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Time Name’s ‘The Silence Breakers’ Of The #MeToo Movement Person Of The Year

Person Of The Year 2017

Time Magazine has selected “The Silence Breakers” as its Person Of The Year for 2017:

First it was a story. Then a moment. Now, two months after women began to come forward in droves to accuse powerful men of sexual harassment and assault, it is a movement.

Time magazine has named “the silence breakers” its person of the year for 2017, referring to those women, and the global conversation they have started.

The magazine’s editor in chief, Edward Felsenthal, said in an interview on the “Today” show on Wednesday that the #MeToo movement represented the “fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades, and it began with individual acts of courage by women and some men too.”

Investigations published in October by The New York Times and The New Yorker, both of them detailing multiple allegations of sexual harassment and assault against the movie producer Harvey Weinstein, sparked the sudden rush of women coming forward.

In a joint interview after the choice was announced, Tarana Burke, who created the Me Too mantra years ago, and the actress Alyssa Milano, who helped promote it more recently, focused on what was still left to do.

“I’ve been saying from the beginning that it’s not just a moment, it’s a movement,” Ms. Burke said. “I think now the work really begins. The hashtag is a declaration. But now we’re poised to really stand up and do the work.”

Ms. Milano agreed, laying out her aspirations for the movement.

“I want companies to take on a code of conduct, I want companies to hire more women, I want to teach our children better,” she said. “These are all things that we have to set in motion, and as women we have to support each other and stand together and say that’s it, we’re done, no more.”

It is a testament to the size of the movement that the set of “Today” itself, where the announcement was made, had recently been the site of such a reckoning. Matt Lauer, one of NBC’s most well-known personalities for decades, was fired only last week after an allegation of sexual harassment from a subordinate. Other complaints soon followed.

And of course, Time’s 2017 runner-up for person of the year, Donald J. Trump, was accused during his presidential campaign by more than 10 women of sexual misconduct, from unwanted touching to sexual assault.

And of course, Time’s 2017 runner-up for person of the year, Donald J. Trump, was accused during his presidential campaign by more than 10 women of sexual misconduct, from unwanted touching to sexual assault.

Those accusations did not stop Mr. Trump from being named person of the year in 2016. And Mr. Trump inadvertently promoted this year’s announcement, tweeting that he had been told he would “probably” be chosen again and claiming to have turned down the honor. Time quickly released a statement saying that the president was incorrect.

Time has been using the title for more than nine decades to drum up interest in one of its tentpole issues. The magazine chose its first group, as opposed to a single “man of the year” (and back then it was a man), in 1950, when it selected “the American Fighting-man.” The title was changed to the neutral “person of the year” in 1999.

You can read the cover article at the link, as well as an explanation of how Time’s Editors reached their decision and profiles of several runners-up, including President Trump, special counsel Robert Mueller, and North Korean dictator Kim Jong Un. Any of these runners-up would have been good choices in and of themselves due to the impact that each of them have had on the news this year, but I agree with the decision to single out the women who have come forward to speak truth to power in the hope that it will become easier for other women, both in prominent fields like entertainment, the news media, and politics and in lesser positions, to come forward with their stories, hold men who have behaved badly and even illegally accountable for their actions, and to send the message that behavior that was previously considered acceptable, dismissed with the excuse that “boys will be boys” will no longer be accepted. One thing that has been notable about many of these reports is that they have been accompanied by acknowledgments that it was indeed well known that such things were going on but that people either looked the other way because the men involved were in positions of power or because people were afraid to cross paths with men who could potentially destroy their careers. Based on that, it’s clear that the “cleaning house” that has unfolded so quickly this year is long overdue and that behavior like this will not be accepted or tolerated anymore.

While this kind of behavior has been swept under the rug for decades, the last several years have seen a marked changed in how this behavior is treated and how the women who make these allegations are treated when they do come forward The trend actually began last year with the revelations coming out of Fox News Channel regarding people such as Roger Ailes and Bill O’Reilly, both of whom were ultimately removed from their seemingly untouchable positions. The trend began to pick up steam, though, in the wake of a round of revelations that began last month. It started, not surprisingly, in the entertainment industry with allegations against people such as Bill CosbyHarvey WeinsteinKevin Spacey, filmmaker Bruce RatnerGeorge Takei, Charlie Rosepolitical pundit Mark Halperin and Matt Lauer. In the political world, it has led to accusations about men such as Roy Moore, Al Franken, John Conyers. and Texas Congressman Blake Farenthold is under pressure to resign after it was reported that he had used $84,000 in taxpayer dollars to settle a sexual harassment claim by a former female staffer.

