You’ve probably already seen the news that Time‘s Person of the Year for 2017 is the collective of “Silence-Breakers” who have bravely stepped forward to accuse their harassers and abusers.
Usually, my writing philosophy (perhaps overly conditioned conditioned by the academy and the publishing industry) involves finding stories you might not have come across on your own, or at least perspectives that aren’t likely to show up all across your morning media feeds.
But the most important message from the past few months is that, in this case, repetition is vital. The movement against pervasive, systematic, sometimes structural, sexual harassment takes its power from the number of folks who’ve stepped forward to say #metoo. This is a powerful lesson the strategies of amplification, which prove particularly effective (and necessary) to support women’s voices; it’s an exemplary case of awareness raising as activism.
There is no one person to highlight, no one type of person. Certainly, the bulk of the population didn’t start to take things seriously until famous and beloved white women started stepping forward. But the massive swell has brought up so many more faces and voices, all made more powerful by the thunderous echo. We need to keep listening.
At this time of year, light-up “Believe” messages proliferate. I’ve always found these bewilderingly vague (are we supposed to believe in Santa? in Jesus? in consumerism?). This year, though, I choose to see these all as a reminder and a call to action: Believe their stories.
Believe the survivors and the violated and the victims of sexual violence and harassment.
Believe our stories, because of course it’s fucking happened to #metoo.
Patriarchy works when we are embarrassed and ashamed and afraid–when we feel isolated and alone. When we fear above all–because we see it happen all the time–that if we ever summon the courage to speak, we will be doubted, discredited, destroyed.
So, believe, because it’s a radical act, and because the reverberations of telling and hearing these stories has the power to bring a seismic cultural shift.
We are not going to get there all at once, we are not going to get there without scars and fights and some really difficult discussions (about degree, about intention, about consent and desire…). But I feel the ground moving, so I’m going to be yet another voice saying that I hear you, all of you, all of us.