Breaking the Silence by Chris Ash

Christy CroftYesterday, Time Magazine announced that its “Person of the Year” for 2017 would be “The Silence Breakers” – the name it has given to those women who helped launch and made headlines in the #metoo movement. This movement was started by activist Tarana Burke in 2006 to highlight the sexual abuse of women of color and was sent viral by actor Alyssa Milano in 2017. It speaks volumes that this designation falls exactly one year after Time awarded this honor to Donald Trump for the political shift heralded by his defeat of Hillary Clinton.

This defeat that was fueled, at least in part, by the way Trump’s own normalization of sexism, harassment, and assault played on the fears and bitterness of misogynist voters hell-bent on preserving what racial, gender, and economic privilege they could continue to hoard for themselves and those like them. This defeat, and the ensuing glorification of a sexual predator and rampant misogynist, in turn fueled a movement of people, mostly women, tired of being scared into silence to protect the powerful who abuse.

When the movement first picked up steam a few months ago, I found myself thrilled by the momentum. With each news report declaring a new power player whose reign of manipulation had fallen under the weight of multiple corroborating stories of abuse, I would cheer. “Let ‘em fall like dominoes,” I’d mutter to myself, too realistic from years of supporting survivors of rape and sexual abuse to feel the joy necessary for schadenfreude. After a while, though, as more and more abusers were identified among the ranks of leaders, celebrities, and crowd favorites, it became overwhelming to consider both the magnitude of the shift occurring as well as its impact.

Time Person of the Year 2017: The Silence BreakersThis tsunami leaves no one safe from its torrent. Not “nice guys,” not liberals, not coworkers or people who’ve won feminist accolades or helped women start successful careers. Politically progressive men are no more immune to sexism than white gay people are to racist beliefs and behaviors. They’re no safer from abusing their power than cis women are from transphobic exclusions. We all exist day in and day out in a cultural medium that perpetuates oppressive structures and convinces us that they’re “normal,” the way things are done. We have to work hard to begin to uncover our own complicity, and even then our efforts will always be human, imperfect.

Every action of resistance to that oppression calls us into question as the oppressors struggle to maintain their footing. Sometimes they do so as predators, aware that they are hiding misdeeds and vile abuses. Other times, they do so unconsciously, unaware of the ways in which their words and behavior drip with privilege and manipulation, aware only that they feel attacked and unfairly accused.

This is disintegration. This is winter. This is the falling of the leaves, brown and withered, whose coming decomposition will nourish the birth of a new spring in which women can rise, fists raised, hands clasped.

This is transition. This is the stage where the labor intensifies to the point where it feels like your world, the whole world, is falling into the unbearable abyss as what we’ve known makes way for what we will have. This is the point where shattering pain opens you up until pushing through becomes the only way out.

This is the point where Her long-silenced voice will rise with renewed vigor as patriarchy’s hold over the souls of women and girls, their bodies, their choices, is ripped away.

May we all pry patriarchy’s terrified grip off of our lives. May we grow brilliant and strong out of the muck. May we keep pushing until we push our way into a new world.

May we all be silence breakers.

Author: Chris Ash

Chris Ash is a writer, teacher, and leader whose practice is inspired by nature, informed by science, and grounded in compassion. They have facilitated safe and sacred space for over twenty years, as a suicide hotline counselor, doula, rape crisis companion, support group facilitator, minister, mentor, parent, and friend. Their research interests include spirituality, compassion, trauma, gender, sexuality, and intimacy. They live just outside Chapel Hill, North Carolina, surrounded by academics who think they're a hippie and New Agers who think they're a nerd. They remain fully committed to being both.

13 thoughts on “Breaking the Silence by Chris Ash”

  1. “We all exist day in and day out in a cultural medium that perpetuates oppressive structures and convinces us that they’re “normal,” the way things are done.”

    May this movement bring women freedom from oppression as you suggest

    – I wish I believed that it was enough to crumble the patriarchal structure – I am not sure that it is.

    Liked by 2 people

  2. Brava! And bravo to Time Magazine. This is pretty ironic after the Troll-in-Chief’s tweet that Time was selecting him as Person of the Year, but he’d give it a pass. Hah! I guess we just have to keep chipping away at the patriarchal structure. Let’s try to be hopeful.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Thank you for this post Christy. The task of becoming “the silence breakers”, and of letting “Her long-silenced voice rise with renewed vigor” has indeed been and continues to be long and fraught with struggle – Yet i remain steadfast in the knowledge that HER VOICE is strong and will not be put out. I am reminded of this phrase from one of the Gnostic texts which exalts “Barbelo, the perfect glory, and the immeasurable Invisible One who is hidden.” She says: ‘It is I who am laden with the Voice. It is through me that Gnosis comes forth.’

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Thanks Christy — very interesting that TIME Magazine understood the change in courage among women, who now feel free to step forward and speak their mind. Also as regards the anonymous elbow shown lower right in the cover photo, TIME said — “Her appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities.”

    Liked by 1 person

  5. Thank you for reminding me that pain is a part of giving birth to new life. I like the image: “This is the falling of the leaves, brown and withered, whose coming decomposition will nourish the birth of a new spring…” I’ve spent time this past month spreading shredded leaves on plants in my garden to nourish the soil! In Matthew’s Gospel, it lists some of the bad things happening then, including “nation rising against nation”, and it’s all described as “birth pangs”.
    Or as the child being optimistic said: “With all this shit, there’s got to be a pony in here somewhere.”

    Liked by 2 people

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