As for the way forward, that seems to be very simple to me.

First of all, ever since the #MeToo movement started to gather force in the wake of the Weinstein allegations, the number of women I follow Twitter and Facebook who have shared their stories of sexual assault or harassment, in some cases apparently for the first time, has been alarming and eye-opening. Since graduating law school, I’ve worked alongside women who were subordinates, opposing counsel and other fellow attorneys, bosses, Judges, and in a wide variety of other roles. I also have many female friends on social media and in the real world who I’m able to get along with quite well without acting like a jerk who didn’t grow out of being a frat boy in college. I was always aware that behavior like what has been described in many of these posts occurred, but I’ve never witnessed it (as far as I know) nor did I realize how widespread it is. I’m betting many other men didn’t either. For that reason alone, these revelations are a good and positive thing.

Second, it’s always seemed very simple to me. Sexual assault of any kind is always wrong, and excuses for harassing behavior like “I was drunk,” “She was drunk,” or “No means yes” are never acceptable. As far as sexual harassment goes, no means no, and there is no justification for someone to make those kinds of advances in a professional setting, especially when one is in a position of power over another person such as in the employment situation. There’s also no excuse for such unwanted behavior outside the office whether it’s at a college party or in a bar on Ladies Night or during Happy Hour.  It’s important that women in all aspects of society are being given the opportunity to expose what used to be a dirty little secret, and I have little sympathy for the men who have paid the price for their egregious and disgusting behavior over the years. Hopefully, things like this will encourage other women to come forward and speak the truth, whether we’re talking about a starlet in Hollywood who was subjected to the so-called “casting couch” or a woman who works as a cashier, a secretary, or whatever who is being taken advantage of by men in a position of power over them.

Finally, I’ve seen several men commenting or posting in response to dismissive tones regarding these disclosures, and that is just as disturbing as the reports themselves. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for acting like a boorish jerk, and the fact that a woman isn’t interested in you isn’t a reason to treat her like crap. Additionally, dismissing the reports that are being posted as some kind of social media fad is, well, kind of pathetic, as is the excuse that the campaign is somehow an attack on all men, which it clearly isn’t. Stop acting like jerks, guys. It’s as simple as that. In other words. if you don’t want to be accused to sexual harassment then there’s an easy answer — DON’T SEXUALLY HARASS WOMEN. It’s really as simple as that.

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About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May, 2010 and also writes at Below The Beltway. Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Bob@Youngstown says:

    Me Too…
    I’m really conflicted on some of these accusations, probably because of personal experience.

    In the mid 80s my wife and I went through a parenting class for prospective adoptive parents. In that class we met a couple, both teachers, who eventually adopted a 12 year old. Two years later the now 14 year old girl called the “Governor’s Hot Line” and claimed that her parents were sexually abusing her. Both parents (because they were teachers) were immediately discharged from their jobs and were unable to work in the state. They lost their house, their reputations, their friends.

    Six weeks after the above accusation, our 15 year old made a similar accusation against my wife and me. Now, I will not describe all the hell that the other couple endured- and it was substantial and enduring – fortunately for us, our jobs were not impacted, but I can assure you that for the better part of a year we were treated by law enforcement as criminal child molesters.

    Almost two years later, the child of the couple that had been teachers finally admitted that she’d made the whole thing up to retaliate against her adoptive parents for not allowing her to go to some school dance because she was failing in her school work. Because the child had no real bonds with her adoptive parents – so she was just as happy when Children Services removed her from the home, and in fact gleeful when she fully appreciated what power she had. Point is: she used the allegation as a weapon and successfully damaged.

    Turns out that the two children were best friends and had discussed using the hot line as leverage – or punishment against those parents that were try to guide them into adulthood.

    AND.. BTW both children had the presence of mind to tell her other classmates about the alleged abuse so they would have others that could claim they had contemporaneous knowledge and could tell police investigators.

    So, while no doubt, some (even many) of the “she said, METOO !” stories maybe true, my personal experience tends to put me in a much more skeptical place.

    Sorry for the very long post.

