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Doctoring the results: bias against female students unmasked

Many women in Japan have recently discovered what they suspected all along that their dream of becoming doctors was shattered by the decision of several prestigious medical schools across the country that rigged their entry exam papers. These were marked down to stop them from pursuing a career in the medical field and ensure that more men than women were enrolled. The scandal, first uncovered at the Tokyo Medical University, quickly extended to other medical schools.

Last week the school admitted that the practice has been customary for more than ten years. Tetsuo Yukioka, Director of Tokyo Medical University in a press conference stated “We deeply apologize for having inconvenienced and caused people pain with such a serious scandal […] Society is changing rapidly and we need to respond to that and any organization that fails to recognize women will grow weak. And we fail to contribute to society.” He also stated that he was not aware of the rigging and that he was never involved.

The news came to light during an investigation regarding the son of an education ministry official and how he was allegedly admitted in order for the school to obtain research funds. Both the bureaucrat and the former head of the school were charged with bribery. The revelations have generated such a wide echo around the world to prompt the education ministry to order an investigation at many medical schools across Japan. Following this outbreak, the Education Ministry asked many medical schools to provide six years-worth of data on the genders and ages of all applicants.

The Tokyo Medical University kept the female student population at 30 percent, due to concerns about female doctors’ leaving their career following pregnancy and to take care of their children. The message is clear: since women will eventually quit their jobs to start a family, there is no point bothering with education! Let’s let the men do the heavy lifting.

In Japan women are massively underrepresented in politics, certain professions including medicine, and as company executives, accounting for more than 40% of the workforce. According to a 2017 World Economic Forum survey, Japan ranked as 114th in a list of 144 countries for gender equality. The lack of female doctors positions Japan well behind other advanced countries. According to the Organization for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD), in 2015 Japan had 21 percent of female doctors against the OECD average of 45 percent.

That Japanese companies are more likely to promote men than women was known; however, the malpractice carried nowadays by educational institutions of denying female applicants entry in one of the most advanced economies in the world carries a very powerful weight. When it comes to equal opportunities, some societies are way behind.

Interestingly enough, a Japanese Internet portal Joy.net conducted a survey of Japanese female doctors, asking for their opinion on Tokyo Medical University’s test score manipulation, and found their responses rather surprising as they expressed understanding as to why the score was rigged. In other words, if even women justify the reason behind the rigging, that demonstrates that acceptance of gender inequality is so deeply ingrained in the female psyche that women do not fully embrace the concept of being on par with men; or to put it bluntly they have come to accept dishonesty and discrimination.

Furthermore, if it is true that women are more likely to quit their jobs after they get married and have children, then it is time for their male counterparts to take their share of childrearing responsibilities and for the Japanese society to create a work environment where it’s easier for female doctors to return to the workforce after maternity leave. In other words, it is time to start a discussion nationwide about putting in place a gender balanced policy in all professions across the country.

Staying strong on the Danforth

 

Like many Torontonians, I went to the Taste of the Danforth festival over the weekend. This year was a special celebration as it marks the festival’s 25th anniversary festival and it’s also taking place just three weeks after a deadly shooting on Danforth Avenue where two people were killed and 13 injured.  The Taste of the Danforth carried a message to stay stronger together to heal and show resilience as the Danforth and as a city. The spontaneous memorial, which was set up at the Alexander the Great Parkette after the tragedy, was moved to accommodate the Celebrity Stage. There visitors could pay their respects to the people who lost their life that night and the 13 that were injured.

The festival has typically attracted 1.5 million visitors each year. However, this year, it was predicted to host record numbers. On Friday night Prime Minister Trudeau and Mayor Tory opened the festival taking a moment of silence to remember that night and the victims including the two young women, Reese Fallon and Julianna Kosiz. T-shirts and buttons were sold saying #DanforthStrong and #TorontoStrongTogether. The proceeds will go to the Toronto Foundation set up to support the families of the victims. A benefit concert took place at the Danforth Music Hall where Billy Talent performed among other bands.

