‘The Silence Breakers’ have been announced as the 2017 TIME Person of the Year, yet we all missed the most important detail from the cover.
It’s not just the story that rocked Hollywood this year, but the Western world as we know it, the disturbing truth of sexual harassment going on in workplaces, homes and in public, affecting people of all genders – though disproportionately women – and seemingly happening in front of our eyes all the time.
Dedicating this year’s award to those who have spoken against sexual harassment and violence, the TIME cover features a portrait of Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, and Isabel Pascual – whose name was changed to protect her identity – as well as an anonymous elbow.
In a TODAY interview TIME Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal explained:
The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to, a hospital worker from the middle of the country, who doesn’t feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.
WATCH: “The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to… who doesn’t feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.” @TIME EIC @efelsenthal talks #TIMEPOY cover pic.twitter.com/q3bPbKNPbg
— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 6, 2017
In a world of lightning-speed information, it seems the subtlety of the image was missed by us all, a haunting similarity of the sickening situation it has taken until now to tackle.
What started in Hollywood with allegations against disgraced movie mogul Harvey Weinstein – with more and more entertainment icons being named and shamed – has led to the grim reality that sexual harassment has been going on all around us as friends and family posted their stories to social media with the hashtag #MeToo.
The elbow in the TIME cover represents every single one of them.
TIME’s National Correspondent Charlotte Alter told Buzzfeed News:
A huge part of this story we’re trying to tell here is that as much as the stigma around this has been removed this year because of the ‘Me Too’ movement, it’s still really difficult for a lot of people to come forward.
The cover photo is in fact a composite by photographer team Billy & Hells over two shoots in Los Angeles and San Francisco. Judd, Pascual, Fowler and Iwu met in San Francisco for the shoot along with the anonymous woman.
She too is a victim of sexual harassment but was there anonymously, she said, as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out.
From a distance, these women could not have looked more different. Their ages, their families, their religions and their ethnicities were all a world apart. Their incomes differed not by degree but by universe: Iwu pays more in rent each month than Pascual makes in two months.
But on that November morning, what separated them was less important than what brought them together: a shared experience.
TIME brought together dozens of people to share their experiences, and it’s not what sets them apart that is the issue, rather what they have in common.
The controlling power these brave people have broken with their simple truth has empowered those who have been afraid to come forward until now.
This is a monumental event. And the internet is reacting accordingly:
— Marya Petry Connolly (@MaryaPetry) December 6, 2017
— Judith Lefebvre (@lefebvre_judith) December 6, 2017
the most important part of this cover is the elbow pic.twitter.com/lcO8ANIAYj
— AJ (@ajchavar) December 6, 2017
President Donald Trump who could be impeached after sexual harassment allegations and Chinese president Xi Jinping were named runners up.