Content warning: This op-ed discusses sexual misconduct.
Every year, TIME Magazine publishes an issue highlighting something or someone that, according to Person of the Year: 75th Anniversary Celebration, “for better or for worse… has done the most to influence the events of the year.” Previous winners include world leaders like Vladimir Putin (2007), Barack Obama (2008) and Angela Merkel (2015). In other years, groups like the Ebola fighters (2014), American soldiers (2003) and American women (1975) have won. These winners impacted people and communities globally in their year and won over runners-up like Hillary Clinton (2012 and 2016), Taylor Swift (2014), Beyoncé (2016), Black Lives Matter activists (2015) and J.K. Rowling (2007). Now, as the time comes for 2017’s Person of the Year announcement, one potential winner stands out from the crowd as the most influential and my personal pick: the #MeToo movement.
In 2006, Tarana Burke, a social activist, founded Just Be Inc., an organization dedicated to the wellness and development of young women of color. Around that time, Burke began a movement that now floods our social media outlets and tops headlines weekly. Burke’s Me Too campaign shines the light on victims of sexual assault and showcases their individual experiences that vary based on race, color and economic status. Burke traces her experience with the movement to 1997, when a 13-year-old girl told Burke her story of sexual abuse. Burke remembers the lack of resources for victims of sexual assault at that time, and started her nonprofit, Just Be Inc., to provide those resources. With this came Burke’s name for the movement: Me Too.
Burke’s movement reached popularity this year after actress Alyssa Milano tweeted, encouraging women to share their experiences to showcase the severity and widespread nature of sexual assault. Now, as we watch famous actors and comedians fall from grace, it seems Pandora’s box has opened. From Harvey Weinstein to Kevin Spacey and Louis C.K., the #MeToo movement showcases the stories and voices of women who, for years, were silent about their abuse. As I look back on 2017, no person, object or idea seems more influential (for better) than the #MeToo movement. While the movement finds most of its headlines with popular and successful white female actresses, that has not stopped millions of people from sharing their stories and experiences. These voices and stories overpower the fear that once forced these victims into silence, especially thanks to Tarana Burke’s hard work and dedication as an activist.
Currently, TIME’s reader poll has Mohammad bin Salman, the Crown Prince of Saudi Arabia, as the top pick, with 17 percent. #MeToo ranks second, with 6 percent, followed by Carmen Yulín Cruz, The Dreamers, Colin Kaepernick and Robert Mueller all at 5 percent. It doesn’t seem like Trump will be in the running after he tweeted, “Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named ‘Man (Person) of the Year,’ like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot. I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!” last Friday, to which TIME tweeted, “The President is incorrect about how we choose Person of the Year. TIME does not comment on our choice until publication, which is December 6” in response. Regardless of Trump’s lie about TIME, the #MeToo movement, a movement to support victims of sexual assault, is polling ahead of him, a man accused by at least 15 women of sexual misconduct. Reader voting ends Dec. 4 and has an influence in the process, which is ultimately left to the editorial board.