It has been a few weeks since Time Magazine announced their annual person (or persons in this case) of the year. Featured on this year’s cover were Ashley Judd, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, Isabel Pascual, an anonymous woman and Taylor Swift. Bearing the headline “The Silence Breakers: The People Who Started a Movement” it was a cover that resonated with the plight of many women in 2017. It was a statement, and a bold one at that.
The cover represented women who had spoken out about their experiences with sexual assault most notably through the #MeToo movement that took the internet by storm in the wake of sexual assault allegations against media mogul Harvey Weinstein. But did every woman on the cover deserve their coveted spot? This cover will surely go down in history as an iconic image of the times we lived through. We don’t like to drag other women down here at The Jaded Project, but we do take it upon ourselves to ask the difficult questions.
Taylor Swift earned her spot on the cover due to her recent court case against DJ David Mueller who had groped her in a club. Swift had reportedly spoken to the club’s manager about the incident and the DJ in question was subsequently fired. Mueller sued Taylor Swift for causing his termination and Swift counter-sued for a symbolic $1 in order to send a message about sexual harassment and assault. The court ruled in favour of Swift and awarded her the $1 she had asked for.
There were some that stated Swift didn’t deserve to be on the cover due to the fact that her level of victimhood wasn’t high enough to warrant it. Of course, this is a ridiculous notion. There are not ‘levels’ of victimhood; it is not a competition. Any person who has experienced sexual harassment or assault should be heard, regardless of the specifics. Swift’s experience of being groped is just as valid as someone who has been catcalled or assaulted and ultimately by speaking out she did break the silence Time refers to.
That is not to say however that Time’s choice wasn’t problematic. Taylor Swift didn’t take up a huge role in the #MeToo movement. Yes, she ‘broke the silence’ but this court case was by-and-large unrelated to the #MeToo movement. As we here at The Jaded Project previously covered, the #MeToo movement was originally founded by community leader Tarana Burke more than a decade ago and spurred on by the likes of Ashley Judd, Alyssa Milano and Rose McGowan. While the article inside the magazine does mention Burke, Milano and McGowan, surely for a cover that bears the title ‘The Silence Breakers’, they deserved more of the focus? The choice to have a relatively quiet Taylor Swift picked over the outspoken Tarana Burke, a woman of colour, feels like yet another racial microaggression by our mainstream media.
Taylors lack of involvement with ‘#MeToo does not, of course, minimise her very real experience with sexual assault and the incredibly symbolic step of suing a man for $1. But when faced with the choice of elevating a woman of colour onto a high profile cover or contributing to an already loud (and somewhat controversial) voice, we would always choose the former.
Surely it would have been more impactful to have Tarana Burke, or at least one of Judd, Milano or McGowan on the cover as opposed to Swift? We don’t know the process of decision making over at Time, but it wouldn’t be the first time in 2017 influential women of colour were snubbed of the recognition they deserved.