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Time Magazine has named the anti-harassment movement, what the magazine dubbed “The Silence Breakers,” as its Person of the Year, 2017.
The movement, launched in the wake of sexual harassment and assault charges against producer Harvey Weinstein and other prominent men in Hollywood, is credited with fueling a moment of reckoning about the treatment of women in the workplace.
Time made the announcement Wednesday. The magazine’s Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal revealed the selection on the Today show along with the cover, a composite group photo that includes actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler.
“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,” Felsenthal said in a statement. “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.”
For the cover story, Time interviewed dozens of women and men who have experienced sexual harassment at their jobs, including actress Rose McGowan, journalist Megyn Kelly and actor Terry Crews. Time also included non-celebrity voices, among them Dana Lewis, one of the Plaza Hotel plaintiffs who filed suit against the hotel for “normalizing and trivializing sexual assault” among employees, and a strawberry picker, given the pseudonym Isabel Pascual, who spoke of being stalked after speaking out against the harassment she was experiencing on the job.
The movement, which has also been dubbed #MeToo, due to the popular hashtag linked to the cause, beat out President Donald Trump for Time‘s most newsworthy title. Trump, who was Time‘s Person of the Year in 2016, had been named to the magazine’s shortlist of 2017 candidates. President Trump claimed that Time informed him that he was “probably” going to be given the annual title for the second year in a row but, via Twitter, he said he “took a pass” on the honor, claiming that Time told him he’d have to do an interview and photo shoot. Time denied this, saying, with its own tweet: “The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. Time does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6.”
Social activist and community organizer Tarana Burke created the #MeToo hashtag back in 2006. The movement got widespread attention after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted the phrase Oct. 15. The hashtag was shared millions of times on Twitter and Facebook and became an international phenomenon, trending in at least 85 countries. It has spawned local-lingo versions, including #BalanceTonPorc (#DenounceYourPig) in France, #quellavoltache (#TheTimeThat) in Italy and #YoTambien (#MeToo in Spanish) for Spain and Latin America.
Felsenthal called the hashtag “a powerful accelerant.”
In an editorial in Time explaining the decision to award its Person of the Year title to The Silence Breakers, Felsenthal wrote that the moment began “with individual acts of courage” linking actresses who spoke out against Harvey Weinstein to “the strawberry picker who heard that story and decided to tell her own. The young engineer whose blog post about the frat-boy culture at Silicon Valley’s highest-flying startup prompted the firing of its founder and 20 other employees. The California lobbyist whose letter campaign spurred more than 140 women in politics to demand that state government “no longer tolerate the perpetrators or enablers” of sexual misconduct.”
Felsenthal added that the change unleashed by the Silence Breakers is still ongoing. A Time/SurveyMonkey poll, conducted Nov. 28-30 and published together with the Person of the Year cover story, found that 82 percent of Americans say women are more likely to speak out about sexual assault or harassment since news of Harvey Weinstein’s multiple allegations broke news. The survey found that, when forced to choose, most people (85 percent) believe the women making accusations of sexual assault or harassment over the men who have been accused. Over half (56 percent) surveyed think the movement will lead to meaningful change in society. You can read a full report of the poll results here.
“We are in the middle of the beginning of this upheaval,” writes Felsenthal. “There is so much that we still don’t know about its ultimate impact. How far-reaching will it be? How deep into the country? How far down the organizational chart? Will there be a backlash? Hollywood and the media — the industries that have thus far been home to most of the prominent cases — live in a coastal, co-dependent bubble…the biggest test of this movement will be the extent to which it changes the realities of people for whom telling the truth simply threatens too much.”
Since 1927, Time has bestowed its Person of the Year title upon an individual or group of people who the magazine’s editors believe have most influenced news and events of the past year, “for good or ill.”
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