I believe Sarah Beaulieu’s Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace is one of the most important books published in the wake of the #MeToo movement’s birth. Many point to the New Yorker and New York Times exposés on famed film mogul Harvey Weinstein and the emergence of nearly one hundred women with horrific memories of his behavior towards them as a watershed moment. However, as with most major social movements, it is a confluence of events giving rise to the #MeToo movement rather than a single event. It now dominates a significant portion of our societal dialogue.
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Beaulieu recognizes the sweeping changes #MeToo has wrought on workplace relations. Women are empowered now as never before to speak up and make their voices heard when they believe themselves to be on the receiving end of sexual assault or harassment. Breaking the Silence Habit does more than document the power of this movement; it identifies those who have a story to tell, provides design suggestions for how the conversation, and points the way to how one can apply the conversation’s results and conclusions to everyday life and interactions.
Beaulieu places her personal stamp on these topics from the start. She is a survivor as well and relates her experiences with molestation as a young child in a matter of fact manner certain to capture reader’s attention. The effect of this revelation builds an instant trust with me. It signals this is a subject she isn’t treating flippantly and has profound connections with. Despite that, her prose maintains a warm distance with the reader throughout Breaking the Silence Habit. Beaulieu never allows her passions to overwhelm the text and keeps the focus on offering readers as comprehensive of a guide as she can.
The heavy reliance on her observations, theories, and experience to the exclusion of secondary sources may be problematic for some. I, however, think she makes a case for her approach to the issues #MeToo brings out into the open with such convincing logic and down to earth attitudes regarding individuals it is difficult to find fault with her analysis. She follows a coherent path from the first page to last and her professional and personal experiences with the topic mitigated any need for outside sources to bolster her credibility. Breaking the Silence Habit: A Practical Guide to Uncomfortable Conversations in the #MeToo Workplace is a book that stands on its own and needs precious little reinforcement.
Her balanced views on the responsibilities both sides bear comes through in the book as well. Many of the #MeToo movements loudest voices, certainly not all, betray a vengeful spirit against those who victimized them and I do not begrudge their feelings. It is far from unnatural they feel this way. Beaulieu, however, never labors with such feelings in Breaking the Silence Habit. She definitely seeks genuine and lasting justice for survivors, but seeks out healing even more. It is a welcome perspective and perhaps the crowning touch on Sarah Beaulieu’s book.