Leila Brammer is a professor of Communications Studies and of Gender, Women and Sexuality 
Studies at Gustavus Adolphus.
Leila Brammer is a professor of Communications Studies and of Gender, Women and Sexuality Studies at Gustavus Adolphus.

Claims about finding the good in the bad have always made me cringe. I loathe the idea of seeking silver linings. I once took a workshop in which we were to write a love letter to our pain — accepting it and telling what we learned from it. Huh? Why can’t pain just be pain? Why cannot bad things just be bad things? Why the need to dress and put lipstick on the bad?

Even the little things. What is the good
from a mouse infestation, or a clogged drain,
or a garage door that has been non-functional
for three weeks?

Or the bigger things. A hostile work
environment, a chronic disease, a break up
of a long-term relationship, the suicide of
a friend. What is the good that one should
squeeze from these? Why do we need to?

Over the past few months, I found some
tension in conversations with friends and
students about reports of powerful men
serially preying on the less powerful. A friend
attempted to toast the downfall of predatory
men — and it felt flat to me. Even before
#MeToo, our multiple shared experiences had
long established the prevalence and personal
pain of these crimes, but now those coming
forward uncovered an epidemic and opened
our eyes to the systemic structures that
support predators.

Remarkably, action came quickly on many
incidents. Some abusers lost their positions
of power. This is good. But it doesn’t feel
celebratory. While I am “happy” and “grateful”
that these men no longer hold their positions,
is gratitude possible for small measures of
justice amidst widespread hurt?

Yes, the culture has shifted, at least
momentarily. We finally seem ready to
listen to those who tell of pain and confront
their attackers. We are exposing crimes and
condemning certain behaviors.

Seemingly there is much to celebrate:
The opening of dark places, the confronting
of despicable crimes, the long overdue
and slowly budding cultural awareness of

Perhaps we can hope that this opens up a
full awareness and accounting of oppression,
patriarchy, misogyny, and power in all
institutions. At the very least, the toppling of
each powerful man who used power to prey upon and silence those
he attacked removes a specific threat. We are in a better place than
we were a few months ago.

Yet, over the past two years, more than a dozen women have shared
sickening encounters with one very powerful man. Even a video of
him bragging about how he uses his power to assault women did not
deter his supporters. Many of us know predators who will never be
held accountable, and we know that assaults will continue.

While celebration and joy seem far away on this issue, I find
gratitude for those who risked much to place themselves at the
center of this movement. Those who named an attacker, those who
tweeted a painful #MeToo, forced this discussion. We can be truly
grateful for their sacrifices, while also supporting the vast majority
of women and men who still remain silenced.

We cannot be grateful for the experiences reported. We cannot be
grateful for the systems that continue to allow assault. We cannot be
grateful for our own complicity in these systems. But voices too long
silenced are speaking.

Let us open the space to hear as many of these voices as we can.

Let us combat the forces that seek to silence, to call an end to the
discussion, to minimize personal experience.

Let us courageously embrace the challenge offered by those who
are speaking for those who remain silenced and take time to sit
back, learn, and reflect on the systems and our own behaviors that
support these systems.

In our workplaces, neighborhoods, and homes, let us seek, hear,
and validate those who have been silenced.

Let us work to create a world in which those with power no longer
prey on those less powerful.