Monday, January 8, 2018

The Significance of the Times Persons of the Year

On Wednesday, December 6, Time Magazine announced the Time Person, or in this case persons, of the Year 2017.  “The Silence Breakers” include activist Tarana Burke, who began #MeToo campaign ten years ago, Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Megyn Kelly, Terry Crews and all the other individuals that spoke about their experiences with sexual violence.  The women and men behind the #MeToo campaign created dialog around the injustice of sexual violence and harassment.  As an employee at Tahoe SAFE Alliance I work end to end sexual violence not only in my work, but also in every aspect of my life. However, throughout my time as an activist, it has become apparent that not all share my passion to end the power imbalance that contributes to violence in our society.

When Alyssa Milano began this discussion in early October, there was an explosion of not only support, but courage, from other survivors to speak up.  This created a conversation that carried the topic of sexual harassment and assault to our dinner tables.  A topic that is traditionally pushed under the rug during a gathering is now dominating the conversation.  This is what our country needs to fuel our fight to eventually end sexual violence.  This is not just an issue for those who have survived sexual assault or harassment, this is an issue that involves each and every one of us. We need to bring these topics of injustice into our conversations when our friends, family, or someone in our community asks, “How do you feel about all these allegations coming forward now?” or “What is your experience with sexual harassment?”  This is our opportunity to be upstanding citizens, to continue the conversation and talk about the repercussions of allowing sexual harassment to go unnoticed.

Survivors have brought to light the individuals who committed these crimes and by doing this, we took the first step forward to create a world where if a person makes another member of our society uncomfortable it is no longer tolerated.  Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Matt Lauer, Matt Zimmerman, Charlie Rose, Mike Oreskes, Louis C.K, Kevin Spacey, and Al Franken.  This is just the beginning of the list of those who have lost jobs or pay due to their actions, and the list will keep growing.  By empowering survivors to name their assailants the “Silence Breakers” have empowered our society to stand up for survivors and have the individuals who victimized them rectify their actions.

The #MeToo campaign has been a tremendous way to empower survivors, however, this is just the starting point. To create a healthy and thriving community we need to pursue this fight.  Continue to stand up for those that may not yet have the courage to stand up for themselves.  I know personally that it is easy to burn out and at times easier to ignore comments about inequality than address them.  However, the reality is when we ignore these comments or jokes regarding sexism, racism, ageism, or ableism we are allowing discrimination and prejudice to exist in our community.

I challenge you to take action.  Let the “Silence Breakers” be our role models.  If an action or comment makes you uncomfortable, say so.  When you hear a sexist joke, tell that person it is wrong.  Encourage others to be brave and fight to end sexual violence.  Listen and believe someone when they tell you their story.  Be an upstander in our community.  Thank you to the activist Tarana Burke, and all the “Silence Breakers”, for creating a movement where survivors feel empowered to speak up about the violence committed against them.  Thank you for yelling in a world where we are told to whisper.  And, finally, thank you for having the courage and strength our community needs to end sexual violence.   

By Eileen Farry
Community Education and Prevention Educator
Tahoe SAFE Alliance

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