Time’s Silence Breakers should embolden more women

Rosie Baker
By Rosie Baker | 7 December 2017

Today Time magazine revealed its Person of the Year, and it’s not Donald Trump.

Instead, it’s a collective of people, mainly women, who have come forward to challenge abuses of power and sexual harassment - The Silence Breakers.

On the cover is actress Ashley Judd, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Mexican strawberry picker Isabel Pascual, but the list goes beyond those five.

The Silence Breakers are Hollywood actresses, musicians, journalists, women in politics, hotel workers and strawberry pickers. They include women from all walks of life everyone.

The other person on the cover is unseen. Just the arm of an anonymous hospital worker who doesn't want to reveal her identity.

But it’s also a space open for interpretation. What I see in that anonymous space is #Metoo. It’s space for everyone to put themself in the gap. That unseen person is all of us who have suffered harassment and the abuse of power. All of us who have seen it happen and said and done nothing. The witnesses, the bystanders and the enablers who have dismissed the stories and allowed it to carry on.

What it says to me is that there is space, and time, for more Silence Breakers. There’s space and time for more people to come forward and talk. To name names and outline their experiences along with those that already have.

There are women in the Australian advertising industry coming forward and talking, and there are names being investigated by AdNews.

The stories of the women in the Time article are the same as their stories and there are chilling similarities in what Time describes, and the conversations I am having with women in the Australian advertising industry.

This, from the Time feature, sums it up: “Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don't even seem to know that boundaries exist. They've had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can't afford to lose.

"They've had it with the code of going along to get along. They've had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.”

Sound familiar?

Or how about this:

“In almost every case, they described not only the vulgarity of the harassment itself - years of lewd comments, forced kisses, opportunistic gropes - but also the emotional and psychological fallout from those advances. Almost everybody described wrestling with a palpable sense of shame. Had she somehow asked for it? Could she have deflected it? Was she making a big deal out of nothing?”

And this: “Nearly all of the people Time interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up. For some, the fear was borne of a threat of physical violence.”

Time’s article is 8000 words and five chapters long. Read it in full and if at any point you recognise yourself, your colleagues, your peers, your employer or your workplace, then you should be a Silence Breaker too.

A few more brave people coming forward will make a difference.

Ashley Judd was the first actress to go public, but she wasn’t the last. I doubt it was easy, but in doing so she ended the career of a serial abuser and empowered many more women in Hollywood and elsewhere to do the same.

We need more silence breakers in Australian advertising to join those that are already doing it and be part of a movement that makes a difference.

I can’t say it better than Time:

“When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former Today Show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door. When a movie star says #MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who's been quietly enduring for years.”

You can contact AdNews editor Rosie Baker in confidence at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au or find my contact details here.

Have something to say on this? Share your views in the comments section below. Or if you have a news story or tip-off, drop me a line at rosiebaker@yaffa.com.au

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