A take on Time’s Person of the Year — ‘The world is listening’

Written by Aja Gair

The momentum of The Silence Breakers, named Person of the Year by Time last week is contributing to the emotions that I am sorting through today, and yesterday, and for months. It is an acknowledgement of hundreds of survivors’ stories of rape, sexual harassment, and sexual assault that are coming out rapidly, in headlines and news feeds around the world.

I am angry. I am relieved. I am frustrated to the point of tears. I am bolstered by the displays of unity. I am hopeful that the tide is shifting; the norms could be changing. I am scared.

Two nights ago, in the parking lot under the Austin Central Library, I dialed 911 on my phone, ready to hit send as I walked to my car. This is something I’ve done since I got my first cell phone at the age of 20. I am constantly aware.

I’ve read “The Silence Breakers” three times now, opening up the text that underlies each photo embedded throughout the article, considering the stories of these brave individuals, as well as the consistencies and differences between them.

The examination of power and how it is exploited by these (mostly) women’s assailants, and the acknowledgement of particular vulnerabilities that many survivors experience – racism, poverty, and gender identity among them – is well done.

Tarana Burke, the activist founder of #metoo, who is notably absent from Time’s cover image, has said, “It’s not about a viral campaign… it’s about a movement.” And I can really feel that this is a movement.

This energy is spreading between survivors, throughout offices, entire cities, and across continents. More and more stories are coming out every day, with some emerging from the Texas Capital just nights ago. It is an overwhelming, energizing, exhausting, important time.

To speak about sexual harassment, abuse, or assault, is to put a personal, traumatic experience out in the open, where it will likely be picked apart and scrutinized. This is a radical act. Believing can also be a radical act.

It is Dec. 11, 2017, and I am sorting through a range of emotions, knowing that this is a time to keep moving forward, speaking, believing.

As we are reminded at the closure of the Person of the Year article, “The world is listening.”