For the hotel housekeeper who never knows, as she goes about replacing towels and cleaning toilets, if a guest is going to corner her in a room she can't escape? Like the "problem that has no name," the disquieting malaise of frustration and repression among postwar wives and homemakers identified by Betty Friedan more than 50 years ago, this moment is born of a very real and potent sense of unrest.
Yet it doesn't have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet. This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries.
Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don't even seem to know that boundaries exist. They've had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can't afford to lose. They've had it with the code of going along to get along.
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They've had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought. Emboldened by Judd, Rose McGowan and a host of other prominent accusers, women everywhere have begun to speak out about the inappropriate, abusive and in some cases illegal behavior they've faced.
When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former Today show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door. When a movie star says MeToo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who's been quietly enduring for years. Judd says she was sexually harassed by Harvey Weinstein when she was 29 years old. It's an ingenious way that we've tried to keep ourselves safe.
All those voices can be amplified. That's my advice to women. That and if something feels wrong, it is wrong—and it's wrong by my definition and not necessarily someone else's.
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Weinstein said in a statement he 'never laid a glove' on Judd. The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They're part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice. In a windowless room at a two-story soundstage in San Francisco's Mission District, a group of women from different worlds met for the first time. Judd, every bit the movie star in towering heels, leaned in to shake hands with Isabel Pascual, a woman from Mexico who works picking strawberries and asked to use a pseudonym to protect her family.
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Beside her, Susan Fowler, a former Uber engineer, eight months pregnant, spoke softly with Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist in Sacramento. A young hospital worker who had flown in from Texas completed the circle. 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.
From a distance, these women could not have looked more different.
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Their ages, their families, their religions and their ethnicities were all a world apart. Their incomes differed not by degree but by universe: Iwu pays more in rent each month than Pascual makes in two months. But on that November morning, what separated them was less important than what brought them together: a shared experience.
Over the course of six weeks, TIME interviewed dozens of people representing at least as many industries, all of whom had summoned extraordinary personal courage to speak out about sexual harassment at their jobs. They often had eerily similar stories to share. In almost every case, they described not only the vulgarity of the harassment itself—years of lewd comments, forced kisses, opportunistic gropes—but also the emotional and psychological fallout from those advances.
Almost everybody described wrestling with a palpable sense of shame. Had she somehow asked for it? Could she have deflected it? Was she making a big deal out of nothing? Why didn't I react? She remembers the shirt she was wearing that day. She can still feel the heat of her harasser's hands on her body. Millions of people responded with the hashtag MeToo when Milano urged them to post their experiences on Twitter. I don't know if I'll ever be the same. I have not stopped crying. I look at my daughter and think, Please, let this be worth it. Please, let it be that my daughter never has to go through anything like this.
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Burke, founder of a nonprofit that helps survivors of sexual violence, created the Me Too movement in to encourage young women to show solidarity with one another. It went viral this year after actor Alyssa Milano used the hashtag MeToo. And I think it's really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.
Nearly all of the people TIME interviewed about their experiences expressed a crushing fear of what would happen to them personally, to their families or to their jobs if they spoke up.
For some, the fear was born of a threat of physical violence. Pascual felt trapped and terrified when her harasser began to stalk her at home, but felt she was powerless to stop him. If she told anyone, the abuser warned her, he would come after her or her children. Those who are often most vulnerable in society—immigrants, people of color, people with disabilities, low-income workers and LGBTQ people—described many types of dread.
If they raised their voices, would they be fired?
Would their communities turn against them? Would they be killed?
After director James Toback denied accusations by dozens of women that he had sexually assaulted them, Blair spoke out about her encounter with him. He called the women liars. But their stories were so similar to mine, and they were such credible women. There was no agenda other than they wanted to share this story, be free of this story. And in a magazine interview, he called the people who said this about him 'c-nts' and 'c-cksuckers.1stclass-ltd.com/wp-content/cheating/2500-ein-zwei.php
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And I wanted to give a face to these now more than women who have come out. Juana Melara, who has worked as a hotel housekeeper for decades, says she and her fellow housekeepers didn't complain about guests who exposed themselves or masturbated in front of them for fear of losing the paycheck they needed to support their families.
Melara recalls "feeling the pressure of someone's eyes" on her as she cleaned a guest's room. When she turned around, she remembers, a man was standing in the doorway, blocked by the cleaning cart, with his erect penis exposed. She yelled at the top of her lungs and scared him into leaving, then locked the door behind him. While guests come and go, some employees must continue to work side by side with their harassers.
Crystal Washington was thrilled when she was hired as a hospitality coordinator at the Plaza, a storied hotel whose allure is as strong for people who want to work there as it is for those who can afford a suite. But then, she says, a co-worker began making crude remarks to her like "I can tell you had sex last night" and groping her. One of those encounters was even caught on camera, but the management did not properly respond, her lawyers say. I have an year-old daughter, and she's depending on me,' says Lewis, who still works at the hotel to make ends meet.
I wasn't really left with the option of leaving. I'm not left with the option of giving up. I want to show her that it's O. If you keep fighting, eventually you'll see the sun on the other side.