What Time's 'Silence-Breakers' and the #MeToo Movement Miss

Recently, Time Magazine chose "The Silence Breakers," women who started the #MeToo movement by speaking up, as "Person of the Year" for 2017.  The cover of the hard copy and pages on the online edition show beautiful women, mostly famous, looking great.  The article centers on what they faced in work lives with a mention of what poor and minority women often face, plus some feminist narrative.

My response to the whole thing was annoyance and irritation, even though I am a woman who has faced harassment in the workplace and who was molested as a girl.  Let me elaborate on what bothered me about the article and highlight other actresses who actually made a difference to me on this topic.

One sentence in the article stood out: "When movie stars don't know where to go, what hope is there for the rest of us?"  That seems like a thinly veiled justification for the approach Time took for the article.  In reality, the magazine exploited these celebrities by using them to sell magazines in the name of a hashtag movement.  (But the portraits are beautiful.)

Also startling about the package was who was left out.  I didn't see Juanita Broaddrick, who spoke out long ago and accused Bill Clinton of raping her.  Maybe that's because she supported Donald Trump, whom they write about at length in the piece.  Makes me think Time is just attempting to frame a narrative, to virtue-signal for the left.

One more thing: There is no mention of the abuse problem regular people regularly face in their lives: sexual abuse within families.  As I looked at the Time cover,  that came to my mind, as did two other actresses and a performance of theirs, which was cathartic for many women.  Hanna Hall and Robin Wright were silence-breakers years ago in the movie Forrest Gump.

In a heartbreaking scene early in the movie, young Jenny (Hanna Hall) runs with Forrest (Tom Hanks) to get away from her father – stalking the little girl with bottle in hand – hides in the cornfield, and prays for God to make her a bird so she can fly away from there.  Instead, God seems to answer her prayers by sending her to live with an older woman in a trailer.

In another scene, the grown-up Jenny (Robin Wright) takes a walk with Forrest and comes upon the house where she lived with her father.  Jenny stares at it.  She throws her sandals at it.  She grabs rocks and throws them, breaking old windows.  She falls to the dusty road and sobs.  Forrest says, "Sometimes there just aren't enough rocks."

The movie also portrays how Jenny's life is messed up.  There is nothing easy about her making her way through drug use, loneliness, and suicidal impulses to finally reach peace before her death from cancer at a young age.

Jenny probably would not join the #MeToo movement and be included on Time magazine's cover because it's too facile, but maybe that's just me.

It's one thing, an admirable thing, to call out a producer or a boss or a politician.  It's quite another to tell the world that your father or your brother or your grandfather or your sister or your mother betrayed your trust and used you as an object, saddled you with shame that was really his or hers.

That is one thing the article got right: the shame of abuse haunts victims for years – the shame and betrayal.

Our stories are too complex to share with a hashtag.  And, speaking for myself, I'm not out to expose my abuser.  I'm beyond that now.  Fifteen years ago, I dealt courageously with what happened to me by carefully confronting my abuser with the help of a counselor and two pastors in a private setting.  I did it that way to protect children I love and my mother.

I'll answer the age-old question: why did I not tell on my abuser when it happened?  Shock.  Also, family would have believed him and not me.  That would have been unbearable.  The experience went into my subconscious and did not emerge until thirty years later.  Then I spoke up in order to heal and to forgive.  I have done both for the most part.  (I didn't see any mention of forgiveness in the article, even though that's how victims get free ultimately.  That's also telling.)

Finally, there's a part of my story that still hangs over me that no media can address: my beautiful sister killed herself and was probably molested, but we didn't talk about it because we couldn't.   

She would have to forgive him herself, but she is unable to be a silence-breaker now.