Many security prevention measures were in place this year. Security guards and police officers were on duty, garbage trucks were placed at major intersections, and street litter bins were sealed. It’s a sad reality we are all forced to face as a community to have to anticipate the next evil plan.

The festival featured three stages with live entertainment with Greek music and dancers as well as other cultural dances from around the world with teachers giving 15-minute dance lessons.

The Taste of the Danforth is a festival celebrating food, Canada’s multiculturalism and the Danforth’s Greek heritage—200,000 residents of the GTA are of Greek ancestry, the third largest Hellenic community outside of Greece. Here everyone has the opportunity to experience being ‘Greek for the Day’, eating chicken souvlaki, gyro sandwiches, and spanakopita.  Let’s not forget the smashing a plate in typical Greek tradition! Apparently, there are many legends that go around about this custom, one being why wash your dishes when you can break them? My favourite legend has it that the voluntary breaking of a plate is a form of controlled loss, and helps the person who breaks the plate in dealing with the death of a loved one. This is quite fitting and cathartic given this year’s circumstances.  So, as a Greek for a day, I ate chicken souvlaki, smashed a plate, and then shouted ‘Opa’!

Trade off? Canada’s delicate balance between trade and ethics

Canada and Saudi Arabia are in the middle of a diplomatic spat that is threatening the relationship between both countries including in the area of trade. How did we get to this point?

Whilst Saudi Arabia was praised in 2018 for giving women the right to drive, there is still a lot to do to bring the country up-to-speed on women’s rights policy. From the time they are born, women are forced to live under male guardianship. The first guardian is her father, even her brother, her uncle, or her son, then if she marries it’s her husband. It’s her guardian’s role at any given point in her life to grant her permission to do things like go to school, travel, work or get married. Although the guardianship rule is not a written law, it’s has been customary practice in the country for hundreds of years. Those in favour of the system state that guardianship offers women protection and love and see it as a form of duty, those against it state that guardianship is plain slavery. Over the last few years, a movement started that has resulted in the signing of a petition by thousands of people to end male guardianship.

Saudi’s Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, who came to power in June 2017, by giving women the right to drive, positioned himself as a young modernizer. The whole world applauded the change, seeing it as a sign of a new policy direction. However, besides that, he has shown no intention to improve women’s rights and general human rights policy; in fact, he is proving to be just as cruel and intolerant as his predecessors through repression of religious minorities and public floggings.

The woman at the centre of the current political storm with Canada, is Samar Badawi, a young woman who has devoted her life to improving women’s rights in her country. Her fight started when her father wanted to stop her from marrying the man she loved which resulted in her arrest. Samar was at the forefront in the driving campaign which earned women the right to drive early 2018. Following winning the International Women of Courage Award in 2012, given by the U.S. State Department, for championing women’s rights, she was first banned from leaving the country in 2014, then arrested in 2016. Her brother is blogger Raif Badawi who was arrested in 2012 for condemning the government of Saudi. His wife and children live in Quebec and became Canadian citizens.

Samar’s activism continued and when she and her fellow activist Nassima al-Sadah were  arrested again, Canada’s response led to the current spat. Canada’s Foreign Affairs Ministry tweeted “Canada is gravely concerned about additional arrests of civil society and women’s rights activists in Saudi Arabia, including Samar Badawi. We urge the Saudi authorities to immediately release them and all other peaceful #humanrights activists.” As a reaction or as some would call it an overreaction, the Saudis withdrew their ambassador, removed the Canadian ambassador, suspended flights to and from Canada, recalled Saudi students studying in Canada, barred the import of Canadian wheat, and suspended all new trade deals. The message from the Saudi’s is loud and clear and when it comes to human rights, they don’t want to be told off. Relationships with other countries are strictly business.

As the spat continued, in a statement this week Prime Minister Trudeau said “As the minister has said and as we will repeat, Canada will always speak strongly and clearly in private and in public on questions of human rights.” Thus, Canada has made its ethical position clear even though it has already come at some cost. Meanwhile other major trading partners of both Canada and Saudi Arabia have remained relatively quiet.

The buck starts here!

