Time magazine collectively names the ‘silence breakers’ its Person of the Year
Time magazine has collectively named a group of women, dubbed the ‘silence breakers’, as its ‘Person of the year’.
In a powerful feature, the magazine highlights six figures on the iconic ‘Person of the Year’ cover, but explores many people’s individual stories. The cover features Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, and Isabel Pascua, who have all made high profile statements about gender discrimination and sexual assault over the past year.
Singer Taylor Swift made headlines earlier this year when she won a court case against a man who groped her at a meet-and-greet in 2013. Swift only asked for $1 in damages from radio personality David Mueller, before pledging to donate further money to organisations that help defend sexual assault victims.
Meanwhile non-celebrity Susan Fowler’s story rocked Silicon Valley. In February she wrote a blog post about the harassment she experienced as an engineer at Uber, which subsequently went viral. Uber has since led an investigation that led to the ousting of its CEO Travis Kalanick and more than 20 other employees.
Actor Ashley Judd can be said to have literally broken the silence about one of the year’s biggest stories: the manipulative and violent sexual behaviour of one of Hollywood’s most powerful men, Harvey Weinstein. Her story, told on record to the New York Times, emboldened a multitude of other victims to come forward with their stories, which soon widened, exposing other major Hollywood players and public figures.
Fellow actor Alyssa Milano said she burst into tears when she woke up to find that a tweet she posted in the wake of the Weinstein allegations – on the suggestion of a friend – had been taken up as a rallying cry. The tweet encouraged women who had been sexually harassed or assaulted to simply reply on Twitter with ‘me too.’ By that morning, more than 30,000 people had used the hashtag #MeToo.
In November, Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual, alongside a group of her fellow farmworkers, marched on the streets of Hollywood to express their solidarity with the celebrities. In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal, Pascual became inspired to speak of her own experience of harassment, tying together the experience of those in and out of the spotlight.
Earlier this year, after a number of sexual harassment claims came to light in Sacramento, California, lobbyist Adama Iwu organised an open letter signed by 147 women calling out harassment in the state’s capital.
Alongside these key figures, the obscured figure in the corner of the magazine’s cover is meant to represent the millions of women who are yet to have their story heard. The elbow belongs to a woman who TIME interviewed, who said that she felt she couldn’t speak out and be included in the publication without fearing for her safety, as editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal explained in an interview on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday.
The women featured on the cover are just the tip of the iceberg of inspiring ‘silence breakers’. The impact of #MeToo on social media and elsewhere this year would not be possible without social activist Tarana Burke, who originally founded the movement in 2006 in an effort to encourage young women to show solidarity with one another. Speaking about the movement’s popularity earlier this year, Burke said “Sexual harassment does bring shame. And I think it’s really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame but to put the shame where it belongs: on the perpetrator.”