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metoo-2859980_960_720Time magazine announced their 2017 Person of the Year on Wednesday, December 6. The award, however, is not going to a single individual this year. Instead, Time’s 2017 Person of the Year is a group of women that Time calls “The Silence Breakers.” This group of women is composed of “the individuals who set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment.” This firestorm of accusations has consumed Hollywood and Washington, D.C. leading to the investigation and firing of a number of powerful men. The movement began with the accusations against film executive Harvey Weinstein and has since spread to other industries. Former anchor Matt Lauer was accused of sexual misconduct as were multiple members of Congress.

Women broke their silence on social media as well with the #MeToo campaign. The hashtag has been used millions of times in more than 80 countries since its inception. Activist Tarana Burke created the movement back in 2006, but the hashtag did not go viral until actress Alyssa Milano used it in a tweet. “I could never imagine this,” Burke said. “I could never have envisioned something that would change the world. I was trying to change my community.”

The cover image of Time’s story included actress Ashley Judd, superstar singer Taylor Swift, lobbyist Adama Iwu, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler and a strawberry picker and immigrant from Mexico whose name was changed to protect her identity. The photograph also contains the shoulder and arm of a woman who asked to remain unnamed and unidentified. The cropped arm apparently belongs to a young hospital worker from Texas who feared that disclosing her identity would negatively impact her livelihood. The inclusion of this nameless and faceless woman is meant to represent those who are still unable to come forward out of fear, mistrust, humiliation or potential repercussions. Time Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal confirmed the story and the symbolism behind the woman who is cropped out of the cover picture. Time National Correspondent Charlotte Alter agreed that the inclusion of the anonymous woman’s arm was intentional. “A huge part of this story we’re trying to tell here,” said Alter, “is that as much as the stigma around this has been removed this year because of the ‘MeToo’ movement, it’s still really difficult for a lot of people to come forward.”

The Time Person of the Year award began in 1927 and featured Charles Lindbergh, the man who made the first solo nonstop flight across the Atlantic Ocean. The award has since recognized a variety of individuals such as Martin Luther King Jr., Winston Churchill, Elizabeth II, Dr. David Ho and multiple US presidents. The award has also gone to several notorious leaders including Adolf Hilter in 1938, Joseph Stalin in both 1939 and 1942 and Ayatullah Khomeini in 1979.  The title is awarded to the person or group that “for better or for worse…has done the most to influence the events of the year.” With the sexual harassment accusations still pouring it, it is fair to say that the influence of the Silence Breakers is likely to last beyond the end of 2017.

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