 

Many People may have complained about the lack of details in Doug Ford’s campaign platform; however, one thing is certain, Doug Ford is planning to keep his promises. One of the key promises of his election campaign, “buck-a-beer” will be kept starting August 27 just before Labour Day weekend. The plan is to lower the minimum price of a can or a bottle of beer with an alcohol volume below 5.6 percent to $1 from $1.25. The announcement was made this week, conveniently before Civic Holiday weekend when Premier Ford didn’t forget to wish everyone a “responsible” long weekend “with your beverage of choice”. Being responsible does not always go hand in hand with alcohol. A spokesperson for Mothers Against Drunk Driving (MADD) who fear cheaper beer sends the wrong message, stated that “increased consumption can in turn lead to increase alcohol related problems, including impaired driving.”

Of course, the buck-a-beer approach is not new to Ontario. In 2008, the Liberal government scraped it to increase the minimum price claiming “social responsibility”. With the costs of making beer going up and an increase in the provincial and federal taxes, brewers could not afford to sell their product at the minimum price.

A few questions sprung to mind as I heard the news. Is a 25-cent reduction significant to beer aficionados? How is it even possible to produce good quality beer at a cheaper cost? Why show so much care for consumers’ pockets and none for the brewers who will have to somehow lower production costs while still keeping the potion potable? Premier Ford claims that “for too long beer consumers have been forced to pay inflated prices for beer in order to increase the profits of big corporations. We’re going to allow price competition for beer and this will save consumers money.” He also claims that buck-a-beer will increase the competition in the beer market. Maybe the program will appeal to those brewers that are willing to sacrifice quality for the sake of more sales. Whereas small brewers have already stated that they will not embrace the plan as too costly, large companies will benefit from the program as with a wide range of products they will be able to make a cheaper one at the minimum price and still make a bit of profit.

The Government has stated that this initiative will not cost taxpayers anything; it is all on the brewers’ shoulders to carry the weight of the price reduction. The plan is totally voluntary and to participating brewers, the Ontario government will offer “non-financial incentives” such as prime spots in LCBO stores, free ads in flyers and magazine among the rewards. NDP Leader Andrea Horwath, speaking to reporters at Queen’s Park, said that these incentives will come at a cost to the province as these LCBO promotions “have monetary value”.

What’s more, the buck-a-beer benefit to the people sits in stark contrast with the news of the scraping of the basic income project. Social Services Minister Lisa MacLeod stated that it is too expensive. The basic income pilot started in 2017 and was being tested over a period of three years to help make a difference in the lives of people on low income. Unlike the buck-a-beer plan, the promise that Ford made to support people on basic incomes is not being kept.

Who are your heros?

This past weekend the Death Race was held in Grand Cache Alberta.  For those who might not have heard of this sport, I share the description from the organizers website:  “racers have come to the Canadian Rockies to cheat Death in one of the world’s toughest ultramarathons. The 125 km course begins and ends on a 4200-foot plateau, passes over three mountain summits, and not only includes over 17,000 feet of elevation change but a major river crossing at the spectacular Hell’s Gate canyon at the confluence of the Smoky and Sulphur Rivers.”  I don’t pretend to be an avid fan of ultramarathons, but I am in awe of those who consider challenging themselves in this way. I was drawn to follow this year’s race as I was cheering on a friend and her fiancée who completed the task in just over 23 hours and earned the admirable position of 149th and 150th finishing spots of 271 solo runners who started the race and 174 who finished it (results from https://www.canadiandeathrace.com/). My sincere congratulations go to these incredible people who challenge not only their bodies but also their minds when faced with such a daunting task.

