The Silence Breakers Of 2017

The Silence Breakers Of 2017

Time's Person of the Year has many names.
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Time’s Person of the Year is plural for 2017: The Silence Breakers.

Unveiled on December 7th, the cover features a striking image of five women: Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Adama Iwu, Isabel Pascual, and Susan Fowler. The sixth appears only as a jacketed elbow, pictured in the lower right of the cover. This tiny detail is elusive but pointed. The elbow belongs to of one of the unnamed “silence breakers,” for whom coming forth is still difficult, but whose voices matter no less.

It speaks to the value of the movement of the silence breakers; they aren’t all high profile celebrities whose platforms extend globally. They cannot all tell their stories as wholly or as openly as some have. This does not disqualify their experiences. It reminds us that the silence breakers are not limited to people working in Hollywood. They surround us. Theirs is not a movement with a leader or with a unifier.

On the woman cropped out of the image, Time correspondent Charlotte Alter provided, “That’s an anonymous woman who is a hospital worker who was experiencing harassment and didn’t feel that she could come forward.” In the feature story, aforementioned hospital worker emphasizes that she remained anonymous “as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out.”

The feature finds that “When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.” In fact, since the Weinstein allegations have come to light, a Time/SurveyMonkey online poll for American adults finds that “82% of respondents are more likely to speak out about harassment.” The diversity in the women telling the stories demonstrates the universality of the issue, being that they are all of different ages, religions, ethnicities, and incomes. Many of the interviewees expressed fear of repercussion for coming forth, as many of them are “vulnerable in society- immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income workers and LGBTQ people.” The fact that they will be recognized as people of the year, whether named or not, demonstrates a willingness and need to detach fear of coming forth from these instances.

Despite the social media revolution and the increased impetus for telling one’s stories, the legal and policy protections that address sexual harassment have not evolved to meet the demands of that revolution. The number of these stories that have emerged indicate the failings of sexual harassment policies, and of the norms that remain stagnant while others change. Recognizing the silence breakers is a step forward, but it is one of many yet to be taken.

Cover Image Credit: TIME / YouTube

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An Open Letter to the Person Who Still Uses the "R Word"

Your negative associations are slowly poisoning the true meaning of an incredibly beautiful, exclusive word.
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What do you mean you didn't “mean it like that?" You said it.

People don't say things just for the hell of it. It has one definition. Merriam-Webster defines it as, "To be less advanced in mental, physical or social development than is usual for one's age."

So, when you were “retarded drunk" this past weekend, as you claim, were you diagnosed with a physical or mental disability?

When you called your friend “retarded," did you realize that you were actually falsely labeling them as handicapped?

Don't correct yourself with words like “stupid," “dumb," or “ignorant." when I call you out. Sharpen your vocabulary a little more and broaden your horizons, because I promise you that if people with disabilities could banish that word forever, they would.

Especially when people associate it with drunks, bad decisions, idiotic statements, their enemies and other meaningless issues. Oh trust me, they are way more than that.

I'm not quite sure if you have had your eyes opened as to what a disabled person is capable of, but let me go ahead and lay it out there for you. My best friend has Down Syndrome, and when I tell people that their initial reaction is, “Oh that is so nice of you! You are so selfless to hang out with her."

Well, thanks for the compliment, but she is a person. A living, breathing, normal girl who has feelings, friends, thousands of abilities, knowledge, and compassion out the wazoo.

She listens better than anyone I know, she gets more excited to see me than anyone I know, and she works harder at her hobbies, school, work, and sports than anyone I know. She attends a private school, is a member of the swim team, has won multiple events in the Special Olympics, is in the school choir, and could quite possibly be the most popular girl at her school!

So yes, I would love to take your compliment, but please realize that most people who are labeled as “disabled" are actually more “able" than normal people. I hang out with her because she is one of the people who has so effortlessly taught me simplicity, gratitude, strength, faith, passion, love, genuine happiness and so much more.

Speaking for the people who cannot defend themselves: choose a new word.

The trend has gone out of style, just like smoking cigarettes or not wearing your seat belt. It is poisonous, it is ignorant, and it is low class.

As I explained above, most people with disabilities are actually more capable than a normal human because of their advantageous ways of making peoples' days and unknowingly changing lives. Hang out with a handicapped person, even if it is just for a day. I can one hundred percent guarantee you will bite your tongue next time you go to use the term out of context.

Hopefully you at least think of my friend, who in my book is a hero, a champion and an overcomer. Don't use the “R Word". You are way too good for that. Stand up and correct someone today.

Cover Image Credit: Kaitlin Murray

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There's More To Political Change Than Just Voting

We've got a long way to go, and casting your vote on Election Day is just one stop on the way.

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I told myself that I would write on something else this week. Perhaps on a more lighthearted topic, I thought, but my heart is telling me otherwise.

We celebrated a small victory with the guilty verdict of Jason Van Dyke in the fatal shooting of Laquan McDonald. Hours later, we suffered a great loss with the confirmed nomination of Brett Kavanaugh to be the next Supreme Court Justice.

I have to say, I was surprised and delighted by the guilty verdict of Van Dyke. It gave me hope that perhaps this one black man out of so many that get slaughtered daily, did not die in vain. I was not surprised by the Kavanaugh decision.

Despite its unpredictability, it still made my stomach churn.

It made me wonder how long we will continue taking one step forward and ten steps back as a country. It made me overwhelmed, thinking of how much we have yet to fix in this country. It made me sad, knowing I am only one voice that feels so small against the many greedy, sexist, and racist pigs that run our country.

One thing to remember, however, is that although one voice may be small, 125.9 million female voices are not. 37.1 million black voices are not. 52 million Hispanic and Latino voices are not. 313.9 LGBT voices are not.

So, why are we letting such a small number of prejudiced and privileged voices make the decisions for us?

They let us believe that we have no voice. They have tried to make us believe that they have silenced Dr. Christine Blasey Ford, as they have countless other women, women of color, men of color, and LGBT folks. But they haven't.

Being a woman in America right now, as it has been for centuries, is scary. More than that, being a person of color or LGBT is and has been terrifying, more notably recently. We think we have moved forward, but something always seems to slap us right in the face with the reality that we may have moved forward, but we have a long, long journey awaiting us.

How do we shorten that journey? How do we make it more bearable?

The easiest option is, of course, to vote. I'm sure your newsfeeds have been flooded with articles and posts begging you to register, and to get out there and vote.

If only it were that easy.

More than voting, the most important thing you can do with your voice is using it for those who can't. Volunteer at shelters. Advocate for issues that matter to you. Call your local and state representatives. Campaign. Read up on different candidates, and find ways to best support them in the upcoming election. And most important of all – educate yourself. Fact check. Don't believe everything you read on the Internet – especially when reading opinionated pieces, like this one.

Your vote matters. But more than that, you matter. Your power as a United States citizen is vastly understated. It's time that we understand just how powerful we can be when we choose to take action.

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