The Silence Breakers: the voices that launched a movement
Cover of Time magazine published on December 6th, BILLY & HELLS/AFP
On December 6th, the American magazine Time paid tribute to all the courageous and empowered women who have dared to break the silence around sexual harassment. The Silence Breakers are the Person of the Year 2017. For this edition, the magazine did not choose a single person but a movement, represented on the cover by the women who had the courage to raise their voices, share their stories and speak out about the experiences they had long endured: from Harvey Weinstein’s “coercive behaviors” to the frat-boy culture at Uber, to the continuous sexual harassment within the California state government. These inspiring women, and millions of others who have joined the movement, have unleashed one of the fastest cultural shifts in the last 50 years, provoking an unprecedented tidal wave: CEOs have been fired, icons have fallen from their pedestals and in some cases, criminal charges have been filed.
“For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year” outlines Edward Felsenthal, Editor in Chief of Time Magazine
#MeToo, #BalanceTonPorc, and #YoTambien have shone a light on cultures where sexual harassment has been viewed as acceptable for far too long. Women have not only had to endure physical aggressions and lewd comments, but also a sense of shame, of somehow believing it was their fault: “Did I ask for it?”, “Could I have done something more to stop it?”, “Am I over-reacting”, as well as fear of speaking out, of losing their jobs. These national initiatives launched on social networks have spread rapidly and caused a surge of media attention, that continues to grow.
”If someone is bold and stands up and tells their story and you are not ready to do that (…) to just simply say #MeToo is powerful”, says Tarana Burke, Founder of Girls for Gender Equity and creator of the Me Too movement.
Discover the Silence Breakers' powerful stories here.
An eye on
"Saving lives at sea": a striking report by Human Rights Watch
Photo Credit: SOS MEDITERRANEE rescuers help a Somali woman off their rigid-hulled inflatable boat (RHIB) so she can board the Aquarius. October 11, 2017 ANTHONY JEAN/SOS MEDITERRANEE
It has been almost 3 years since thousands of men and women began crossing the Mediterranean Sea searching for a better future. According to Human Rights Watch, it is the deadliest migratory journey in the world, with over 15,000 deaths recorded since 2014. In 2017 alone, almost 3,000 people have gone missing or lost their lives trying to reach the other side of the Mediterranean. The fact that thousands of people are willing to risk their lives is proof of their desperation and their determination to flee from famine, repression, harmful traditional practices or other hardships at home.
In this report, Judith Sunderland, Associate Director for Europe and Central Asia Division of Human Rights Watch, talks about her journey last October aboard SOS Mediterranean’s ship Aquarius.
“For 10 long days in early October, I wondered whether we would make any rescues. I didn’t want people to be at risk, I just wanted our ship to be there if they needed it. Then the Aquarius rescued 606 people in 36 hours.”
Want to make a difference by supporting Human Rights Watch? Donate here!
Sometimes it only takes one courageous deed, one act to change the world. Following the first revelation about the sexual assaults in Hollywood, more and more voices spoke up everywhere uncovering the truth about violence and harassment against women. This should be commended! These voices have the strength to change mentalities in a profound way.
How could we not be happy that people are now speaking more freely about an issue that has always been at the heart of the Kering Foundation's commitment to combat violence against women since its foundation in 2009?
Some are scared of the widespread "denunciation" that now appear on social media hashtags concerning these revelations. This emotion shows the road that remains to be traveled to take the exact measure of this injustice coupled with an insult to women. Is it not clear? An assaulted woman who names her attacker cannot be affixed with a scarlet letter. The reality of the situation, until today, is that the inappropriate way in which women are so often treated when they decide to make a complaint makes them believe, more often than not, that they have more to lose than to win.
So, yes, we must salute all those who have taken the risk of breaking the silence on this subject and who continue and will continue to do so.
However, we must go much further than that. First, of course, by supporting the associations that listen, welcome, support and comfort the victims. This is an absolute necessity. Then, by facilitating the steps that need to be taken by the victims.
In order to denounce their aggressor, they most often have to go through hours of interrogation where they are asked the most intimate of questions, just to “build a case”.
That is why I don't agree with those who suggest or whisper that this freeing of speech is a revenge, or even a derivative of the feminist struggle. Let's be serious! This subject is not only a "women's issue", rather it concerns half of humanity and therefore, it concerns us all! This violence, this outrage inflicted on women is also an issue that concerns men who cannot, should not, remain mere bystanders to what is happening today. This is why men must also speak up so that they clearly recognize the inanity, the absurdity of the behavioral patterns that they have inherited.
This fight for the equality of the human condition cannot be won without the involvement of men. It is in this context that the Kering #ICouldHaveBeen Foundation campaign is campaigning to end violence against women. Under this hashtag and through the digital campaign designed for this occasion, it is "simply" to invite men to publish their photo with a female name in order to imagine what their life would be like if they were born a woman. Social network users then discover the appalling statistics on the violence they may have suffered during their lifetime (one in three women has been or will be the victim of violence during her life).
This initiative refers in part to the work of a great anthropologist, Françoise Héritier who has just passed away, and whose major contribution to contemporary thinking has been praised by everyone. She said, with common sense, "We are not living a war between the sexes, but rather both sexes are victims of a system of representation which is thousands of years old." There can be no doubt that it is not up to women alone to transform these representations and the injunctions they undergo. This work must be conducted on an equal basis. It is time for men to open their eyes and to speak up so that they may attack a vision of the world that, far from making them grow, makes them smaller. So again we must make an effort to, as Françoise Héritier suggested, no longer think of the relationship between the sexes in terms of superiority and inferiority, but in terms of "desire and love".
- François-Henri Pinault, Chairman and CEO of Kering, Chairman of the Kering Foundation