There is another group of people I am admiring this weekend, equally determined but often overlooked when considering heroic measures, the independent artist crafter. Today in Bronte, Ontario, the 53rd annual Art in the Park event was hosted by the Oakville Art Society and the venue boasted over 175 vendors with a wide variety of wares: pottery, painting, metalwork, jewellery, mosaics and photography. These brave artist crafters set up in tents in scorching weather (40 degrees with the humidex) and 5 hours into the event the thunderstorm hit. I managed to take in the event before the storm and I was impressed by the enthusiasm and professionalism of most of the vendors – from the not yet graduated Sheridan student to the veteran artists who worked hard to greet passersby and engage in conversations. It is possible to predict the successful ones – they make an effort to connect, to develop a rapport with individual patrons because they know it will help to ensure future sales. The life of the artist/crafter is not for the faint of heart. Undaunted by competition from the mass produced market, many artist crafters frequent the art show circuit; piling their wares into a vehicle and setting up shop in a variety of locations over the course of “the season” (typically March to late November). The neighbourhood art show draws a very different crowd from the art gallery. From the family groups on an outing to the serious collectors who are looking for a bargain, the art show offers the chance to connect directly with artists crafters and is less intimidating than a formal gallery. It is a time honoured tradition and the practice exists in countries all over the world; from Le marché de la creation in Paris, France to the Santo Spirito Artisan Market (Mercato Artigianale) in Florence, Italy, to the Vancouver Summer Night Markets. By supporting these markets, I invest in the cultural life of my community and I endorse the handmade movement, simple actions which can challenge the status quo of the mass produced market. Watch for innovative companies like Canvas and Cave who recognise the need to support artist crafters as a way to rebuild communities.

Who are your heros? For me it is those who challenge our ideas of what is expected and remind us that great things can be accomplished by ordinary people with determination.

Witnessing the monumental

 

Rebecca Belmore Facing the Monumental is an exhibition hosted at the Art Gallery of Ontario (AGO) and curated by Wanda Nanibush, Curator for Indigenous Art. Torontonians have until October 21, 2018 to check it out and browse over 20 pieces, among them sculptures, installations, photographs, and performance-based works: a window for works exhibited in the past as well as new ones by the artist.

Rebecca Belmore is recognized as one of the most remarkable contemporary Canadian artists. Her recurring themes are women’s lives, violence against Indigenous people, remembering the forgotten, speaking the truth, water, land rights, and homelessness. As a contemporary artist, she has positioned herself as a custodian of a truth to be narrated, never to be forgotten or silenced. Rebecca states, “For decades I have been working as the artist amongst my people calling to the past witnessing the present standing forward facing the monumental.”

Rebecca, a member of the Anishinaabe, has reached international recognition through multidisciplinary artistic expression: sculpture, installation, photography, and video.  An artist rooted within the Indigenous communities and established within the Canadian artistic landscape, Belmore’s use of natural materials, clay, wood, fabrics, nails, and mundane objects like shopping carts, men’s suit jackets, chairs, draws attention to not only Indigenous issues but pressing and timeless issues such as homelessness and migration.

One of the works in the exhibition, “The Fountain”, consists in a video footage projected onto a screen of real falling water. The artist is seen in a lake struggling in the waves while trying to fill up a bucket. When she finally fills it up, she walks to the shore and throws the content of the bucket (red liquid supposedly blood) toward the viewers. The effect created by the real waterfall in the room including its sound enhances the corresponding image and sound of water in the video. What’s more, as a viewer I felt taken aback by this provocative action.

Belmore came to performance art in the late 80s. She says, “Physical labour has a way of clearing the mind and turning trees into lumber was very much a part of my immediate families’ livelihood back then.” In this spirit, in 2014 in a 12-hour durational performance in Toronto she hammered 1181 nails into a log. This was the number indigenous women the RCMP reported as missing or murdered up to that year. With each nail hammered into the stump, a piece of her red dress was hammered too, disappearing from her body and becoming part of the artwork. Visitors can see a video footage of this powerful performance at the exhibition.

Another highlight of the exhibition, “Tower,” is a 15-feet tall sculpture made of clay and shopping carts, and created on site at the AGO. As the artist explains herself, the idea for the artwork came after staring at the construction of a new condominium. On one hand condo development is business as usual, on the other, homelessness is a fact and demographics show that many people cannot afford to own a home. “I understood the severity of land as real estate – everything owned, everywhere for sale, and how, in our so-called great cities, the reality of owning anything is out of reach for most of us, with no solution in sight.”

