't affected R. Kelly. R. Kelly wasn’t a #MeToo... Aaliyah voluntarily married him when she was 15 years old. Her parents voluntarily let her do it."
According to Biography, Aaliyah married 27-year-old Kelly without her parents' permission, and had the marriage annulled after six months. Aaliyah then cut off professional and personal contact with the artist.
It wasn't the only allegation, of which there are many, that Williams brought up. In a lengthy investigative piece published on Buzzfeed in July 2017, Kelly was accused of holding women in a "sex cult." He reportedly controls what they eat, when they sleep, and how and when they engage in sexual activity.
"The multiple allegations of R. Kelly holding women in his home... Where are their parents?" Allegedly the parents are complaining, but where are their parents? It has nothing to do with #MeToo. R. Kelly is just a very sick man," Williams explained on her show.
She then had the audience clap if they still listen to R. Kelly... which they did. Loudly.
Later on in the episode, after suggesting that Pamela Anderson not move to France with her boyfriend, Williams again invoked the #MeToo movement.
"I'm sick of this #MeToo movement," she told the audience. "I love that people are speaking up for the first time and speaking out and everything, but now…I look at all men like you’re a #MeToo, all of them, all of them, which is not fair."
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The founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, explained why this was a particularly damaging sentiment in a series of tweets.
"I heard what Wendy said yesterday and was disgusted by it. This is why Black women/girls are hesitant about coming forward with their #metoo. @WendyWilliams who blame the victim. You really think a 13 y.o. girl is to BLAME for sex w/ a 30+ y.o. man??"
"I tried to hold my tongue, but I can’t. Yes, Wendy said he was sick but pivoted to blaming the parents. FOCUS - HE IS THE PREDATOR - period. How dare you get on National TV and say his victims can’t say #metoo."
"It is disgraceful that as wide as your audience is and as many young girls, many Black girls watch your show that you would openly victim blame like you did yesterday. You are the reason why we can’t make headway in our community around sexual violence."
As Burke drives home, Williams' statements are disappointing. Kelly's accusations aren't taken as seriously as they should be, especially given that it is Black women who are the survivors of his alleged abuse. As for being "sick" of the #MeToo movement, well, if one is so sick of survivors speaking their truth, maybe the real problem isn't on the people coming forward, but on those who choose to harass and commit acts of sexual violence.
Refinery29 has reached out to representatives for both Williams and Kelly for comment.
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