Time Magazine‘s Person of the Year for 2017 isn’t a singular individual, but the ever-increasing collective voice belonging to what the publication dubbed “The Silence Breakers,” the anti-harassment movement that has risen up in the wake of a tide of sexual assault and sexual harassment claims against disgraced Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein and a growing list of other prominent men in business, politics and entertainment.
“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover…along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s,” editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said in a statement announcing this year’s honorees on Wednesday (Dec. 6). “The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year. For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year.”
Among those featured on the composite cover image are Taylor Swift, activist Adama Iwu, actress Ashley Judd, strawberry picker Isabel Pascual and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler. The story recognizes the power of the #MeToo movement, the hashtag that galvanized thousands of (mostly) women to expose sexual assault and harassment, noting that this reckoning “appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries.”
“These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced,” the magazine noted. “In some cases, criminal charges have been brought… the women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe.”
Despite his overwhelming stranglehold on the news cycle in his first year in office, Pres. Trump, who recently said he would reject the honor if presented — and who has himself was accused of sexual assault or harassment by nearly a dozen women during the presidential campaign — was the runner-up for Person of the Year, with Chinese President Xi Jinping coming in third. The cover image also features a fifth person, whose face is not seen, which Felsenthal told Today represents someone the magazine spoke to but who “doesn’t feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.”
The movement rose in the wake of the sexual assault and harassment charges against Weinstein, but since several women broke their years-long silence on the once-powerful movie producer’s alleged decades of predatory actions it has spread to include actor Kevin Spacey, former Fox News talking head Bill O’Reilly, director James Toback, comedian Louis C.K. and news anchor Matt Lauer, as well as Alabama Senate candidate Roy Moore, Sen. Al Franken and dozens of other prominent men. The #MeToo hashtag, created by community organizer Tarana Burke in 2006 but amplified this year by actress Alyssa Milano in October, has led to millions of stories of mistreatment and abuse being shared on Twitter and Facebook across the globe. Felsenthal called the hashtag a “powerful accelerant” that has helped spread the movement to at least 85 countries.
— TIME (@TIME) December 6, 2017
“When movie stars don’t know where to go, what hope is there for the rest of us?” reads the story, which opens with Judd detailing one of her disturbing encounters with Weinstein in 1997. “What hope is there for the janitor who’s being harassed by a co-worker but remains silent out of fear she’ll lose the job she needs to support her children? For the administrative assistant who repeatedly fends off a superior who won’t take no for an answer? For the hotel housekeeper who never knows, as she goes about replacing towels and cleaning toilets, if a guest is going to corner her in a room she can’t escape?”
In an interview for the cover story, Swift discusses her testimony this summer in a court case in which she described how a Denver DJ reached under her skirt and grabbed her butt during a photo shoot in 2013. The singer’s clear-eyed, straightforward testimony was lauded by many for putting a spotlight on the types of harassment that women frequently face in the workplace and which they often feel like they must stay silent about.
Asked for her advice to people who might find themselves in this kind of situation, Swift said, “My advice is that you not blame yourself and do not accept the blame others will try to place on you. You should not be blamed for waiting 15 minutes or 15 days or 15 years to report sexual assault or harassment, or for the outcome of what happens to a person after he or she makes the choice to sexually harass or assault you.”
Time‘s annual honor goes to a person, group or organization that has had an outsized influence on the world for “good or ill”; the issue hits newsstands on Dec. 8.
Click here to read the full Time story.