In 2005, Belmore was Canada’s official representative at the Venice Biennale and in 2016, she was awarded the prestigious Gershon Iskowitz Prize by the Gershon Iskowitz Foundation in partnership with the Art Gallery of Ontario.

Award-winning producer Kat Baulu shares her passion and new project

Meet Kat Baulu, a producer with Quebec/Atlantic Studio at the National Film Board (NFB) of Canada, a public producer, and distributor. In an email interview, Baulu talked about her career and the call for proposals for short films on Reimagining My Quebec.

Reimagining My Quebec is a new initiative for anglophone, allophone, and Indigenous filmmakers from Quebec and Nunavik that will give emerging and established directors a chance to create artful short documentaries with the NFB.

When it comes to what Baulu enjoys most about her work, she said she enjoys those with a clear purpose to their work. “I admire people who lead their lives with mission and purpose. One person who inspires me is legendary Abenaki filmmaker Alanis Obomsawin,” she said. “With an astonishing career spanning over five decades at National Film Board of Canada, she’s made over 50 films that focus on issues facing Indigenous people in Canada. Alanis embodies what it means to make art for social impact. It’s humbling to witness one person who truly makes a difference every day.”

Baulu’s work as a producer raises social impact, even from her previous documentary work on Gun Runners. Baulu’s role is responsible for supporting creators to tell relevant and meaningful stories about Canada to Canadians and people around the world.

“The best part of my job is accompanying filmmakers in their creative process: from idea to finished film through to impact with audiences,” she said. “I love creating conditions for filmmakers to thrive artistically and express their point of view. I root for their success.”

“Collaborating with artists in the public space is such a privilege. At the NFB, our values are driven by relevance. Every day we ask ourselves, are we raising under-represented voices? Is what we are creating valuable and meaningful?” she added. “I am thrilled to work with filmmakers on their creative interpretation of reimagining their Quebec because I believe we have a chance to surface issues of identity, class, and status for further discussion and raise consciousness about the positive change we dream about for our society, and our world.”

Baulu is excited about the current project – Reimagining My Quebec, which is an opportunity to make a short English documentary in Quebec with the NFB.

“Reimagining My Quebec is the brainchild of my executive producer Annette Clarke. She is a true champion for filmmakers and storytellers of all stripes. She is a Newfoundlander and believes that great stories often emanate from a deep sense of place,” Baulu said. “We hope this call will draw out unique and intimate stories from across Quebec, which surprise and transform us.”

The type of story she’s looking for revolves around something Scottish documentary filmmaker Scott Grierson calls, “creative interpretations of actuality,” which focusses on the human condition through point-of-view documentary storytelling. “If you have a story that you are uniquely positioned to tell, that you have a personal connection with, that you have unique access, this call for proposals is for you. We are excited about powerful, emotional and important social issue-driven stories,” Baulu said. “For us, the process is as important as the outcome. What is your relationship to your participants? How will you treat them at the beginning and the end of the process of making your film? We are enthusiastic when filmmakers are considering their ethics as well as the art and impact.”

The deadline for submissions is August 8.

Paris street harassment just one case of many

A woman named Marie Laguerre was walking down the streets of Paris last week when some idiot thought it would be appropriate to harass her on the street. After she shut told him to shut up, he walked up to her and struck her in the face before taking off like a coward.

The only thing more rage-inducing than these animals who can’t take a hint is that there are still people who believe this is an isolated incident.

It obviously isn’t just me who undergoes harassment on the street or on the bus. But, I’ve gone through my fair share of cat-calling, wolf whistling, and being stared down on the subway. One incident that particularly comes to mind is when I was on the way home with my mother on the subway. This older man sat across from me and my mom and kept staring at me, looking down at my chest, then back at me, smiling the whole time. I glared right back at him, but he only turned away when he sensed that my mother would punch a hole in his chest if he didn’t stop looking at me. It didn’t end there, though. He whipped out his phone and then went to some porn site in the middle of a crowded car. He refrained from touching himself, but he drew the disgusted glances of women entering the car as they saw a pair of large, wet breasts bouncing up and down on his screen. I was mortified.

