When Anonymity Breaks Silence: TIME's 2017 Person of the Year
With the end of the year approaching, 2017 is looking like a year that will be remembered as a time when silence was broken—a year when making noise, and lots of it, looked like it was more likely to bring more peace and order than staying quiet. This is especially true for women whose message has become loud and clear: we will no longer be silenced; that time is gone for good.
TIME magazine celebrates this and more in their newly-released cover that features its 2017 People of the Year. Five powerful women grace the cover: Hollywood actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, Adama Iwu who is the head of government relations in the western states for Visa, and Isabel Pascual. (Pascual's original name was changed to protect her identity). The cover was shot by Belgium-based photography duo Bills & Hells.
Collectively, these women have been dubbed the "The Silence Breakers" in honor of their fearlessness in leading the groundbreaking #MeToo movement. #MeToo was born out of women across industries (most notably in Hollywood, media, and politics) who bravely decided to share their stories of sexual assault and harassment in the workplace.
Their stories were shared with the hopes of blowing the whistle on their harassers who, in most cases, were high-profile men and male industry titans who had the power to make or break their careers, while letting other women who have been similarly abused know that they are not alone, and that justice can, indeed, be served.
Featuring these women sends out a strong and solid message, but a closer examination of the image reveals an almost unnoticeable detail. The arm of an unnamed woman shares the spotlight, too.
It wasn't a mistake. She's the star of the cover.
This anonymous woman is the face of all the other women who have become targets of sexual abuse but, for a myriad of reasons, have not come forward to reveal their abusers or seek help. All that has been revealed about this sixth woman is that she works at a hospital in the United States, and has chosen to remain hidden from the public eye to avoid antagonism at work.
What she symbolizes is the whole reason for this magazine cover, the ugly truth that spawned #Me too; many women that have faced sexual abuse suffer in silence, in anonymity. Oftentimes, the shame from sharing their experiences with friends and family is overwhelming, or the fear of outing offenders (and possibly losing a job) is so extreme that they fold into themselves, living in silence even after much time has passed.
Wielding its power, #MeToo is a helping hand extended to these women, a message that tells them, "I've stood in your shoes. I've been there too. But all of us, we're together now. And together, we can fight this, and we can end this." As of this writing, millions of women from across the globe with different cultural, social, religious, and professional backgrounds have come forward. Their numbers are both alarming and revealing.
When it comes to the women featured on this soon-to-be historic cover, all six of them have come out with their stories of abuse over the course of the last few months. All of them have consciously risen above the trauma, deciding to take action and give women a voice, and make sure they're heard.
The cover is already being touted as a commemoration of this era's "biggest cultural reckoning." The reckoning being that sexual offenders are no longer paying for their misconduct by getting a light slap on the wrist or 20 minutes in the time out corner. This time around, they're being publicly called out, losing their jobs, made to answer to legal charges, stripped of their honors and titles, and ultimately, being asked to step down from pedestals they should never been propped on to begin with.
That's right; after all this time, sexual harassment towards women (and men, too, for that matter) is finally being taken seriously and no longer tolerated or scoffed at. It's finally actually a big deal. It took long enough, but it's finally happened.
The world is changing. And if 2018 and the years after that are going to be anything like 2017 in terms of empowered female voices, we have a lot to look forward to.
Photo from @time