For the most part, change is slow and elusive. In the moment, it so often feels like nothing will ever change. It’s only with years of hindsight that we can see fully that we’ve made meaningful strides toward justice, sustainability, peace, etc.
And then, occasionally, when the stars align, we can actually observe the hard edge of change, a moment when society at large decides that enough is enough, when change is evident and clear as can be. Our cultural perspective and tolerance shifts seemingly overnight.
I think the revelations of sexual misconduct from a slew of men, Harvey Weinstein, Kevin Spacey, Louis C.K., and others have brought about such a moment. No, clearly the problem of sexual misconduct has not been resolved once and for all. It remains a major challenge and will continue to for years to come.
But it’s also clear that something changed over the last few weeks months. Something snapped.
It’s become apparent that knowledge of these men’s misconduct has been a poorly kept secret for years. People knew about it yet there simply was no appetite to take it on, no sense that their misdeeds were worthy of public shaming or attention, no sense that they could be addressed.
And then, seemingly overnight, our tolerance for such misdeeds evaporated. Our willingness to acknowledge these challenges and truly believe the victims has shifted. These men’s reputations have now been destroyed.
Men who use their power and influence for their sexual advantage now must feel frightened for their futures. Men who might consider such actions in the future will now have to reconsider whether they are willing to risk their careers and reputations. More and more victims who have been silenced for decades feel empowered to tell us their stories and hold the attackers accountable.
The shift is palpable.
When such a change moment arises, there is an opportunity to harness it, ensure it is lasting, leverage it into further change. The moment flags to us that not only are we finally shifting on sexual assault specifically, but that we are yearning for change more generally. We see what is possible when people begin to speak up.
What are the problems in our society that are on the precipice of another such moment, where one piece of new information can bring about a major shift in awareness and tolerance? How can we use this moment to create more change for all those whose plight has gone unseen and uncared for?