Sure, you can rip into these guys. But at what cost? You have no idea how they’re going to react and this Paris incident is only one of thousands. I don’t want to deal with someone following me down the street. I don’t want to deal with someone trying to harass me or attack me just because he’s too weak to handle being told off. It’s blood-boiling to know that these street harassers can’t take no for an answer and the only way they can assert their feigned sense of dominance is to attack someone for shutting them down. Yeah, you’re real tough.

Plenty of women I know were called crude names after telling off catcallers. What was “Hey, mama” a second ago soon becomes “Whatever, you ugly bitch.” Sometimes you have them exit their cars and walk up to you and start an altercation because nothing screams “Look at me, I deserve the attention of women” like harassing whoever doesn’t respond to piggish advances.

There are also the typical “Why didn’t you tell him off?” comments. This video is why. The countless other incidents just like it is why. Look at the woman who bumped into that guy on the Westminster SkyTrain station and then was pushed on the ground, close to the tracks. He also threw his coffee all over her before knocking her down. She didn’t even say anything to the guy. How can you honestly ask why women don’t confront street harassers or cat callers when unprovoked attacks are just as likely to happen?

The good news is that with the Paris case, the majority of people are rallying behind her in support of not only catching this guy but also in understanding that this type of behaviour has no place in society.

However, it would be incorrect to say that there aren’t people placing blame on the woman. Without naming names, Facebook comments on various news posts have ranged from “we must get both sides of the story before we judge,” “Question…..Why did the woman not go directly into the restaurant and call the police but only came back to argue with this idiot….Then she walks away…Not stay around, call the police, and get witnesses…..something fishy!!!!,” “KARMA……..” and one man who simply commented “Nice.”

The comments on the woman being pushed on the ground weren’t much better. Dozens of people were commenting on how she got what she deserved, how him pushing her wasn’t unprovoked, and how the woman was no victim.

These types of incidents are everywhere. Ask just about any woman you know and you’ll be introduced to just how many times this has happened and in what capacity. More awareness needs to be raised about these issues without welcoming comments from trolls or conspiracy theorists. This type of behaviour needs to end and the more awareness people raise and the more everyone talks about it, the more educated people become.

The only good thing that came out of all this was that people everywhere are talking about ways to end street harassment. People are seeing first-hand what kind of things women go through on a daily basis.

It’s not right for a woman to fear standing up for herself, just like it isn’t right to have women harassed on a daily basis. But, a woman’s hands are tied because the majority of the time she either endures harassment and goes on her way or tells the guy off and risks being physically assaulted.

What kind of world is that to live in?

Tanya Ramond, aerospace engineer and BridgeSat leader, talks focus, balance and equality

I had the chance to speak to a truly remarkable woman. Her name is Tanya Ramond and she is an aerospace engineer. Currently she works at BridgeSat as the Director of Product Development and prior to this she had worked with big  companies like NASA and York Space.

 Initially I thought she would be an intimidating figure to talk with but that wasn’t the case at all. She is actually extremely friendly, and thoughtful.  She spoke with purpose, thinking carefully about the answers she was giving to my questions in our discussion.

Tanya’s main focus is on engineering and science but she has a great interest in business and marketing, which is why she chose to step out and join BridgeSat. She is in a leadership role  and is a member of the company which focuses on  connecting satellites from space to the ground while meeting the demand for big data collection from low Earth orbit.

She spent 10 years in aerospace engineering at large companies, but knew that she wanted to expand into development and marketing.

“I think that I was ready to just go for something different. I’ve worked at a fairly large established aerospace company…but I think at that point my interest in not just engineering but also the business, was coming to life.”

Tanya completed her MBA, and now uses these relative skills in her role at BridgeSat. Ramond  has her sights set  on taking control by making an impact and pioneering development and new technologies with her team. She shares that this is what BridgeSat and herself will focus on from this point.

Tanya has achieved great success over the years , but the roles she has held, have also come with great challenges.

