Jonah Engel Bromwich
First it was a story. Then a moment. Now, two months after women began to come forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, it is a movement.
Time magazine has named “the silence breakers” its person of the year for 2017, referring to those women, and the global conversation they have started.
The magazine’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, said in an interview on the Today show Wednesday that the #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”.
Investigations published in October by The New York Times and The New Yorker, both of them detailing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against movie producer Harvey Weinstein, helped fuel the sudden rush of women coming forward.
In a joint interview after the choice was announced, Tarana Burke, who created the Me Too mantra years ago, and actress Alyssa Milano, who helped promote it more recently, focused on what was still left to do.
“I’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,” Burke said. “I think now the work really begins. The hashtag is a declaration. But now we’re poised to really stand up and do the work.”
Milano agreed, laying out her aspirations for the movement.
“I want companies to take on a code of conduct, I want companies to hire more women, I want to teach our children better,” she said. “These are all things that we have to set in motion, and as women we have to support each other and stand together and say that’s it, we’re done, no more.”
It is a testament to the size of the movement that the set of Today itself, where the announcement was made, had recently been the site of such a reckoning. Matt Lauer, one of NBC’s most well-known personalities for decades, was fired last week after an allegation of sexual harassment from a subordinate.
Time‘s 2017 runner-up for person of the year, Donald Trump, was accused during his presidential campaign by more than 10 women of sexual misconduct.
He said last month that Time had 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!”
In its Person of the Year 2017 cover story, Time noted that “this moment is borne of a very real and potent sense of unrest. Yet it doesn’t have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet. The hashtag #metoo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it.”
“This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women. These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.”
“Emboldened by Judd, Rose McGowan and a host of other prominent accusers, women everywhere have begun to speak out about the inappropriate, abusive and in some cases illegal behaviour they’ve faced. When multiple harassment claims bring down a charmer like former Today show host Matt Lauer, women who thought they had no recourse see a new, wide-open door. When a movie star says #metoo, it becomes easier to believe the cook who’s been quietly enduring for years.”
In choosing its Person of the Year, Time has said it names the person or people who had the greatest influence over the past 12 months.
In 2015, Time chose German Chancellor Angela Merkel; in 2014, it was “The Ebola Fighters”; and in 2013, Pope Francis – “The People’s Pope.”
Last year’s choice was President Trump.
In explaining that pick, Time‘s then-editor Nancy Gibbs wrote: “This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year. So which is it this year: Better or worse? The challenge for Donald Trump is how profoundly the country disagrees about the answer.”
New York Times, Washington Post