To those who wondered if speaking out when they felt forced to stay silent would ever amount to anything, today comes as recognition of a powerful and significant cultural reckoning that took place this year – one that should change things for years to come.
TIME magazine has named “The Silence Breakers” representing people of the #MeToo movement who came forward to report sexual misconduct, as its Person of the Year. It’s a move that speaks volumes, made all the more poignant because for so long women and some men were expected or coerced into staying silent when they were victims. A lot can happen in a year. Trump can cause chaos and grab women “by the pussy” and still be elected president but he is a stark reminder of everything wrong with the world and so, we gather in numbers. We shout louder. We call out those who grossly wronged us. Harvey Weinstein can go from being the most thanked person at the Oscars (after God) to rightfully being one of the most despised men in the world. Those that we would deem “beloved” in Hollywood have had their dark sides and evil deeds exposed and we have to thank a group of people who decided to be unafraid and speak up – even with the knowledge that their own lives and careers could be ruined in the process.
These are “The Silence Breakers.” Some are well-known public figures from Rose McGowan to Taylor Swift and Ashley Judd. Others are less “famous” by name but their battles and stories are just as poignant, just as relevant. Some are activists, reporters, some work 9-5 jobs they can’t afford to lose. But while it’s noticeable in the piece that fears are still felt – in fact, the magazine reports that “nearly all of the people TIME interviewed about their experiences over six weeks, across many different industries expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up” – what unites them is shared experience and extraordinary personal courage. Their stories are eerily similar and harrowing but the difference this time is they are voices who refuse to be rendered mute. For themselves, their families, friends or daughters.
.@rosemcgowan on why now is the time for anger #TIMEPOY https://time.com/5049676/rose-mcgowan-interview-transcript-person-of-the-year-2017/?utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&xid=time_socialflow_twitter pic.twitter.com/YOYqzd0sym
— TIME (@TIME) December 6, 2017
Judd recalls to TIME a screenwriter friend telling her that Weinstein’s behaviour was an open secret passed around on the whisper network that had been furrowing through Hollywood for years. This merely allowed for people to warn others to some degree, she says, but there was no route to stop the abuse. “Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of moviedom? “There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences.”
McGowan also spoke openly of being cast out of Hollywood for a decade, being largely ignored until the New York Times broke the Weinstein scandal and others publically went on record to expose the once revered Hollywood producer. She’s now considered one of the faces of the movement but said the people recalling their traumas were too easily pushed aside.”People forget that there’s a real person behind this… Someone who was very hurt and very wronged.”
The Silence Breakers are TIME’s Person of the Year 2017 #TIMEPOY https://time.com/time-person-of-the-year-2017-silence-breakers/?utm_campaign=time&utm_source=twitter.com&utm_medium=social&xid=time_socialflow_twitter pic.twitter.com/GBo9z57RVG
— TIME (@TIME) December 6, 2017
The women and men speaking out told TIME they felt shame. And anger. And regret at not having done more. “Was I somehow asking for this?” is a line that jumps out. But soon, as all of the dozens, then hundreds, then millions of women who came forward with their own stories of harassment became public, fear became fury.
They have had enough. We have had enough. “This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries,” TIME said. “It became a hashtag, a movement, a reckoning,” TIME’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal wrote in an explanation published on Time’s website. “But it began, as great social change nearly always does, with individual acts of courage.”
Be sure to read these extraordinary stories of courage and share them wherever and whenever you can. Share your own stories. Use your voice. Your hashtags. Your words. Because in the words of Rose McGowan, “We’re running out of time. I don’t have to play nice.”