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Significance of the Time Persons of the Year

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By EILEEN FARRY  |  Tahoe Vista

Time magazine announced in early December the Time person, or in this case persons, of the year 2017. The winners, named “Silence Breakers,” include activist Tarana Burke — who began the #MeToo campaign 10 years ago, Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Megyn Kelly, Terry Crews, and many other individuals that spoke about their experiences with sexual violence.

The women and men behind the #MeToo campaign created dialog around the injustice of sexual violence and harassment. As an employee at Tahoe SAFE Alliance I work to end sexual violence not only in my work, but also in every aspect of my life. However, throughout my time as an activist, it has become apparent that not all share my passion to end the power imbalance that contributes to violence in our society. The time is ripe for this to change.

When Alyssa Milano began this discussion in October of last year, there was an explosion of not only support, but courage, from other survivors to speak up. Discussions on sexual harassment and assault made their way to our dinner tables. A topic that is traditionally pushed under the rug during a gathering is now dominating conversation. Meeting the issue up front in this manner is what our country needs to fuel our fight to eventually end sexual violence.

Harvey Weinstein, Mark Halperin, Matt Lauer, Matt Zimmerman, Charlie Rose, Mike Oreskes, Louis C.K., Kevin Spacey, and Al Franken are just at the beginning of the list of those who have lost jobs or pay due to their actions, and the list will keep growing. By empowering victims to name their assailants, the Silence Breakers have also inspired our society to stand up for survivors and have the perpetrators rectify their actions.

The #MeToo campaign has been a tremendous way to give a voice to survivors, however, this is just the starting point. To create a healthy and thriving community we need to pursue this fight. We need to talk about injustice when a friend, family member, or someone in our community asks, “How do you feel about all these allegations coming forward now?” or “What is your experience with sexual harassment?” Continue to stand up for those that may not yet have the courage to stand up for themselves.

Most importantly, this is not just a problem for those who have survived sexual assault or harassment — it involves each and every one of us because if a person makes another member of our society uncomfortable, it should not be tolerated.

I know personally about burn out, which leads to the temptation to take the easy route out and ignore comments about inequality rather than address them. However, the reality is that when we overlook these comments or jokes regarding sexism, racism, ageism, or ableism we are allowing discrimination and prejudice to exist in our community.

I challenge you to take action. Let the Silence Breakers be your role model. If an action or comment makes you uncomfortable, say so. When you hear a sexist joke, tell that person it is wrong. Encourage others to be brave and fight to end sexual violence. Listen and believe someone when they tell you their story. Be an upstander in our community.

Thank you to activist Tarana Burke for creating #MeToo, and all the Silence Breakers for creating a movement where survivors are emboldened to speak up about the violence committed against them. Thank you for yelling in a world where we are told to whisper. And, finally, thank you for having the courage and strength our community needs to end sexual violence.

~ Eileen Farry is a community education and prevention educator at Tahoe SAFE Alliance as well as a resident of Tahoe Vista.

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March 8, 2018