THE “Silence Breakers”—those who have shared their stories about sexual assault and harassment—have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year.
Numerous women have spoken out publicly since October about sexual misconduct by dozens of high-profile men in entertainment, media, business and sports. Time praised those who have given “voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable.”
The magazine’s cover features Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Susan Fowler and others who say they have been harassed.
Time’s announcement was made Wednesday on NBC’s “Today” show, where longtime host Matt Lauer was fired last week amid harassment allegations. “Today” host Savannah Guthrie acknowledged Wednesday that this year’s winner hits “close to home” and mentioned Lauer by name.
Women who spoke out, initially against Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and then others, helped to spawn the #MeToo movement, with millions of people telling stories of sexual misconduct on social media.
The tweets, Instagram and Facebook posts began after actress-activist Alyssa Milano followed on a suggestion from a friend of a friend on Facebook and 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. #MeToo was actually founded by activist Tarana Burke a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence.
Milano and Burke appeared together Wednesday on the “Today” show.
“As women, we have to support each other and stand together and say, ‘That’s it. We’re done. No more,’” Milano said. “It’s vital to me that we really set in some actionable things that we can do to continue this momentum.”
The two runners-up for Person of the Year were Chinese President Xi Jinping and President Donald Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. He has denied any wrongdoing.
Trump, Person of the Year in 2016, tweeted recently that the magazine had told him he “probably” would be named again if he agreed to an interview and photo shoot. Trump added that he “took a pass.” Time has disputed his account.
Appearing on the cover with Judd, Swift and Uber engineer Fowler are lobbyist Adama Iwu and Isabel Pascual.
The cover also features an arm of a sixth person. It was not a cropping mistake. The partially photographed person symbolizes those who have yet to publicly come out about being sexually harassed.
And while there are only five women on the cover, the Time feature contains interviews from other Silence Breakers like Milano, Rose McGowan, Selma Blair, Megyn Kelly and others.
Terry Crews—the lone man—was also photographed for the cover story, which also included members of the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer) community.
She was the first high-profile person to accuse Hollywood producer and studio founder Harvey Weinstein of sexual harassment. She said that it happened in 1997, just before she made a name for herself. She met Weinstein, co-founder of Miramax, at a Beverly Hills hotel where the media mogul allegedly tried to get her to bed.
“I started talking about Harvey the minute that it happened,” Judd told Time magazine. “Literally, I exited that hotel room at the Peninsula Hotel in 1997 and came straight downstairs to the lobby, where my dad was waiting for me, because he happened to be in Los Angeles from Kentucky, visiting me on the set. And he could tell by my face—to use his words—that something devastating had happened to me. I told him. I told everyone.”
Apparently, what Weinstein did to her was no longer news. It was an open secret.
“Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of moviedom?” Judd asked. “There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences.”
Finally, in October, the 49-year-old actress went on the record about Weinstein’s behavior in an interview with the New York Times. One by one, other victims went on the record about Weinstein’s behavior. Among them were Gwyneth Paltrow, Angelina Jolie, Asia Argento, Mira Sorvino and dozens of other women who worked under Weinstein.
A lot of people were confused why Taylor Swift made it to the cover of Time’s Person of the Year issue. And in a way, the 27-year-old singer understood why her presence could be polarizing. She told Time that she was made to feel bad about the consequences that her harasser faced.
In June 2013, radio DJ David Mueller reached under Swift’s skirt and grabbed her bottom. As a result, Mueller was fired. He then sued Swift for millions in damages. Swift, on the other hand, countersued and testified about the incident in August—two months before the first few allegations against Weistein were made public. It’s also worth noting that Swift sued Mueller for a mere $1—a symbolic amount.
Swift was also a symbol of strength on the witness stand, telling Mueller’s lawyer: “I’m not going to let you or your client make me feel in any way that this is my fault. I’m being blamed for the unfortunate events of his life that are a product of his decisions. Not mine.”
Mueller was convicted of the charge. He told the Associated Press that he mailed his payment to Swift last Nov. 28.
“I figured that if he would be brazen enough to assault me under these risky circumstances, imagine what he might do to a vulnerable, young artist if given the chance.” (AP with JGA)