“Movie stars are supposedly nothing like you and me. They’re svelte, glamorous, self-possessed. They wear dresses we can’t afford and live in houses we can only dream of. Yet it turns out that—in the most painful and personal ways—movie stars are more like you and me than we ever knew.”
These are the opening lines of the story on the Person of the Year by TIME Magazine.
One of the most coveted titles of TIME’s Person of the Year goes to “The Silence Breakers”, also known as the women who set fire to the Hollywood film industry and sparked a huge movement worldwide on sexual harassment and misconduct. The cover features activist Adama Iwu, actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, strawberry picker Isabel Pascual and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler who came forward with their stories.
One of the ladies has only been shown only partially on the cover of the magazine. She is someone who spoke to the publication but “doesn’t feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood,” the magazine’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said, as he revealed the cover on NBC’s “TODAY” show.
The Silence Breakers emerged amid a slew of allegations of sexual misconduct and assault by film executive Harvey Weinstein. The movement against Harvey was spearheaded by actress Ashley Judd, who in October went on the record about Weinstein’s behaviour in the New York Times, being the first star to do so (Weinstein said he “never laid a glove” on Judd and denies having had non-consensual sex with other accusers.) Judd recalls one screenwriter friend telling her that Weinstein’s behaviour was an open secret passed around on the whisper network that had been furrowing through Hollywood for years. It allowed for people to warn others to some degree, but there was no route to stop the abuse. “Were we supposed to call some fantasy attorney general of moviedom?” Judd asks. “There wasn’t a place for us to report these experiences.”
The number of people who spoke up to expose dozens of sexual predators including famous individuals in Hollywood, politics, journalism, and other industries increased, as more people came forward to accuse Weinstein. Kevin Spacey, Charlie Rose, Sylvester Stallone and Matt Lauer are among those who have been accused.
The individuals who broke their silence to share their stories of victimization gave traction to the #MeToo campaign, which took off on social media and fueled a worldwide discussion on harassment. The phrase was first used more than a decade ago by social activist Tarana Burke as part of her work building solidarity among young survivors of harassment and assault. A friend of the actor Alyssa Milano sent her a screenshot of the phrase, and Milano, almost on a whim, tweeted it out on October 15. “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet,” she wrote and then went to sleep. She woke up the next day to find that more than 30,000 people had used #MeToo. Milano burst into tears.
At first, those speaking out were mostly from the worlds of media and entertainment, but the hashtag quickly spread. “We have to keep our focus on people of different class and race and gender,” says Burke, who has developed a friendship with Milano via text messages. By November, California farmworkers, Pascual among them, were marching on the streets of Hollywood to express their solidarity with the stars.
Women were no longer alone. “There’s something really empowering about standing up for what’s right,” says Fowler, who has grown comfortable with her new reputation as a whistle-blower. “It’s a badge of honour.”
“The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover … 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,” Felsenthal said in a statement regarding the movement.
In its story about the cover, Time said, “The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe.”
President Donald Trump and China’s President Xi Jinping were named as the second and third most influential people, respectively.
The magazine, for nearly a century, has identified the Person of the Year as a person or group that has had the most influence on news.
Others on the list include German Chancellor Angela Merkel, Bill and Melinda Gates.
Being named the person of the year, however, is not an endorsement. The list includes Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin and Iran’s Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.