BethAnn McLaughlin wins 2018 Media Lab Disobedience Award from MIT
The MIT Media Lab’s 2018 Disobedience Award will be shared by three leaders of the #MeToo and #MeTooSTEM movement. Tarana Burke, founder of the “Me Too” movement; BethAnn McLaughlin, who brought “Me Too” conversation to STEM institutions; and Sherry Marts, who helps academic and nonprofit organizations become more fair and inclusive, have all taken a stand against sexual assault and harassment, and against the marginalization of survivors. The three winners will share the award’s $250,000 cash prize. Four finalist prizes of $10,000 will also be awarded.
The Disobedience Award, now in its second year, was created to recognize individuals and groups who engage in ethical, nonviolent acts of disobedience in service of society. The award is open to nominations for anyone still living and active in any field, including the arts, academia, law, politics, science, and social advocacy. A selection committee of 11 scientists, social justice experts, and thought leaders — including one of last year’s winners, Mona Hanna-Attisha — selected the winners and finalists from a global nomination pool. All five prizes were funded by LinkedIn co-founder Reid Hoffman.
Tarana Burke launched the “Me Too” movement in 2006. In 2017, when the #MeToo hashtag went viral, the movement gained enormous momentum, becoming a galvanizing force not only in giving survivors the courage to speak out, but also in bringing abusers to justice and bringing conversations about gender equality, toxic masculinity, and abuse of authority to the forefront. Burke, McLaughlin, and Marts represent three vital components of the movement — giving voice and strength to survivors, calling on institutions to hold abusers accountable, and helping organizations to improve their values and methods. All three have shown tremendous courage in the face of threats, derision, and professional consequences from peers and authority figures.
“This year’s winners embody the highest ideals of what the Disobedience Award is intended to honor: speaking truth to power, empowering the voiceless, accepting personal responsibility and fallout without a view to personal gain,” says Joi Ito, director of the Media Lab and co-founder of the award. “The #MeToo movement represents a sea change in American culture, in our institutions, in every professional, academic, and political arena. These three women are on the front lines of this movement, and their refusal to back down or be silenced is what will continue propelling the movement forward in the face of every kind of opposition. We have to support that kind of heroism.”
While the selection committee unanimously agreed on #MeToo and #MeTooSTEM as the clear winners for the 2018 award, their choice of finalists speaks to other important themes of responsible disobedience and voices that deserve to be heard: aiding immigrants and refugees, fighting for teachers and other public employees, and standing up for science and environmental protection. The four finalist prizes will go to Katie Endicott; Sarah Mardini and Yusra Mardini; Tara Parrish; and Deborah Swackhamer.
“Ethical, nonviolent disobedience takes many forms, and it was important to the selection committee that we acknowledge some of the many extraordinary people who were nominated this year,” says Ito. “This year’s finalists demonstrated both individual acts of courage, and organized leadership. What they have in common is a commitment to their values and a resistance to powerful authorities who have tried to stop or silence them.”