It’s that time of year again, when TIME Magazine finally reveals its Person of the Year—a distinction that goes to the person or group of people who most influenced the way things went down this year. Some thought it might go to President Donald Trump, but he pre-emptively turned it down, if they even called him, or something. (Sad...?)
So, much to Trump’s dismay (or... joy? I, I don’t know), the Person of the Year honor went instead to Taylor Swift, Ashley Judd, Rose McGowan, Terry Crews, and a number of other women and men who spoke up about sexual assault and harassment over the course of the year, leading to what TIME hints could be a watershed moment for the conversation on gender violence today.
The Person of the Year magazine cover features Swift, Judd, and significantly, four less famous women: Adama Iwu, a corporate lobbyist; Susan Fowler, the former Uber engineer who blew the lid off the company’s sexist culture; Isabel Pascual, a strawberry picker from Mexico who asked to be interviewed under a pseudonym; and a woman whose face remains outside of the photograph. She’s an unnamed hospital worker from the middle of the country, TIME’s editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal said on the Today show.
“The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to,” Felsenthal said, “who doesn’t feel like—she shared her story with us and some others—but doesn’t feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.”
That reality is one far too well-known among victims of sexual assault and harassment. TIME does a great thing by highlighting this on its cover and throughout its coverage, and in going wide with its official honoree: The Silence Breakers. But in trying to construct a timeline of every single lawsuit, viral tweet, and headline that led to this moment, I’m afraid that TIME is doing a disservice to its readers—painting the fight against sexual violence as something that started with the leaked Access Hollywood tapes, was emboldened by Alyssa Milano and Tarana Burke, who are both credited with starting the #MeToo movement, and may end at some point in the near or distant future.
The truth is not that neat. The truth is that nearly every woman has faced gender violence in her lifetime, and victims of assault and harassment have been talking about it for forever. It does seem notable that this is the year that people finally started listening, but there are many, many, oh god, just so many more stories that have yet to come out, many that we’ll wish we had paid more attention to sooner. This didn’t started on January 1, 2017 and it won’t end on December 31, 2017, either. Let’s honor the silence breakers by not dropping these stories whenever the moment comes that #MeToo stops trending.