Quantcast
Connect with us

The problem with ‘silence breakers’ as TIME’s Person of the Year

Published

on

- Commentary

Even if we can ignore that the runner-up was a proud misogynist accused of sexually harassing at least 20 women, TIME Magazine’s 2017 “Person of the Year” has got some problems.

First, a quick moment to celebrate. Let me say that when I heard that TIME had awarded a crew of whistleblowing women the title of “Person of the Year,” I felt warm with inspiration. Slumped on mass transit, having just left my sick baby at home to be tended by her sleep-deprived father, I appreciated the defiant faces staring directly at me. You will have no eyelash-batting from these ladies (and one man), and no coy expressions, either.

ADVERTISEMENT

Some of the faces were recognizable, especially for those following the allegations aimed at Harvey Weinstein: actors and activists Rose McGowan, Ashley Judd, and Alyssa Milano. Others were less familiar: Sandra Pezqueda, a 37-year-old dishwasher, Juana Melara, a 52-year-old housekeeper, and Blaise Godbe Lipman, a 28-year-old director. Admittedly, I was unfamiliar with their stories, and, unsurprisingly, they took a backseat to the celebrity experiences.

As bold and beautiful as the images are, the message is a murky one. After the authors describe what President Donald Trump said in the Access Hollywood tape as “vulgar,” an insufficient description for unequivocally bragging about sexual assault, I decided to search for two words on the web page: “patriarchy” or “misogyny.” Zero results. So in the end it took three journalists, who knows how many editors and other staff, and more than a dozen sources to provide no context whatsoever.

It’s disappointing, to say the least, but the #MeToo movement has been deeply flawed, anyway. Actor, writer, and white feminist Lena Dunham recently came under fire for excluding women of color from her activism. Last month, she released a statement excusing a male writer on her show, Girls, from being accused of sexual assault by a woman of color, saying that the alleged victim represented “the 3 percent of assault cases that are misreported every year.” It diverged from this comment she had made shortly before: “Things women don’t lie about: rape.” This is the ugly side of white feminism: invisible privilege and covert racism lurking in massive blind spots.

This is a complicated movement, and one that naturally, and essentially, dredges up all kinds of inconvenient human contradictions.

This week, two more accusers have come out against Democratic Sen. Al Franken, a former Saturday Night Live comic. Franken was recently defended in a letter written by a host of SNL female comics, although his behavior was not denied, as in the Dunham case. But I don’t see why any emotionally progressive woman—not necessarily politically progressive—would feel moved to draft and sign a letter giving alternate testimony to a politically powerful man being investigated for “sexual misconduct.” Survivors of harassment and abuse represent the political minority, and they don’t need any extra barriers to justice, especially a portrait of Franken as “a devoted and dedicated family man.”

ADVERTISEMENT

What makes it even easier to critique the TIME coverage of “silence breakers” is this simple fact: In 80 years, no American woman has won TIME’s “Person of the Year” by herself.

According to the Washington Post, in the past 91 years the magazine has selected only one American woman—Wallis Simpson, “who earned the title in 1936 thanks to her relationship with King Edward VIII, a relationship which eventually led to his giving up his throne.” Evidently, TIME uses a calculus that makes dozens of women equivalent to one Trump.

Then there’s this. TIME ends its story with Megyn Kelly, who, predictably, reveals some internalized misogyny. Her call to survivors of sexual harassment and assault? ““What if we did complain?’ proposes Megyn Kelly. “What if we didn’t whine, but we spoke our truth in our strongest voices and insisted that those around us did better?’” It is a tone-deaf choice in the context of this movement to grant the closing reflections to a former Fox News anchor who has been widely criticized for targeting Black activist groups and shaming women for plastic surgery.

ADVERTISEMENT

So don’t go congratulating yourself yet for this so-called groundbreaking choice, TIME editors and publishers. But maybe, as our society is, you’re growing —slowly, excruciatingly slowly—toward wider understanding.

Erin Sagen wrote this article for YES! Magazine. Erin is an associate editor at YES! Magazine. She lives in Seattle and writes about food, health, and suburban sustainability. Follow her on Twitter @erin_sagen.

Report typos and corrections to: [email protected].
READ COMMENTS - JOIN THE DISCUSSION
Continue Reading

Breaking Banner

Congress must weigh Trump’s poisonous narcissism — as well as his corruption: Yale psychiatrist

Published

on

On Thursday, leading psychiatrists and I, along with more than 650 other mental health professionals, submitted a “Petition to the Judiciary Committee of the U.S. House of Representatives,” to include our statement on the psychological dangers of the president. It reads: “We are speaking out at this time because … as the time of possible impeachment approaches, Donald Trump has the real potential to become ever more dangerous, a threat to the safety of our nation.” We believe we have an ethical obligation to warn of the danger that Mr. Trump poses as the impeachment process proceeds and have offered ourselves for consultation.

Continue Reading

Commentary

Mueller Report Redux: Bill Barr is about to undercut a report on the origins of the Trump-Kremlin investigation

Published

on

Here we go again. A respected Justice official has spent months in an investigation into possible wrongdoing at the start of what became the special counsel’s probe, only to have Atty. Gen. William P. Barr moving to counter the results even before they are published.

The official this time is the Justice Department’s inspector general, Michael Horowitz, but according to news reports, Barr is maneuvering behind the scenes to counter central conclusions that there was nothing major amiss in the start of the investigation of all-things-Russia.

Yes, from the bits and pieces that have emerged, a lower-level lawyer changed an email after the fact to bolster a particular argument towards getting approval from the secret FISA investigatory court, but the report concludes that it did not alter the outcome. Overall, Horowitz is expected to say in the report, while one could question judgments made along the way by top brass at the FBI, the call to launch an investigation was totally kosher. In other words, no “witch hunt,” as charged by Donald Trump and his team of defenders.

Continue Reading
 

Breaking Banner

Who is the audience for the Judiciary Committee’s impeachment hearing?

Published

on

What is the purpose and who is the audience for Wednesday’s Judiciary Committee Hearing? The Democrats must do better, for all our sakes.

I have long expressed my exasperation with the timid way in which the House Democratic leadership has only reluctantly moved toward impeachment, even in the face of the damning Mueller Report, and then has proceeded in the most narrow and legalistic way imaginable.

Trump is a very dangerous President, and it is imperative that he be called to account and ultimate removed for his abuses of office. The current crisis could be an opportunity for the Democrats to do this in a way that is legally and politically empowering. But the Democrats seem intent, yet again, on squandering this opportunity with their legalistic narrowness.

Continue Reading