This morning, we all awoke to the news that Time magazine had finally announced their 2017 Person of the Year. Except for the 14th time since the honor’s inception in 1927, the award was given to a group, or collective — a group of women who were promptly dubbed “The Silence Breakers.” Women who, in one way or another, stood up and spoke out against sexual harassment, assault, or other injustices they endured as the result of an unfair power dynamic.
That news alone was pretty powerful to read. But when I caught wind of an accompanying video that Time released just hours later — a video that captured the many voices and stories of The Silence Breakers themselves — I found myself with chills.
As I watched, I felt pride, anger, outrage, hope, and everything in between rush through me. There were even some tears; though I’m not sure if I was crying over the realization of just how marginalized women have been all these years, or because I was happy to see that the tides are finally changing.
Maybe it was a little bit of both.
I know I don’t have to tell you that this has been one hell of a year. I’ve heard “Go home, 2017 — you’re drunk” said aloud more times than I could count. Many have even referred to 2017 as a dumpster fire. And honestly? I think that’s a pretty accurate assessment. I’m praying, chanting, crossing my fingers, wishing on stars, and burning candles in the hopes that 2018 is going to bring us some healing and change. Yesm I’m also voting and using my voice and speaking up more; but after the year we’ve had, I figure some chanting and candles can’t hurt, either.
And while the daily headlines usually make me want to close my eyes, plug my ears, and sing “La, la, la, I CAN’T HEAR YOU,” or fling a brick at my T.V., I also have to admit — it’s been a hell of a year in a good way, too.
Just hear me out on this one.
2017 was the year of the everyday badass woman. Time has only confirmed what we’ve been witnessing all year long. In fact, 2017 has shone light on so many badass, fearless women who have stepped up, stuck their necks out, raised their voices, and raised their fists for all the rest of us, that it’s almost hard to remember all their names and all their stories.
Some of The Silence Breakers have been famous — like Taylor Swift, Selma Blair, and Megyn Kelly, to name a few. Others are notable women in business or journalism. But many of them have been ordinary people, just like you and me, who probably don’t consider themselves to be anyone special at all.
And yet they are.
The Silence Breakers of 2017 — famous or not — weren’t trying to make headlines. Or see their photos slapped across the front page of the paper. Or bask in their proverbial 15 minutes of fame. They were doing what they thought was right. What their conscience had likely been telling them to do for some time, but it felt too hard. And finally, we have recognized them for it.
I don’t know about you, but I call that progress.
They were doing their bit to make things better for the rest of us, and their actions truly have advanced women everywhere. Because now, people are listening to things they didn’t before. And paying attention to things — in the workplace and in society — that just months ago, they might have overlooked.
“I was afraid for my kids, I was afraid of the retaliation,” admitted Wendy Walsh, a psychologist who says she was harassed by Bill O’Reilly after appearing as a guest on his Fox News show. “I know what men can do when they’re angry.”
But ultimately, she says she “felt it was my duty for the women who were silenced to be brave.”
“I always thought maybe things could change for my daughter,” Megyn Kelly added. “I never thought things could change for me.”
And yet, they already have.
As much as this video fired me up, though, it also reminded me of just how much work we have left to do.
From the Women’s March in January to the millions of #MeToo messages that were splattered across social media in October, these Silence Breakers have buoyed the rest of us. We’ve witnessed the fall of famous, powerful men like Harvey Weinstein, Bill O’Reilly and most recently, Matt Lauer.
We are gaining traction and it’s an incredible thing to watch. We’re not putting up with ass-grabbing, innuendo, or harassment any longer. Thanks to the Silence Breakers, we’re staring sexual assault in the face and calling it what it really is.
For every person who has ever feared making waves, consider these words uttered by Dana Lewis, a hotel hospitality coordinator who was experiencing unwelcome sexual advances at work in New York’s Plaza Hotel: “I figured that if I just stand up, then someone else will stand up with me.”
It turns out, she was right. The domino effect that was set off this year has women all over the country literally standing up for each other and for what’s right. And in doing so, they’re standing up for all of us — and our children.
I have two young sons, and while I think I’m doing a damn good job of teaching them to respect women, observe boundaries, and understand the power of no, I’m grateful that they’re growing up in a world where people like Adama Iwu, Terry Crews, Tarana Burke, Alyssa Milano, Taylor Swift, Dana Lewis, Rose McGowan, Lyndsey Meyer, Sandra Muller, Susan Fowler, and so many more are standing up and holding us all accountable.
And yes, some of those names are familiar and some of them aren’t. Fame and notoriety amplify the message of the Silence Breakers, but all the messages are powerful.
I’m happy — and, like Megyn Kelly, a little surprised — to see such sweeping change in my lifetime. But mostly I’m grateful that for what these Silence Breakers are doing to cultivate a climate of respect for the next generation.
It’s important to remember that while this video is incredibly powerful, there are thousands, perhaps millions more Silence Breakers that walk among us. Maybe you are one of them.
2017 might have been a dumpster fire train wreck of a year, but no one can deny that it was also a stellar one for feminism. Yes, this display of woman power might have bloomed through adversity, but we’ve shown that we are a force to be reckoned with and that we’re not willing to look the other way, keep our lips zipped, or take anyone else’s crap.
Bravo to Time for recognizing how important The Silence Breakers are and for shining more light on them. We can all be Silence Breakers. We should all be Silence Breakers.
So stand up. Speak up. Take no crap. There are a whole lot of badass women out there who have your back — and we’re just getting started.