For this year’s “Person of the Year” – the annual title that Time magazine confers upon individuals who have greatly influenced the news cycle that year – they decided to honour a group of individuals instead, called “The Silence Breakers.” These are none other than the people “who set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment,” according to the US-based magazine.
What is most remarkable about this choice is that it is shared by public figures like global pop stars, actors, directors, senators and journalists – with regular women, like hospital staffers, office workers, housekeepers, and even a strawberry picker.
“The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe. They might labour in California fields, or behind the front desk at New York City’s regal Plaza Hotel, or in the European Parliament. They’re part of a movement that has no formal name. But now they have a voice,” reads an excerpt from the article.
The entire cover story features women from various positions and strata of society. While Rose McGowan, Terry Crews, Megyn Kelly, Selma Blair, Alyssa Milano are public figures, other, everyday women were also invited for the interview and photoshoot for the prestigious title.
The cover depicts a sharp gray backdrop, and activist Adama Iwu, actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, strawberry picker Isabel Pascual and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler are photographed against it in black, looking determined to stand their ground after coming out with gruesome tales of how they were sexually harassed by senior people in their industry when they were first starting out. The arm of a sixth person has also been included in this iconic cover – of a woman who gave Time an account of the incident she had faced – but declined to be pictured as it would “threaten her livelihood.”
In her interview to Time, Ashley stated that she had “started talking about Harvey the minute that it happened.” Harvey Weinstein made unwanted sexual advances towards Ashley Judd in 1997 at a Beverly Hills hotel, when Ashley had first started out as an actress. “I told everyone. (But) Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of moviedom? There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences.” she was quoted saying.
Artist and activist Rose McGowan is another one of Weinstein’s victims and had reached a settlement with him in 1997 after she filed a case against him alleging sexual assault at a hotel. Sandra Pezqueda, a former dishwasher, accused her supervisor at the Terranea Resort in South California of pursuing her, and then unfairly cutting her hours when she declined his advances. Taylor Swift stated that she was groped by Radio DJ in 2013, during a photo op.
Oregon state senator Sara Gelser outed member of her own party, Jeff Kruse – who was stripped of his committee responsibilities following the investigation, NBC’s Megyn Kelly revealed in October that she had complained to Fox News executives about Bill O’Reilly harassing several women in the workplace – including another journalist featured by Time for this story, former Fox News Contributor Wendy Walsh. She also confessed to having been harassed by Fox News CEO Robert Ailes. 28-year-old male director Blaise Godbe Lipman revealed that his agent had tried to harass him when he was 18. Popular male actor Terry Crews also spoke up against his agents for groping him at a public event.
Isabel Pascual, a woman from Mexico who picks strawberries for a living, (whose name has been changed to protect her identity) was stalked and harassed and threatened that her children will be harmed if she spoke out – but she did so, nonetheless. Susan Fowler’s explosive blog post about being harassed as an engineer at global giant Uber catapulted CEO and founder Travis Kalanick into resigning, and 20 other employees were ousted as well.
This conversation was brought to the mainstream like never before after The New York Times published an exposé revealing the serial-predatorial history of Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein. Alyssa Milano then initiated the hashtag #MeToo – which was a campaign that had actually been started a decade ago by women’s rights activist Tarana Burke. With over 12 million women using the hashtag in solidarity and revealing incidents that had taken place in their own lives, the magnitude of the problem was discovered. Time, thus, dedicated this prestigious title to every woman who dared to break her silence.
Time had shortlisted US President Donald Trump, Chinese president Xi Jinping, special counsel and former FBI Director Robert Mueller, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, the Dreamers and former San Francisco 49ers football player Colin Kaepernick and lastly, American film director and screenwriter, and the creator of Wonder Woman, Patty Jenkins – in that order.