Reprinted with permission from Creators.
It’s that sleeved elbow in the Time cover photo — the one attached to an unidentified woman sitting to the right — that magnifies the message.
Five elegant women — actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual — are pictured on the cover in all of their fierce glory.
That elbow, though. She’s the woman just out of view but not out of sight. She’s the stand-in for every person who has feared ruin — or worse — if he or she were to speak out against a harasser, abuser or predator.
She’s “a young hospital worker who had flown in from Texas,” the Time cover story reads. “She too is a victim of sexual harassment but was there anonymously, she said, as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out.”
She is all of us.
I’m not one to wait with bated breath for Time magazine’s annual bequest. But this year was different, starting last month, after Donald Trump claimed he had declined the magazine’s request to photograph and interview him because editors would only say he “probably” would be this year’s selection.
That was a lie, as Time confirmed. Of course it was. We know to expect obvious lies from the president of the United States.
After Time released its shortlist in advance of the announcement, I not only cared about who would make the cover. I dared to hope.
I first heard about it on Wednesday, right after I entered the Kent State building where I teach journalism to the next generation of my profession. I stepped off the elevator, and a male student rushed up.
“Have you heard about Time‘s cover?”
“Who is it?” I said, bracing myself.
He smiled. “Me, too.”
They are “The Silence Breakers,” Time declared, “the thousands of people across the world who have come forward with their experiences of sexual harassment and assault.”
If ever there was a moment for us to believe we have changed — as women and as a country — this is it.
“Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes ‘inappropriate behavior,’ assault becomes ‘misconduct,’ rape becomes ‘abuse.’ We’re accustomed to hearing those softened words, which downplay the pain of the experience. That’s one of the reasons why the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced in October 2016 was such a jolt. The language used by the man who would become America’s 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn’t just say that he’d made a pass; he ‘moved on her like a bitch.’ He didn’t just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could ‘grab ’em by the pussy.'”
Thank you, writers Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards, for not swapping out the language of an admitted sexual predator with hyphens or stupid symbols to suggest but not state the words “bitch” and “pussy.”
Donald Trump has never bothered to clean up his act. Why should we do it for him? It offends some readers, editors explain to me, over and over, when they soften the language in my columns. It’s unnecessary. People know what you mean.
But who exactly in the public needs this sort of protection? Dear reader, if you are one of those offended, let me make clear: I hate that our president talks and acts this way. For women and girls everywhere, you can’t imagine how much I hate that this is what he thinks of you.
Surely, we are better than this, we told ourselves, our friends and our daughters, nieces and granddaughters. Surely, our country loves us more than this. We said this, over and over.
On election night, we found out otherwise. It was as if millions of our fellow Americans couldn’t hear us.
OK then, we said. Message received.
And now everything has changed.
Can you hear us now?
Connie Schultz is a Pulitzer Prize-winning columnist and professional in residence at Kent State University’s school of journalism. She is the author of two books, including “…and His Lovely Wife,” which chronicled the successful race of her husband, Sherrod Brown, for the U.S. Senate. To find out more about Connie Schultz (firstname.lastname@example.org) and read her past columns, please visit the Creators Syndicate webpage at www.creators.com.