Pussy riot: Women find their voice. Get used to it.

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The global Women’s March in January 2017 set the tone for women refusing to sit by any longer while their bodies were insulted and their rights hijacked.Photo by: Karen Ballard via ZUMA Wire) The global Women’s March in January 2017 set the tone for women refusing to sit by any longer while their bodies were insulted and their rights hijacked.Photo by: Karen Ballard via ZUMA Wire)

The high-profile sexual harassment cases continue to pile up and I’m reminded of the Emerson String Quartet. The world-renowned musicians can hold audiences rapt with the passion and delicacy of their playing. And yet without fail, when they rest their bows between movements the concert hall will erupt in a chorus of coughing and sputtering of near-tubercular intensity. It’s as if the concertgoers are reading from a score marking the precise moment when their noises will be most impactful.

The women who are speaking out now have seized a powerful moment, too. The tone has been building since January 21 when almost 3 million of them descended on Washington, D.C., and hundreds of U.S. and foreign cities for the Women’s March. The stunned silence of November 8 was quickly answered by a crescendo of fed-up women who refused to sit by any longer while their bodies were insulted and their rights hijacked.

And it hasn’t been about just calling out sexual misconduct by powerful men—though it’s not not about that either, thank you “Access Hollywood.” In Virginia, a record number of women—51—competed in House of Delegates primaries. Moreover, last July USA Today, citing Emily’s List, the nonprofit that helps elect pro-choice Democratic females, reported that 16,000 women had expressed an interest in running for office. As the Charlottesville City Council race demonstrated, women will no longer wait their turn to speak.

Suburban female voters were the deciding factor in last month’s statewide races in Virginia, too. Many who handed Ralph Northam the governor’s office said they were responding to the president’s equivocations after the killing and mayhem of August 12. But past that, plenty of women had had enough of assemblymen, yes men, who vote to defund Planned Parenthood, discriminate against transgender people and mandate transvaginal probing.

Returning for a moment to sexual harassment, another form of unwanted transvaginal probing, if you will: Like at a classical music concert, there remains the question of why those affected didn’t do something earlier. Must that guy wait until the cello solo to unwrap his lozenge, and why couldn’t the victims of Roger/Bill/Harvey/Charlie/Louis/Mark/Matt/etc./etc./etc. have spoken out sooner?

Answer: They did speak up. The accounts that make it into the reputable press are corroborated by folks the victims spoke to at the time (even if not the human resources manager).

In my own media career, I can count at least three instances when I informed managers at the highest level about sexual harassment incidents others had shared with me. In one instance, the perpetrator didn’t deny the claim when confronted. Instead he teared up and lamented that perhaps he wasn’t the leader he professed to be. His punctured ego was his biggest concern. Today he remains a high-ranking local media executive. The woman left the business long ago. But if she came forward with her account, I could back her up.

Yes, Virginia, it’s a big noise—like a long-stoppered steam valve being released—but not necessarily a new sound. In the past weeks, we’ve learned of some agitation in the Oval Office about who was or wasn’t approached to be Time Magazine’s Person of the Year. At press time the issue was still under wraps (pub date is December 6*), but I know who I would’ve nominated: 2017 Women’s March organizers Linda Sarsour, Tamika Mallory, Carmen Perez and Bob Bland. They were early conductors in this symphony of outrage. Sadly, we’re a long way from hearing the final note.

*On December 6, Time announced the Silence Breakers as its person of the year.

Yes, Virginia is a monthly opinion column.

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