Women breaking silence on abuse start a movement

And end some abusers’ careers.

And collectively, they get honored as Time Magazine’s ‘Person of the Year’. The Silence Breakers. They’re speaking out about “the whisper network”, the “culture of harassment” countless women have endured and feared for decades and longer.

These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day…

What started as a #MeToo social media campaign has become a movement that’s quickly provided “an umbrella of solidarity”.

When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former Today show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door. When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.

 

The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labor in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament. They’re part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice.

It’s one of moments when a cultural phenomenon springs from a social media post that goes viral, then it’s out of anyone’s hands to control it. This one has been seized by the women who have long suffered fear, threats, bullying, disgrace, disrespect, depression, powerlessness and a range of other problems because of sexual misconduct or abuse committed against them in encounters usually with powerful men.

This was the great unleashing that turned the #MeToo hashtag into a rallying cry. The phrase was first used more than a decade ago by social activist Tarana Burke as part of her work building solidarity among young survivors of harassment and assault. A friend of the actor Alyssa Milano sent her a screenshot of the phrase, and Milano, almost on a whim, tweeted it out on Oct. 15. “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote, and then went to sleep. She woke up the next day to find that more than 30,000 people had used #MeToo. Milano burst into tears.

 

At first, those speaking out were mostly from the worlds of media and entertainment, but the hashtag quickly spread.

Interestingly, the women on Time’s ‘Person of the Year’ cover include one who’s only seen by her elbow in the right side of the photo. That was intentional, to carry a message subsumed in the overall story.

The mysterious elbow is a provocative artistic choice, and it’s no mistake. Its owner is meant to represent the millions of women (and all people) who suffer sexual harassment and assault in silence—the people who cannot publicly come forward, for fear of violence, loss of employment, familial rejection, or any other reason. This obscured woman represents women who anonymously—yet forcefully—shared their stories of sexual harassment in the past year.

 

Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal explained the photo crop today (Dec. 6) on NBC’s Today show: “The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to, a hospital worker in the middle of the country, who doesn’t feel like she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.”

He explained more:

“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover … along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s,” Felsenthal said in a statement.

 

The Silence Breakers emerged amid burgeoning allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by film executive Harvey Weinstein. As his list of accusers swelled, so did the number of people who spoke up to expose dozens of other famous individuals in Hollywood, politics, journalism and other industries as sexual predators.

 

Actor Kevin Spacey, journalist Charlie Rose, comedian Louis CK and U.S. Sen. Al Franken of Minnesota were among the high-profile names snared in an ever-growing web of alleged sexual harassers. Last week, former TODAY anchor Matt Lauer was also accused of sexual misconduct.

 

The women, and men, who broke their silence to share their stories of victimization gave traction to the #MeToo campaign, which took off on social media and fueled a worldwide discussion on just how endemic sexual harassment has been.

Furthermore

Felsenthal noted the hashtag, which he called “a powerful accelerant,” has been used millions of times in at least 85 countries…

 

“The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year,” Felsenthal said. “For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.”

This new intolerance of what was so long tolerated, enabled, covered up and hushed up is moving politicians into action faster now than print news can keep up with. This Wall Street Journal article about how a Roy Moore victory in Alabama next week would benefit Sen. Al Franken wasn’t two days old before Wednesday’s New York Times, among others, was reporting on the growing chorus of Democratic voices, mostly women in Congress – though joined by Sen. Chuck Schumer – calling for Franken’s resignation. Tuesday John Conyers retired immediately. Franken scheduled a Thursday announcement that should have happened Wednesday, minus the drama. It is likely he will have resigned by the time many readers see this.

Such are the times, and it’s about time. What started as a ‘moral moment’ is still growing into a – please God – historic cultural shift away from sub-humanism, with women and children seen as objects and commodities. That’s a much deeper, wider and larger story that needs the daylight sexual harassment is getting right now.

This should unite all people of goodwill, across all ideological, political and demographic divides. And it will be an ongoing story.

 

Why Time chose Pope Francis for Person of the Year

There’s nearly as much speculation about that as there is about who this man is.

Time explains their choice here, and it’s a lengthy article that reveals as much about Time’s editorial staff as it does the figure they chose to highlight this year for his impact on the world.

The papacy is mysterious and magical: it turns a septuagenarian into a superstar while revealing almost nothing about the man himself.

The term “superstar” just doesn’t fit, though that’s the language of pop culture used to pop theology.

But what makes this Pope so important is the speed with which he has captured the imaginations of millions who had given up on hoping for the church at all…

And behind his self-effacing facade, he is a very canny operator.

