On Wednesday, Time honoured millions of men and women all over the world who have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment and abuse by declaring them 2017’s Person of the Year.
The announcement comes as industries and organizations including NBC, Netflix, the Weinstein Company, the British Parliament and the US Senate have been left reeling after an unprecedented outpouring of allegations and revelations of sexual misconduct.
Time’s Person of the Year cover features Ashley Judd, among the first women to publicly accuse Harvey Weinstein; Taylor Swift, celebrated for testifying in court against a Colorado radio DJ she says groped her during an interview; Susan Fowler, a former Uber employee who exposed sexual harassment at the company; and Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist instrumental in inspiring dozens of women to come forward with their stories in California’s state capital.
The cover also featured “Isabel Pascual”, a strawberry picker from Mexico who appeared under a pseudonym to protect her identity, and a sixth person: an anonymous hospital worker from Texas whose elbow alone is visible, in order to avoid personal repercussions but also to represent all those who are still unable to speak out.
Over the course of six weeks, Time interviewed dozens of people from a broad range of professions and backgrounds, in order to assert the fact that sexual harassment is a problem that transcends difference.
"From a distance, these women could not have looked more different," the accompanying article read. "Their ages, their families, their religions, and their ethnicities were all a world apart. Their incomes differed not by degree but by universe: Iwu pays more in rent each month than Pascual makes in two months."
Among those featured was actress-activist Alyssa Milano, who helped popularise the #MeToo hashtag in October when she tweeted, “If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet.”
The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours. Among the retweeters was the lone male who appeared in the Time's Person of the Year feature, actor and former NFL star Terry Crews, who came forward to share his account of sexual assault by “a high level Hollywood executive”.
However, there was some controversy over the magazine’s decision to choose President Donald Trump as its runner-up for Person of the Year. Trump caused a stir earlier this year when he tweeted to say that he had been offered the honour but “took a pass” on it – only for Time to fire back that the President’s claim was simply “incorrect”.
More importantly, Trump has been accused of sexual misconduct by at least twenty women, as outlined by the Guardian.
Alyssa Milano noted the conflict in a tweet, writing, “At the very same time that “Silence Breakers is the #TimePersonOfTheYear – a self professed pussy grabber was runner up.”
Although sexual assault, harassment and misconduct is not an issue that will be resolved with a single magazine cover, it sends an inspiring message to men and women dealing with their own experiences that they are not alone, and will be supported should they choose to speak out.
In her interview for the issue, Taylor Swift echoed this message.
“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.”
She also revealed why she chose to reveal the incident to the radio station where Mueller worked: “I figured that if he would be brazen enough to assault me under these risky circumstances and high stakes, imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist if given the chance.
“It was important to report the incident to his radio station because I felt like they needed to know.”
It may not be the end of the issue, but Time Magazine’s cover is certainly a brilliant start.