On Sunday evening, New York magazine released a devastating story featuring the first-hand accounts from 35 women Bill Cosby has allegedly assaulted. Yet perhaps the most unsetting aspect of the story was not its words, but its cover: the women sitting side-by-side, in stark black and white, feet flat on the ground—and at the end of the line, one empty chair.
As New York‘s social media team wrote Wednesday,
That chair signifies the 11 other women who have accused Cosby of assault, but weren’t photographed for the magazine. But it also represents the countless other women who have been sexually assaulted, but have been unable or unwilling to come forward.
Even the team had no idea how powerful that image would become. Within hours, social media exploded over what was termed #TheEmptyChair, launching a cultural conversation over the pervasive nature of sexual assault and sexual harassment in modern culture. Some on Twitter shared societal criticism, others personal experiences. The Ms. Blog has compiled some of the most staggering tweets from that conversation.
More people than you will ever realize are sitting in #TheEmptyChair
— Mirah Atabaki (@mirahwood) July 27, 2015
A DM sent to me: “I can’t share my empty chair story bc I signed an NDA. needed the money more than justice, and he knew it” #TheEmptyChair
— E-Lion James White (@elonjames) July 27, 2015
Shame on us for not believing the first one decades ago and shame on those who still don’t believe after over 30women. #theemptychair
— Theresa M O Dennard (@abenamirekua) July 27, 2015
I stand with every women or girl sitting in #TheEmptyChair right now. Your resilience is beyond measure.
— Michael Skolnik (@MichaelSkolnik) July 27, 2015
— Janet Mock (@janetmock) July 27, 2015
Rape cannot be your fault, unless you are a rapist. No matter what you said or did or wore. It was not your fault. Hear that. #TheEmptyChair
— HeardinLondon (@HeardinLondon) July 27, 2015
I sit in #TheEmptyChair with too many other women I know.
— Éireann (@indiegoddess) July 27, 2015
Photo courtesy of New York Magazine.