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  2. gVOR08 says:

    So… Not only is it not Trump, it’s about as far from Trump as they could get. (Even if he is a runner up.) Good for them.

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  3. Stormy Dragon says:

    Finally, I’ve seen several men commenting or posting in response to dismissive tones regarding these disclosures, and that is just as disturbing as the reports themselves. “Boys will be boys” is not an excuse for acting like a boorish jerk

    Need I remind you, one of your cobloggers made precisely this argument several years ago:

    Air Force Academy Gets First Female Superintendent

    Resistance to the presence of women was fierce, with at least one superintendent resigning in protest. Indeed, the atmosphere within the Corps of Cadets at West Point was still toxic when I arrived in 1984; hell, I contributed to it.

    Dr. Joyner’s attempts in the following comment thread to pass this off as “being just the way things were then” is personally what I consider the low point of this blog over the 10+ years I’ve been a reader.

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  4. James Pearce says:

    dismissing the reports that are being posted as some kind of social media fad is, well, kind of pathetic

    It may be “pathetic” but it does appear to be what’s going on.

    I mean, it may not look like that now, with Al Franken about to fall and Conyers and Matt Lauer so fresh in our minds, but advance your consciousness six months into our future. Where are Donald Trump and Roy Moore in this imagined future?

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  5. Paul L. says:

    Where is Jackie Coakley? I do not know why Ashley Judd who stayed quiet about Harvey Weinstein is being celebrated.

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  6. Daryl's other brother Daryll says:

    @Paul L.:

    I do not know

    The list of things you don’t know is soooo long…yyuuuuge, even.

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  7. Slugger says:

    The behavior that is now being sanctioned is not something that was ok twentyfive years ago and is now out side the lines. For all the boss-chasing the secretary cartoons this stuff was always outside the official lines; we are now seeing those lines enforced. I remember my sister telling me about her boss propositioning her; she told me instead of Dad because Dad would have visited the boss with a sock full of gravel. Since he had not touched her, I told her to be firm and keep me informed.

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  8. Lynn says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Resistance to the presence of women was fierce, with at least one superintendent resigning in protest. Indeed, the atmosphere within the Corps of Cadets at West Point was still toxic when I arrived in 1984; hell, I contributed to it.”

    You forgot the next line of that blog: “We’ve thankfully come a long way over the past three decades but, as recent events have shown, not far enough.”

    He was not dismissing the way things were, as you claim, he was deploring them.

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  9. Gustopher says:

    A solid choice from Time. I don’t think that when the far right was pushing the “Harvey Weinstein, Democrat Doner To Hillary Clinton is disgusting” story that they were expecting it to be a watershed moment like this. I know I stopped caring after seeing the word “Clinton” and knowing the people pushing the story, but my hat is off to them — your right wing talking points caught on and changed society for the better when people ignored the right wing talking points part.
    I don’t doubt that there will be a few false accusations here and there, but it rebalances thesituation a bit closer to equal. A net positive.

    And, I don’t think there is any man who hasn’t reassessed his relationships and behavior with women in the workplace. And that’s a good thing. A lot of men will claim “well, I never did anything”, but will actually not do anything in the future. And that’s a good thing.

    But, let’s be clear, if I slap the male interns on the ass, that’s still ok, right?

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  10. Scott F. says:

    @gVOR08:

    Would have been better if they’d included Summer Zervos in their profiles.

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  11. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Bob@Youngstown: When multiple women come out and say “This man assaulted me.” and their stories, while each is unique, share scary similarities, and none of these women know each other, or have any reason for a collective vendetta against an individual, it is hard to play the “I know someone who was falsely accused once” card to cast doubt on their and other’s pain.

    I too know someone who was falsely accused by a foster child. DFS did a months long investigation interviewing all the foster children my buddy and his wife had taken in over the years, including the other 3 or 4 who were living with them at the time and guess what? None of the other children reported any abuse of any kind at all. Ever. DFS concluded that the girl in question was lying and yes it was to get back at my buddy and his wife for having rules. They were allowed to foster children again.

    Yes it was painful for them. Yes it was scary. Yes it was costly. But what was the alternative?

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  12. cian says:

    Devastating for the Dems, these accusations of sexual harassment. The republicans know their base could care less and are willing to ignore any behavior, but the dems have supporters who care deeply about the issue (rightly) and so will literally decimate their ranks over it.. Bannon and Co are delirious, watching their rivals destroy themselves.

