'TIME's Person Of The Year Award Featured Two Anonymous Workers — Here's Why That's So Important

Share
Ad failed to load

Before a lot of women feel safe speaking up publicly about sexual harassment and assault, they need two things: a platform, and protection. