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  • Writer's pictureChris Mads

Time's Person of the Year 2017: The Silence Breakers is perfect and hopeful

Can we take a moment to appreciate the gulf between Time's Person of the Year 2016 and the People of the Year 2017 please?

Last year, United States President Donald Trump graced the cover. He claimed he was set up to do so again this year, something the magazine has refuted. Thank god he hasn't. Instead, the magazine has put on the cover the faces of some of the women at the forefront of the #MeToo movement which is attempting to sweep down the doors and walls around the world's worst-kept secret - sexual abuse.

Actresses Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd are there and they are among those who have accused Hollywood movie mogul Harvey Weinstein of abuse. He refutes all the allegations against him and I have written previously about how this issue must be handled to make sure it does not slip away again. They are joined - among others - by Taylor Swift, who won a court case against a DJ who groped her, and activist Tarana Burke, who coined the "me too" phrase almost a decade ago.

But on top of the individual trials these people have faced, they are symbolic of something more. They are the sign of a change which has been a long time coming, of a discussion which has always been whispered and ignored and a battle which has been put off for too long.

Inside the issue, which features people of all ages, genders and races who have fallen victim to this long-standing curse, the battle against sexual abuse is described as in its infancy. In their article, authors Stephanie Zacharek, Eliana Dockterman and Haley Sweetland Edwards write: "We're still at the bomb-throwing point of this revolution, a reactive stage at which nuance can go into hiding. But while anger can start a revolution, in its most raw and feral form it can't negotiate the more delicate dance steps needed for true social change."

Not only is that a beautifully nuanced and aware assessment of this ongoing issue, but it is also a perfect reflection of why I believe this cover spells hope in a way that last year's did not.

As he sat on the front of Time magazine, representing the whole of 2016, Donald Trump was a symbol of all that had swept him to power. In many ways that was fervent nationalism, masterful manipulation of the press and social media and a deep-rooted public desire for change at the heart of the social order and political elite. But it was also a victory for noise , bombast and the cult of media and celebrity, often at the expense of insight and discussion. Now, 12 months on, this new cover shows the world has learned something - too much is going on which we are not talking about.

Trump was - and is - a master of flash without substance, of powerful rhetoric and inflammatory remarks, of making a headline and keeping the limelight without necessarily helping or changing anything. This year's cover is not. These people are the opposite of that. They are evidence that despite the power of the media machine we are starting to look inward at ourselves and at society. Finally deep-rooted problems are being addressed and dragged into the light. It is not comfortable or fun, it is not bombastic or glorious, but it is vital and it is central to a healthy, equal and safe society.

A year on from the moment we recognised a self-created demagogue as the symbol of our past 12 months, I am pleased that this year we see those who forced us to ask questions we don't want to and act on answers which we truly need to hear. The first step in any solution is admitting there is a problem and this cover is an admission which is there for all to see.


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