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  13. Dumb Brit says:

    Looks like Donald Trump’s hands are all over this award.

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  14. KM says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    My younger sister called CPS the day before her 18th b-day as a last FU before leaving to go live with her BF. Due to my federal job and security clearances at the time, I got a call to come in for an interview as well. Thank god the CPS agent realized it was retaliatory by my sister and it was a basically just formality. As soon as it was over, I got in my car, drove all the way home and kicked nine kinds of crap out of my sibling for that stunt. She could have cost me my job, my parents their livelihood and home and for what? I have no idea how my mother managed to forgive her but I’m still a little pissed about the whole thing.

    False accusations do happen but an investigation is usually enough to turn up evidence of forgery. That’s why Project Veritas’s stunt failed – things just didn’t add up. For people like Wienstein, Trump, Moore et all I find the accusers to be far more credible. For everyone who worries this will trigger a wave of false allegations, I cannot deny that a few might occur but the vast, vast majority of them will be true. It’s alright to be cautious but everyone deserves the right to believed until proven otherwise just as every accused has the right to a defense.

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  15. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @OzarkHillbilly:

    Yes it was painful for them. Yes it was scary. Yes it was costly. But what was the alternative?

    These cases we mention, all went thru the pain, cost, and emotional turmoil to eventually vindicate themselves because they embraced due process.

    Because they (and we) were not guilty, and were not ready to falsely admit guilt, they had no alternative. The investigative system did it’s part, assessed the facts and determined the veracity of the accusations.

    That is what makes the current situation so problematic. Whether we speak of Roy Moore or Al Franken, the “verdict” is being driven by public opinion rather than professional law investigators.

    I’m skeptical of Moore’s accusers, just as I’m skeptical of Franken’s. I would like to see an investigation conducted by professionals. Both deserve their day in “court”.

    If Franken resigns today, he will do so because he: (1) is actually guilty of being a serial molester or (2) for political purposes.

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  16. KM says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    That is what makes the current situation so problematic. Whether we speak of Roy Moore or Al Franken, the “verdict” is being driven by public opinion rather than professional law investigators.

    Public opinion can also be used to give them a pass as we see with Moore. What happens when someone guilty as sin parades around freely because people just don’t care and there’s nothing you can legally do about it? The “verdict” in that case in innocence so it would never make it to the police.

    In both cases, what exactly is law enforcement supposed to do? Statue of limitations has run out in some cases so legally they can’t do anything. It’s become a matter for the civil courts, not the police. Want to change that? Remove the statue of limitations. That would have lead to Franken in cuffs for his picture, Moore for the yearbook and Trump for the tape. It’s never going to fly because it will be decried as “anti-male” but until these things are taken as seriously as other crimes, the statue of limitations should be extended so justice can finally arrive even if it’s decades late.

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  17. michael reynolds says:

    I’m old enough that I was around during the McMartin Pre-school madness. That had two effects on me. First, I’ve never been comfortable showing physical affection to my adopted daughter. That’s no big tragedy, I’m not exactly a huggy person, and of course she’s never gone a day without hearing that I love her. But touching? Not so much.

    The second effect was in my professional life, (I am occasionally known as the evil genius of YA), where my core audience is 14 year-old girls. I set policy from day #1 that I would never, under any circumstances be alone with a fan. On the handful of occasions where I’ve met with a specific fan (contest winners, student journalists) there is always a teacher, librarian or parent present.

    It’s sad that I have to pre-emptively react to the possibility of false accusation. But the truth is if my daughter was a big fan of a 63 year-old man I’d want to be damned sure they were never alone together. Women are not wrong to treat men cautiously – men as a group have earned that mistrust. It’s awful when false accusations are made. But it is worse when the real thing happens.

    Like a lot of men I’ve gone back over my past relationships with women. Almost 50 years ago I committed my only act of sexual violence: when a girl wouldn’t let me remove her bra I somewhat angrily snapped the elastic strap before going off to pout. I’ve never intimidated or threatened a woman. I absolutely slept with women over whom I had supervisory power (restaurant assistant manager or headwaiter) but the idea of a quid pro quo would have been humiliating to me. What, I can’t get laid without bribery or threats? That was never the game for me, the game was to convince women that they wanted to sleep with you, not that they had to.

