Yesterday, 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.
This 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.
Christy Croft is a writer, teacher, and healer whose interfaith, personal spiritual practice is inspired by nature, informed by science, and grounded in compassion. She holds an Master of Arts in Liberal Studies with a focus on religion and social justice, and is currently plotting her next round of graduate studies. She has facilitated safe and sacred space for over twenty years, as a suicide hotline counselor, doula, rape crisis companion, support group facilitator, minister, mentor, mother, and friend. Her research interests are ever-evolving and include spirituality, new religious movements, religiosity and popular culture, compassion, trauma, gender, sexuality, and intimacy, and she sometimes blogs at The Sacred Loom.
Categories: Abuse of Power