After announcing its list of finalists on Monday — which included President Trump (last year’s winner), football player-turned-social justice activist Colin Kaepernick, and murderous dictator Kim Jung-un — TIME revealed on Wednesday its 2017 Person of the Year, and it’s not a singular person or even exactly a group of specific people. The real winner is arguably a movement: #MeToo.
TIME’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal announced the selection on “TODAY” on Wednesday and unveiled the new cover, which features both famous and not-so-famous women the magazine describes as “The Silence Breakers,” including actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Isabel Pascual. The cover also features a woman whose face cannot be seen:
These “silence breakers,” as TODAY puts it, “set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment.”
“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,” said Felsenthal in a statement.
“The idea that influential, inspirational individuals shape the world could not be more apt this year. For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, The Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year,” said Felsenthal.
The editor-in-chief specifically highlighted the importance of the #MeToo movement, which he described as a “powerful accelerant” to the cultural change initiated by the silence breakers.
The #MeToo movement gained momentum amid a series of allegations against Harvey Weinstein. The Hollywood-shaking revelations about Weinstein and his decades-long behavior set off a flood of allegations not only against the megaproducer, but against other public figures, including Kevin Spacey, Al Franken, Roy Moore, Charlie Rose and Matt Lauer.
In its Person of the Year article, TIME describes the rise of the movement as “decades, centuries” in the making:
Like the “problem that has no name,” the disquieting malaise of frustration and repression among postwar wives and homemakers identified by Betty Friedan more than 50 years ago, 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.
TODAY notes that the official founder of the #MeToo movement, Tarana Burke, responded to its recognition on Twitter, writing, “Thank you EVERYONE!! Especially all of you who rang the alarm when you thought I wasn’t being acknowledged. I couldn’t say anything!! I’m sorry. But I felt every bit of the love. Now the work REALLY begins.”