    The standard has certainly changed, but only around the edges. I’ve never at any point believed that society approved of harassment, let alone physical aggression. I’ve never felt anything but contempt for men who behaved that way, and I think (hope) most men feel the same way. The changes aren’t fundamental, they’re marginal. Some of it is too much, some of it is ridiculous, and yes, I think some good men may be seriously harmed by this. But we are in a period of change and change is seldom as smooth as I’d like. We’ll reach some equilibrium on this. It sucks that good men are perhaps being brought down, but it sucks a bit less when you consider the overwhelming amount of bullsh!t women have had to endure, and how many of them had careers truncated by predatory males.

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  18. grumpy realist says:

    @KM: Mmmm. I come down on the other side of the equation. Between changes in expectation of behavior, changes in what women will put up with, memory, and the need for due process I think we should stick with the present statute of limitations for this sort of behavior.

    I don’t want this to slop over and turn into a witch hunt, because I suspect the end result would be, not that women would get treated better, but that no one would care what sort of sexual harassment was inflicted on them. Treating women nicely would become tagged as “political correctness” with the resultant “backlash” against PC validating sexual harassment. It would be the ultimate “do what the liberals hate, updated daily.”

    If social disapproval doesn’t do the trick, maybe we’ll have to go back to carrying hatpins and daggers around with us to forcibly discourage groping. Teach our young ‘uns to defend themselves. And wear corsets.

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  19. Gromitt Gunn says:

    @cian: A year into this Trump nightmare, I’ve become quite okay with the continuous drawing of a very clear moral line between the GOP and everyone else. And since history is littered with the corpses of the victims of powerful men whose bad behavior was excused “for the good of the movement,” I’m also quite okay with this newfound self-policing.

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  20. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @KM:

    what exactly is law enforcement supposed

    I didn’t intend to suggest that the police are the only qualified investigators, so criminal charges is not the only avenue to redress a grievance. No lawyer am I but as a general principle in a civil proceeding the plaintiff has to demonstrate some actual damages.

    I can understand your sense that limitations statutes ought to be revisited, but I’m not at all sure how one would justify (for example) thirty year old offense that no one sought to bring at the time.
    Murder has no limitations, but does unwanted touching rise to that level?

    I’d be more interested in viewing the inequities associated with non-disclosure agreements. My feeling is that people who did address a grievance in a (reasonably) timely manner should not be gagged.

    @michael reynolds: I too, reacted to our other daughters in a extremely cautious, even distant, manner after what we went through. Now, later in life I regret that distance for it is now reflected in my relationships with our (now) adult daughters. And I feel ashamed that I caused it because of a coping, self-preservation behavior.

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  21. KM says:

    @Bob@Youngstown:

    Murder has no limitations, but does unwanted touching rise to that level?

    Yes. If “unwanted touching ” has ever happened to you, you’d feel the same. I’ve said it before, if hetero males had to worry about aggressive gays molesting and harassing them as much as women do, we wouldn’t even be having a discussion on “how long is too long” to report something.

    I’m of the opinion that statue of limitations should only to non-violent crimes. If it involves another person in any sort of physically harmful way you shouldn’t be able to run out the clock. Many victims are intimidated or threaten to keep their silence and thus things aren’t going to come to the fore right away. We consider murder to be so heinous we aren’t willing to excuse the passage of time – 30yr old cases can and will be re-investigated. Society downplays sexual harassment and abuse so much it’s a meme and joke to some: “bad touch”. Even when it does get reported, there’s no guarantee anything will be done – Corey Feldman named names in 1993 and it’s only gaining traction a quarter of a century later.

    Why should justice be denied simply because the attacker was able to successfully silence their victim? Why should they get to wait out a decade and be in the clear – it’s not like they’re going to stop in the meantime. As we’ve seen, one perv can have hundreds of victims. If we got the kinds of reactions we’re seeing now from the start, there wouldn’t be any 30yr old cases to dreg up.

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  22. Bob@Youngstown says:

    @KM: Two questions for you :
    1) What is your feeling about non-disclosure agreements
    2) Are there degrees of “unwanted touching” as there are degrees of murder?

    Make no mistake about this. I do not speak to defend sexual aggressors or transgressors, rather both the accusers and the accused should have their due process. Due process is the way our society attempts to achieve justice. Now how do we as a society go about that?

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