Time Magazine Names ‘the Silence Breakers’ Its Person of the Year

Social activist Tarana Burke (Time magazine Person of the Year video screenshot)
Social activist Tarana Burke (Time magazine Person of the Year video screenshot)

Time’s Person of the Year isn’t a single person but a movement. On Wednesday, the magazine announced that “the silence breakers”—the victims of sexual harassment and assault who have come forward to tell their stories—had earned the distinction of being its Person of the Year for 2017.


Time Editor-in-Chief Edward Felsenthal told the Today show in an interview Wednesday morning that this year’s #MeToo movement represented the “fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men too.”

Time’s article features an array of women and men from all backgrounds and walks of life. There are the celebrities who initially grabbed headlines, like actress Ashley Judd, who was the first to go on the record to accuse Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. But there is also a hospital worker, an engineer, a strawberry picker, a housekeeper, an entrepreneur—all of whom had their portraits taken for the piece.

While prominent public figures like Judd and Terry Crews drove the conversation about sexual harassment and sexual assault to the forefront, the article is arguably most effective in showing the scope of a pervasive, global problem.

As Time writes:

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 labor 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.


Time magazine says its team spent six weeks compiling stories of harassment and assault, interviewing dozens of men and women in a windowless room in San Francisco’s Mission District. Following Time’s announcement of the Person of the Year, Charlotte Alter, a national correspondent for the outlet, noted on Twitter that the piece was “conceived, reported and written by women.”

“It was fact-checked by women,” Alter added. “The video was shot and edited by women. The layout and photo spread were designed by women.”


A conspicuous absence on Time magazine’s front cover, though, is that of Tarana Burke, who originally used the phrase “me too” to build solidarity among survivors of sexual abuse more than a decade ago. Burke is featured in both the promotional video for the story and within the article itself.

“Sexual harassment does bring shame,” Burke told the magazine. “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.”


Time does note that people of color—as well as immigrants, people with disabilities, low-income workers and LGBTQ people—face “many types of dread” when they come forward to report sexual abuse.

“If they raised their voices, would they be fired?” the article notes. “Would their communities turn against them? Would they be killed?”


Among the people of color whose experiences are profiled are Crystal Washington, one of seven employees of the Plaza Hotel who have filed a sexual harassment suit against the hotel; and Adama Iwu, a lobbyist who organized an open letter exposing harassment in the California Legislature. Terry Crews, the most recognizable man to come forward with sexual harassment claims, is also shown prominently.

“Nobody questions the predator,” Crews told Time. “You know why? Because they just expect it. And I expect it. And I just said, ‘No more.’”


Of course, not everyone who’s come forward with their stories has been embraced. Anita Hill is rightfully mentioned as a predecessor to the #MeToo movement who did not receive the same groundswell of public support. And among the most conspicuous celebrity absences may be that of actress Lupita Nyong’o, who is among the dozens of women who came forward with stories of Weinstein’s predatory and harassing behavior toward them—and the only one whose story he specifically disputed.

And it turns out, Donald Trump, who claimed he would “probably” have been Time person of the year, did get a mention—as the sexual harasser in chief.


Susan Fowler, a former engineer at Uber, cited the president as a reason she decided to blow the whistle on her former employer.

“I remember feeling powerless and like there was no one looking out for us because we had an admitted harasser in the White House,” Fowler told Time. “I felt like I had to take action.”


Read more at Time.

Staff writer, The Root.


A conspicuous absence on Time Magazine’s front cover, though, is Tarana Burke, who originally used the phrase “Me Too” to build solidarity among survivors of sexual abuse more than a decade ago.

T-Swift got in on that, though! Ugh.