The “Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement, which onetime Philly activist Tarana Burke started a decade ago, have been named Time magazine’s Person of the Year, NBC’s Today show announced this morning.
Time’s so-called Silence Breakers refueled Burke’s #MeToo movement, which she first started as a campaign from an organization called Just Be Inc. Burke founded the organization in 2003, as she told Inquirer columnist Elizabeth Wellington earlier this year. The Me Too campaign began in 2007.
However, the campaign picked up popularity in October in the wake of the sexual misconduct allegations against Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein.
Around that time, actress Alyssa Milano asked followers to write “me too” as a reply to a now-viral tweet on Twitter if they had ever been sexually assaulted or harassed. The tweet resulted in a number of women sharing via social media stories of sexual assault and harassment. According to CBS, the #MeToo hashtag generating 1.7 million tweets as of last month.
If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet. pic.twitter.com/k2oeCiUf9n
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 15, 2017
Milano later acknowledged that Burke originated the #MeToo movement, calling its origins “equal parts heartbreaking and inspiring.” Burke is a three-time survivor of sexual violence.
— Alyssa Milano (@Alyssa_Milano) October 16, 2017
“I want the women I work with to find the entry point to where their healing is,” Burke told the Inquirer in October. “Violence is violence. Trauma is trauma. And we are taught to downplay it, even think about it as child’s play.”
Time also spoke with Burke for the magazine’s story on the Silence Breakers, asking her what she thought of the movement going viral a decade after she created it.
“Sexual harassment does bring shame,” she told the magazine. “And I think it’s really powerful that this transfer is happening, that these women are able not just to share their shame, but to put the shame where it belongs: On the perpetrator.”
Among the women on the cover representing the movement is Taylor Swift, who won a symbolic $1 in a civil court case after a jury found that a DJ had groped her. Actress Ashley Judd, who came forward with allegations about Hollywood executive Harvey Weinstein’s sexual harassment, is also on the cover. Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu and Isabel Pascual also represent the movement on the cover.
“For giving voice to open secrets, for moving whisper networks onto social networks, for pushing us all to stop accepting the unacceptable, the Silence Breakers are the 2017 Person of the Year,” Time’s Editor-in-Chief, Edward Felsenthal, wrote of the decision.
Time has chosen a group rather than a person for the title in years past. In 2014 it was the Ebola fighters.
NBC’s Today show, which recently fired longtime host Matt Lauer (who hosted a show in Philly in the 1980s) following allegations of sexual misconduct, announced Time’s pick, with host Savannah Guthrie noting that the choice is “close to home.”
Other finalists for Time’s Person of the Year included Amazon founder Jeff Bezos, Chinese President Xi Jinping, and President Trump.
Trump earlier had claimed that he “took a pass” on the honor this year, which Time later denied, saying that the magazine’s doesn’t comment on its choice until its announcement.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.