Time has chosen its 2017 Person of the Year: the Silence Breakers, the women and men who have come forward to shed light on sexual harassment and abuse in America.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, made the announcement on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday, citing "the galvanizing actions of the women on our cover.” Those women featured on the cover include actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, Visa lobbyist Adama Iwu, Mexican agricultural worker Isabel Pascual, and one woman whose face cannot be seen.
In a statement, Felsenthal also honored the courage of “hundreds of others, and of many men as well, [who] have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s."
Judd was one of the first women to come forward with allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein in early October. Swift made headlines in a court case against former radio DJ David Mueller, who she alleged groped her while taking a picture; Swift won her lawsuit against him, in which she asked for $1 in damages. Fowler spoke out about Uber’s culture of sexual harassment, and Iwu spearheaded a campaign to expose sexual misconduct in California politics. “Isabel Pascual” is a pseudonym for a woman from Mexico who works picking strawberries and was harassed, and was one of the 700,000 female farm workers who marched in solidarity with Hollywood actors against sexual assault in November.
The woman featured to the right of the cover whose face cannot be seen represents the unnamed women — and men — who have come forward anonymously with reports.
It is perhaps ironic that Time’s big reveal took place on Today, which just last week fired longtime host Matt Lauer over allegations of sexual harassment. Multiple women have come forward, and accounts of Lauer’s alleged misconduct have been published by Variety and the New York Times.
Prior to Time’s announcement, Today viewers had selected the #MeToo movement the winner in an online poll of Person of the Year finalists.
Trump, accused of harassment by multiple women, takes the No. 2 spot
The runner-up for this year’s Person of the Year was President Donald Trump, who was Time’s Person of the Year in 2016. He tweeted in November that the magazine had told him he would “probably” be picked again this year but he turned it down.
Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) November 24, 2017
Time has disputed his assertion. In its story on this year’s pick, the magazine cites him as a driver of the #MeToo movement, which has seen many people come forward with allegations of harassment and abuse. Time’s story, written by three women — Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman, and Haley Sweetland Edwards — cites the now-infamous Access Hollywood tape, in which Trump brags that he could “grab [women] by the pussy,” as a catalyst for changing the way we talk about sexual bad behavior in America:
Discussions of sexual harassment in polite company tend to rely on euphemisms: harassment becomes "inappropriate behavior," assault becomes "misconduct," rape becomes "abuse." We're accustomed to hearing those softened words, which downplay the pain of the experience. That's one of the reasons why the Access Hollywood tape that surfaced in October 2016 was such a jolt. The language used by the man who would become America's 45th President, captured on a 2005 recording, was, by any standard, vulgar. He didn't just say that he'd made a pass; he "moved on her like a bitch." He didn't just talk about fondling women; he bragged that he could "grab 'em by the pussy."
That Trump could say that and still be elected to the White House “is part of what stoked the rage that fueled the Women’s March” the day after his inauguration, Time wrote. The magazine mentions by name some of the women who have clashed with Trump in the past: NBC anchor Megyn Kelly, who asked Trump about his past treatment of women during a Republican presidential debate, and his former Democratic rival Hillary Clinton:
Megyn Kelly, the NBC anchor who revealed in October that she had complained to Fox News executives about Bill O'Reilly's treatment of women, and who was a target of Trump's ire during the campaign, says the tape as well as the tenor of the election turned the political into the personal. "I have real doubts about whether we'd be going through this if Hillary Clinton had won, because I think that President Trump's election in many ways was a setback for women," says Kelly, who noted that not all women at the march were Clinton supporters. "But the overall message to us was that we don't really matter."
So it was not entirely surprising that 2017 began with women donning "pussy hats" and marching on the nation's capital in a show of unity and fury. What was startling was the size of the protest. It was one of the largest in U.S. history and spawned satellite marches in all 50 states and more than 50 other countries.
It also names Summer Zervos, a former contestant on The Apprentice, who is one of about 20 women to have accused Trump of sexual harassment.
And the article takes a swipe at both the Democratic and Republican parties, which are currently grappling with how to handle sexual misconduct allegations in their ranks.
“In the 1990s, feminists stood up for accused abuser Bill Clinton instead of his accusers—a move many are belatedly regretting as the national conversation prompts a re-evaluation of the claims against the former President,” Time wrote. “And despite the allegations against Moore, both President Trump and the Republican National Committee support him.”
Charlotte Alter, a national correspondent for Time, pointed out on Twitter that this year’s entire Person of the Year project was produced by women.