Another odd description of the humble man who sits in the Chair of Peter.

He makes masterly use of 21st century tools to perform his 1st century office. He is photographed washing the feet of female convicts, posing for selfies with young visitors to the Vatican, embracing a man with a deformed face. He is quoted saying of women who consider abortion because of poverty or rape, “Who can remain unmoved before such painful situations?” Of gay people: “If a homosexual person is of good will and is in search of God, I am no one to judge.” To divorced and remarried Catholics who are, by rule, forbidden from taking Communion, he says that this crucial rite “is not a prize for the perfect but a powerful medicine and nourishment for the weak.”

Through these conscious and skillful evocations of moments in the ministry of Jesus, as recounted in the Gospels, this new Pope may have found a way out of the 20th century culture wars.

Which his predecessors devoted their pontificates to doing by trying to implement the changes called for by the Second Vatican Council, mainly bringing the Church into greater engagement with the modern world. If they were eloquently teaching it, and trying their best to guide the faithful through it, Francis is out there saying ‘let’s do it.’

Which certainly throws modern culture on its heels.

And so Francis signals great change while giving the same answers to the uncomfortable questions. On the question of female priests: “We need to work harder to develop a profound theology of the woman.” Which means: no. No to abortion, because an individual life begins at conception. No to gay marriage, because the male-female bond is established by God. “The teaching of the church … is clear,” he has said, “and I am a son of the church, but”—and here he adds his prayer for himself—“it is not necessary to talk about those issues all the time.”

If that prayer should be answered, if somehow by his own vivid example Francis could bring the church into a new relationship with its critics and dissidents—agreeing to disagree about issues that divide them while cooperating in the urgent mission of spreading mercy—he might unleash untold good.

Especially if the media writing things like that realize they are among the critics who give voice often to the dissidents, groups not known for seeking a relationship with the Church or show a willingness to respectfully engage on issues that divide them. But watching Francis, they’re learning how.

They’re still getting him wrong though, as Time did even in the early hours of this story’s release. Terry Mattingly at Get Religion caught a glaring slip in Time’s explanation about honoring Francis, one that Fr. James Martin caught and tweeted:

Salute Time for nominating the Pope as Person of the Year.
Lament it’s for “rejection of church dogma.” He has not.

Further down in the post, Mattingly notes that Time originally wrote:

The first Jesuit Pontiff won hearts and headlines with his common touch and rejection of church dogma and luxury.

And then the magazine quickly caught (after being alerted to) the significant error on that statement, and issued this:

Correction: An earlier version of this post suggested that Pope Francis rejected some church dogma. He does not.

And he will not. So let’s see how long the media keep paying this kind of attention to him and what he says, and the “vivid example” he is setting. And whether they stay interested in following Francis.

Time honors protesters

This used to be a bigger issue.

And it used to be called the Time Man of the Year.

Person of the Year (formerly Man of the Year) is an annual issue of the United States newsmagazine Time that features and profiles a person, couple, group, idea, place, or machine that “for better or for worse, …has done the most to influence the events of the year.”

But look at its beginnings…

The tradition of selecting a Man of the Year began in 1927 with Time editors contemplating newsworthy stories possible during a slow news week. The idea was also an attempt to remedy the editorial embarrassment earlier that year of not having aviator Charles Lindbergh on its cover following his historic trans-Atlantic flight. By the end of the year, it was decided that a cover story featuring Lindbergh as the Man of the Year would serve both purposes.

So keep things in perspective. In fact…

Since then, individual people, classes of people, the computer, and Planet Earth have all been selected for the special year-end issue.

And people have become more selective in accessing credible and relevant news sources. Time has suffered readership and relevance in that process.

That seems to be reflected in reaction to this year’s annual special year end edition, honoring The Protester. And the editors’ list of ‘runner ups.’

And the ‘People Who Mattered’ list.

By what sliding scale do they measure people who matter?

And it strikes me as more than a little negligent that the magazine would devote such a lengthy and seemingly sensitive social commentary on the democracyof social activism and not recognize the spark or impetus generated by the Tea Party.

I encountered this story twice on radio Thursday, once as guest and once as host. When I was the guest, the host said he was just about ready to move on past this story because it wasn’t generating any listener interest. And when I was host the guest said she thought the whole issue was politically and ideologically driven and narrowly-focused, but then she added ‘Oh well, whatever…’ and changed the subject.

I have a proposal. Since this is such a big issue, let it be remembered that the citizens who wanted change and took the opportunity to mobilize for it were so honored. And next year, let’s see Time honor ‘The Voter.’