Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” as its 2017 person of the year on Wednesday, referring to the many individuals who helped expose the prevalence of sexual harassment and gender discrimination in the world of entertainment, technology, the media and other sectors this year.
“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover, Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Taylor Swift and Isabel Pascual, along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s,” Time’s editor-in-chief, Edward Felsenthal, said in a statement.
Felsenthal confirmed in an interview on MSNBC that President Donald Trump, last year’s person of the year, was the 2017 runner-up. Others on the person-of-the-year shortlist were North Korean leader Kim Jong-un, free-agent NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, Amazon.com AMZN, +0.94% founder and CEO Jeff Bezos, “Wonder Woman” director Patty Jenkins, the so-called Dreamers, special counsel Robert Mueller, Saudi Arabian crown prince Mohammed bin Salman and Chinese president Xi Jinping.
The revelations of sexual harassment and assault began with New York Times NYT, -0.80% and New Yorker stories that revealed yearslong sexual attacks on women, including alleged rape, by producer Harvey Weinstein. As more women came forward with stories of assaults in hotel rooms and elsewhere, other predators were named, including actor and producer Kevin Spacey and directors Brett Ratner and James Toback.
Social media, using the hashtag #MeToo, helped propel the movement to at least 85 countries, where women are revealing for the first time the many instances in which they face sexual harassment or coercion in their daily lives.
Felsenthal noted that the year started on a grim note for women, as “a man who had bragged on tape about sexual assault took the oath of the highest office in the land, having defeated the first woman of either party to be nominated for that office, as she sat beside a former president with his own troubling history of sexual misconduct.”
Susan Fowler, the Uber engineer who went public with allegations of how women are discriminated against at the ride-sharing company, leading to the departure of a number of executives, including then–chief executive Travis Kalanick, told Time that with Trump in the White House, “I remember feeling powerless, like even the government wasn’t looking out for us.”
Hollywood and the media, the two industries that have been at the heart of the scandal so far, “live in a coastal, co-dependent bubble,” said Felsenthal, but that doesn’t mean that similar behavior will not be found in the suites of corporate America, or at small businesses and in factories.
“Indeed, the biggest test of this movement will be the extent to which it changes the realities of people for whom telling the truth simply threatens too much,” he said.
The women featured in the magazine’s cover photo have played a central role in the movement, the editor said. Actress Ashley Judd was one of the first women to go public with allegations of abuse by Weinstein, and Taylor Swift spoke to the magazine for the first time since winning a groping lawsuit against radio personality David Mueller.
Fowler was one of a number of women working in Silicon Valley’s “tech bro” culture to reveal gender discrimination, while Adama Iwu, a lobbyist for Visa, started the “We Said Enough” campaign to reveal sexual harassment in politics.
Isabel Pascual is a strawberry picker who has spoken out against sexual harassment in her workplace.