“I believe you. What you have to say is important. We’ll find justice.”
For too long, American women have failed to hear these three simple phrases. Our democracy has been proud to tout ideals like happiness, equality, and justice. Yet it has systematically undermined women who have sought the safety and respect that is often a precondition to their achievement.
For too long, our society has discounted women. We have made it clear through our actions that they are, at best, second-class citizens. Shamefully, we have allowed many to blame women’s behavior and to doubt the veracity of their words. Millions of predatory actions and crimes of violence – and our lack of a worthy response – have exacted an enormous toll. Many women’s careers have been ruined, they have suffered great pain and anguish, and otherwise been devastated.
Now from studios in Hollywood, to hotels in major cities, to legislatures across the nation, to media offices, women are being heard. Through #metoo, #balancetonporc and #yotambien, women around the world recount their experiences.
In this moment, we salute the movement.
We applaud the women who have come forward to tell their stories. From survivors who work in the highest paying industry to those who struggle to make a living: you illuminate our nation with your extraordinary moral courage.
We applaud Time magazine for its selection of the “person of the year” as the “the silence-breakers.” We appreciate their recognition that the largest influence this year has come not from a man, but from a movement to heal the breaches of our democracy.
We believe that it is no coincidence that our president has bragged about, then denied, sexual assault (and been called out on it.) As we wrote in our assessment of this administration’s first 100 days, the unprecedented silencing of women’s voices and abbreviation of their rights must not stand.
We commend our society in accepting this harmful behavior as pervasive, and demanding serious consequences. Power must not be complicit in predation. True leadership shines a light on unethical and violent behavior.
We condemn those who have repeatedly and, at times, violently assaulted women and avoided following workplace and criminal procedures for righteous consequences. To those who have hired others to target individuals who have spoken out and created a culture of intimidation: shame on you. It is past time to admit to what you have done and make reparations.
We call on all to do more. America must not run on whisper networks and open secrets. It is cruel to the survivors, as well as a moral injury to bystanders who fail to take action.
We caution that each case should be evaluated within its own context. Many merit an immediate firing or resignation. Yet less serious may be behaviors that may have happened long ago, represent a rarity, been in the context of poor joke, or be less violent. Men’s accountability varies also: some have admitted to and apologized for their behavior, and now comply with appropriate processes.
Such thought is critical. There will be the inclination to heavily politicize certain – a subset – of all incidents. We see it with Republicans who called for Sen. Al Franken to step down, but failed to more strongly condemn and call for similar or greater consequences for President Trump and Roy Moore.
Particularly with respect to national government, the stakes are high. The Republican president and representatives benefited in the election from voting restrictions and limitations, mass disenfranchisement, Interstate CrossCheck procedures targeting minorities right to vote, and possible foreign interference.
This administration should support workers whose wages have stagnated for decades – even while they have lost crucial benefits, and face worse health and mass unemployment – and climate catastrophe. Their response to these enormous challenges has been huge. Rightly so. Yet it has, unjustifiably and cruelly, been in the wrong direction: taking away from most American people and our planet of sustenance.
The transfer of assets to the wealthy and corporations and the unwinding of programs that are the bedrock of our democracy represent grave injustice. It is shocking that we have seen numerous attempts to take away healthcare from millions and face the “biggest tax scam in history” (Paul Krugman). This after Republicans spent eight years condemning deficits. This while a relatively small – if growing – number of women shape the dialogue.
Our society must listen to women. Whether expressed on political issues through the Women’s March and other actions, or through their personal stories, women’s contributions are critical. The fight for their rights and equality must be all of ours. No less than our humanity and democracy are at stake.