Hollywood abuse 'silence breakers' named as Time magazine's person of the year

Maya Oppenheim

The Hollywood abuse “silence breakers” have been named as Time magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year.

The decision to grant people who have come forward with allegations of sexual misconduct with the accolade was announced on NBC’s Today show on Wednesday morning.

The award is decided by Time’s editors and goes to the person or group who has had the most influence on the year’s news for better or worse.

“This is the fastest-moving social change we have seen in decades,” Time editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told the programme.

“It began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women – and some men, too – who came forward to tell their own stories.”

The show, which was recently forced to deal with its own harassment scandal that ousted ex-anchor Matt Lauer, hosted Alyssa Milano and the creator of the #metoo Tarana Burke to discuss the cover – both of whom have spoken publicly about their own experiences of alleged sexual misconduct.

The decision to give the award to the “silence breakers” is a nod to the scores of people who have come forward with allegations of rape, sexual assault and harassment in the wake of the Harvey Weinstein scandal.

More than 50 women have publicly accused Weinstein – who produced Oscar-winning films Shakespeare in Love, The English Patient, and The Artist – of sexual harassment, assault, rape, and inappropriate behaviour that spans four decades.

Since the allegations emerged in October, a stream of similar allegations have been made against powerful men across the globe. Social media has also been inundated with millions using the “me too” hashtag to share their own stories of sexual misconduct and denounce such acts.

The hashtag was created by Burke a decade ago in an attempt to support sexual assault survivors in disadvantaged communities but exploded after the Weinstein allegations.

“This is the just the start, and I’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,” Burke told the Today show.

The five featured on the Time cover are actress Ashley Judd, singer Taylor Swift, former Uber software engineer Susan Fowler, California lobbyist Adama Iwu, and strawberry picker Isabel Pascual. All of these women went public with the stories of sexual harassment they alleged they faced in the workplace.

US President Donald Trump, who was bestowed with the accolade last year, came second, while Xi Jinping, the leader of China, came third.

Other finalists included US Department of Justice Special Counsel Robert Mueller – the former FBI Director who is investigating the alleged collusion between Mr Trump’s 2016 campaign team and Russian officials.

North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, Wonder Woman director Patty Jenkins, and American-football player Colin Kaepernick, were also finalists for the magazine’s award.

Saudi Arabian Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman made the initial shortlist list for recently leading “a sweeping crackdown on businessmen and members of the royal family accused of corruption,” according to Time.

The tradition of Person of the Year can be traced back to 1927 when Charles Lindbergh – the first person to fly a plane solo across the Atlantic – was granted the honour.

The “better or worse” proviso allows for deeply unpopular people to be granted the award if they have exerted a great deal of influence on the news agenda. Adolf Hitler infamously won the award in 1938, as did Josef Stalin in 1939 and 1942. In 2015, the leader of Isis, Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, was placed second.

Weinstein, who was expelled from the Oscars and sacked from his namesake company, denies all accusations of non-consensual sex.

“Any allegations of non-consensual sex are unequivocally denied by Mr Weinstein. Mr Weinstein has further confirmed that there were never any acts of retaliation against any women for refusing his advances,” his spokesperson told The Independent in a statement.