Maryville College professor applauds 'Silence Breakers' as Time's Person of the Year

MARYVILLE, Tenn. (WATE) - Time Magazine named "The Silence Breakers" the 2017 "Person of the Year."

Time's editor-in-chief credited those who spoke out about sexual harassment for creating one of the velocity shifts in our culture in decades. 

Dr. Tricia Bruce agrees. 

"Time naming the Silence Breakers person of the year I think really highlights how big this movement has been and how much of a sea change this is in the conversation we're having been with workplace equality, gender equality and creating a space where people can express when they're harmed in the workplace and also see some accountability for the harm that is happening," Bruce said.

Previous storySilence Breakers named Time magazine's Person of the Year

Bruce teaches sociology at Maryville College and has written a book on the abuses of the Catholic Church, titled "Faithful Revolution." She said she draws parallels between victims of sexual harassment and Catholic priests, with people from both movements often waiting many years to come forward until the climate is right.

"I think we're at a particular moment where people feel safer to come forward.. to tell their stories of harassment and abuse," Bruce said. "I think the behavior itself is not new. It's been happening for some time, but we've been seeing a rise in people being willing to share their stories."

Bruce said now, the climate is right, thanks to things like social media and more victims coming forward.

"In mid-October, the hashtag #MeToo took hold and I think the hashtag says something about 'me' as in this is an individual story, but also 'too' because there's a collective element to it. So I think what people are feeling now is even if this individual behavior had been happening before, people now feel like it's a collective experience and so they're willing to bring it forward," Bruce said.

Bruce said 2017 was a year of social change and the start of a new era, but the fight to end sexual harassment in the workplace is far from over and is really just beginning. 

"I think there's still a way to go," Bruce said. "I think any time you look at a rising social movement, you see it as a moment of hope, but you also recognize the vast inequality that still exists, and so I hope it's a conversation that continues and one that cuts across all spaces of culture and age and gender, and so I'm optimistic for what's to come."

President Donald Trump was number two on the Time Magazine list and Chinese President XI Jinping came in third.


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