She is often the lone woman in a room filled with men. Tanya is open and explained that while her team came up with groundbreaking technologies and products, as the only woman often in the group, she sometimes feels  like an outsider and is treated differently.

“There’s this layer of blatant sexism. Past that is a deeper layer that is a lot harder to articulate,” she said

When other women are present, Ramond encourages them to voice their opinions and mentors female co-workers to “chime in and to not be made to feel intimidated.”

Tanya spoke with me about how most  of the challenges she has had come down to being a woman in a workplace filled with men. She  knows there is a need for change and that it takes each one of us to step forward and explain what is and isn’t acceptable- as many are doing now that the #MeToo movement is sweeping the globe. Gender disparity must be driven out of the workplace and like many women, she wonders if she has the power to change the current environment.

Tanya agrees that “awareness is of most importance” and that “just the common acceptance that [these actions are] not OK” is a step in the right direction toward change. 

It would be wonderful to have the power to make that change instantly happen, but many more hurdles need to be cleared. I asked Tanya what super power she would most want to have and her response is what you might think an aerospace engineer would select-the power to fly. “If I were flying the plane, I’d do better,” she said.

As I think back to my interview with her I realize that Tanya is a strong, brilliant woman, she is a leader in her field and in her own way she soared beyond the limited structure of a male-dominated industry.

For more about the remarkable work that Tanya Ramond and BridgeSat do, go to http://www.bridgesatinc.com/

Time Magazine names ‘Silence Breakers’ as people of the year

In what is a serious slap in the face for U.S. President Donald Trump, Time Magazine named the women who started the #MeToo movement as Person (or People) of the Year for 2017.

These “silence breakers”, as they have been called, have influenced a global movement that has inspired women to come forward with their stories of sexual harassment and sexual assault. Men in prominent positions within the entertainment industry have lost contracts and are being investigated by police. Women are finally being heard. They are recounting their stories without fear or repercussion or consequence. Tens of thousands of people have used the #MeToo hashtag since American actress Alyssa Milano put a call out to her followers to show how widespread sexual harassment really is.

One in four women in North America will be sexually assaulted during their lifetime, and of every 100 assaults, only six are reported to the police. These statistics are even more grave when you consider that most people don’t share their #MeToo stories.

That’s why Time Magazine’s decision to showcase the silence breakers — “the voices that launched a movement — is so revolutionary.

The women being honoured include Ashley Judd, who went on the record with the New York Times detailing an incident with Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein, Isabel Pascual (pseudonym), a strawberry picker from Mexico, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, and Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist, among many others like Alyssa Milano, Tarana Burke, Selma Blair. Juana Melara, and Taylor Swift.

Time Magazine editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, told NBC’s Today show that “this is the fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades. It began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women – and some men, too – who came forward to tell their own stories”.

The feature mixes the stories of those in the entertainment industry — the stories that are so prominently displayed in the news and on social media throughout 2017 — with the every day experiences of “regular” people, who may not get the spotlight as often. Housekeepers, fruit pickers, hospitality workers, journalists, and activists all told their stories.

It was rumoured that U.S. President Donald Trump would be named Person of the Year for 2017, just like last year, but that Time Magazine required a confirmed exclusive interview first. He tweeted that he would not promise an interview for an honour that was not guaranteed.

In the feature, Time Magazine does mention the United States President, but alludes instead to his Access Hollywood tape that shows Trump bragging about how he could just walk up to women and kiss them and “grab em by the pussy.”

Thousands of women took the streets during a Women’s March, held after Trump’s inauguration.

“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover—Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascual—along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s.,” Felsenthal said in a statement about the choice. “We are in the middle of the beginning of this upheaval. There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart? Will there be a backlash?”

Things are shaking up — finally, the voices of women are being heard. No longer is it simply assumed the woman “deserved it” or was “asking for it”. The global conversation, and the attention of the press is ensuring this movement stays alive. #MeToo will continue until women are no longer afraid to go to work or walk down a street alone.

It is a future many of us can only dream about.

What do you think of this year’s Person of the Year? Let us know in the comments below!

Time Magazine cover for Person of the Year 2017