The original purpose of "Me Too" as used by Tarana Burke in 2006, was to empower women through empathy, especially young and vulnerable women. In October 2017, Alyssa Milano encouraged using the phrase as a hashtag to help reveal the extent of problems with sexual harassment and assault by showing how many people have experienced these events themselves.[12][16]

After millions of people started using the phrase, and it spread to dozens of other languages, the purpose changed and expanded, as a result, it has come to mean different things to different people. Tarana Burke accepts the title of the leader and creator of the movement but has stated she considers herself a worker of something much bigger. Burke has stated that this movement has grown to include both men and women of all colors and ages, as it continues to support marginalized people in marginalized communities.[18][19] There have also been movements by men aimed at changing the culture through personal reflection and future action, including #IDidThat, #IHave, and #IWill.[20]

Burke stated in an interview that the conversation has expanded, and now in addition to empathy there is also a focus on determining the best ways to hold perpetrators responsible and to stop the cycle.[19]

Awareness and empathy

Analyses of the movement often point to the prevalence of sexual violence, which has been estimated by the World Health Organization to affect one-third of all women worldwide. A 2017 poll by ABC News and The Washington Post also found that 54% of American women report receiving "unwanted and inappropriate" sexual advances with 95% saying that such behavior usually goes unpunished. Others state that #MeToo underscores the need for men to intervene when they witness demeaning behavior.[21][22][23]

Burke said that #MeToo declares sexual violence sufferers are not alone and should not be ashamed.[24] Burke says sexual violence is usually caused by someone the woman knows, so people should be educated from a young age they have the right to say no to sexual contact from any person, even after repeat solicitations from an authority or spouse, and to report predatory behavior.[25] Burke advises men to talk to each other about consent, call out demeaning behavior when they see it and try to listen to victims when they tell their stories.[25]

Alyssa Milano described the reach of #MeToo as helping society understand the "magnitude of the problem" and said, "it's a standing in solidarity to all those who have been hurt."[26][27] She stated that the success of #MeToo will require men to take a stand against behavior that objectifies women.[28]