Yesterday, Time magazine unveiled its 2017 choice for person of the year:
It's "the silence breakers," the women (and men) who've spoken up against sexual misconduct in the workplace.
"This is the fastest moving social change we've seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women--and some men, too--who came forward to tell their own stories of sexual harassment and assault," explained Time Editor in Chief Edward Felsenthal, in an interview with the Today show.
Time's emotionally powerful cover included:
- Ashley Judd, whose personal account helped found The New York Times's landmark story accusing Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein of decades of sexual misconduct
- Taylor Swift, who accused Denver radio DJ David Mueller for groping her rear end during a photo shoot, resulting in his firing (and subsequent lawsuit against Swift, in which she countersued for a symbolic $1)
- Former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, whose viral blog post resulted in cataclysmic changes at her former company, including multiple firings and CEO Travis Kalanick stepping down
All of these women played a major role in what has become known as the #MeToo movement, in which victims are encouraged to share their own experiences of sexual harassment or abuse. In just a few short months, #MeToo seems to be the catalyst for a watershed moment in this nation's history.
But the most important woman in Time's cover photo is the one you can't see.
If you look closely, at the bottom right corner of the picture you'll see a single arm and elbow. The face is not visible.
"The image you see partially on the cover is of a woman we talked to, a hospital worker in the middle of the country who shared her story with us and some others, but doesn't feel that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood," Felsenthal said.
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
That image seems to have resonated with many--because it's a reminder of the millions of mothers, daughters, sisters, friends and colleagues who have dealt with, and continue to deal with, this physically and emotionally devastating experience.
But that image is also a symbol, a powerful lesson in emotional intelligence, that can be summed up in a single, powerful statement:
When it comes to the trauma experienced by victims, there isn't just one "right" way to handle it.
While some are quick to shout "me, too" with all their might, giving interviews and sharing on every social media channel they own, others are not yet comfortable sharing their experience with the rest of the world.
Some need more time.
So, ask yourself:
How can I better support the women in my life?
Thanks, silence breakers, for forcing us to answer that question.
Person of the year, well deserved.