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The Silence Breaks

by Tarin Campanella 5 years ago in activism
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On Seizing Victories in a Year of Crushing Attacks

The Silence Breakers

2017 has been a rough year.

But this video, highlighting Time's Persons of the Year, The Silence Breakers, has legitimately brought me to tears.

This has been a year in which so many of us have felt attacked. In which our mere existences and identities have been threatened. We watched terrible people rise to power, and do everything they can to try and preserve and bulk up a status quo that has served them and only them for centuries. Their attacks are relentless and multifaceted, coming from every angle and every side, and sometimes, I just want to give up.

But we are still here. And we are not silent.

#MeToo sparked a whole new way to discuss sexual harassment and inspired real consequences for abusers. For people who had real power, who used to be untouchable. Hollywood legends. Beloved comedians. Musicians, actors, politicians. People who used to revel in the fact that our silence was expected. That even if it was broken, we would never be believed. But together, we found a way to bring them to their knees. To make our voices heard, to let the truth ring out.

There's a lot of talk out there, about how technology is ruining us and making people stupid and selfish and distant—as if these things never existed before. Black Mirror is a franchise built entirely around the idea that technology can lead us down dangerous paths. But what about the alternative? What about when technology, and social media, provide us the tools to better our world and ourselves?

The #MeToo movement gave everyone a way to participate. It connected survivors, without the need to share uncomfortable details. (Though I'm sure for some the very act of using that hashtag still felt like an invasion of privacy. I can only hope they found some strength in the process regardless.) It also provided a springboard to deepen the conversation. As every Facebook feed was flooded with #MeToo, I watched the thought provoking pieces that came from non-survivors and male friends, as they realized the magnitude of the problem that they had never been forced to reckon with before. They had to reconcile their own parts in a system of disbelief, doubt, and silence for victims.

More amazing still, I watched some of my male friends step forward and begin using #IHave. With nothing but blatant acceptance of their terrible behavior. Sincere apologies that they knew were not enough. Promises to do better—and the desire to be called out if they failed to be.

The silence—both from victims and from abusers, who relied on denial and non-apologies in the past—has been smashed to hell. It still exists, and the fight is long from over (I can think of one particular serial abuser who still retains the highest office in the land), but this is an amazing stride. Too often, in the fight for social justice, it can be easy to get bogged down with how far the road stretches out ahead. How distant the goal markers of "equality" and "justice" are, and that's just for me as a white woman. For people of color, it must seem even further. And some days, I am strong enough to say that I will keep walking, no matter the distance. That I will stand and march with my allies, until we all have reached those goals.

But some days, I am tired. I am worn out from repetitive, troll-ridden conversations about why these things still matter, about why this fight isn't over yet, about why women and POC and the disabled and the less-fortunate deserve to be treated like human beings. Some days it feels never ending, like we're not marching in a straight line along a road, blocking the traffic of privilege, but instead we're on a merry-go-round. Only there's no joy and no colorful lights. Only nausea, as the sinking feeling of dread settles into our aching bones and the pits of our stomachs, the reality that we will have to continue fighting for as long as we can.

2017 saw a lot of setbacks. There's still fights to be won. Ray Moore must be defeated in Alabama. Net Neutrality is under fire. Women across the globe are still barred from basic healthcare and education opportunities, and there's still a lot of glass ceilings to break through before we touch the sky. But as the year draws to a close, Time has reminded me that in so many ways, we have been victorious.

In history class, I often wondered what the end of wars felt like for the people who had lived through them. You see pictures from the end of WWII of people celebrating in the street, but sometimes, it's not until the dust settles and the air clears that the true victors are really clear. Rest assured, we have paid the price for our small victories this year. We have bled for them, we have given our sweat and solidarity, but the one thing we have not given is our silence.

The dust hasn't settled yet. The war against our existence is not over. But to anyone out there who feels like I feel, who sees what I see, who wakes up some mornings and wonders why they bother to get out of bed when there are so many threats and dangers and landmine-filled discourse out there—please, take a moment to celebrate. To watch that video and realize that we are not alone in this fight. That we have made strides, and that as tired as we are, we can still keep moving forward.

Watch this video. Weep while you watch it, as I did. Pump your fist in the air. Recognize that we are not only heard, we are celebrated. The women and men featured in that video represent every person who has been brave enough to come forward. Every person who has ever felt attacked or lived through harassment. Every person who is still afraid to speak out, and every person who is just now finding their voice to talk about these things. You are believed. You are validated. You are not alone.

And you, oh courageous one, you are a victor.


About the author

Tarin Campanella

Writer. Feminist. Sustainabilibuddy. Fight me.

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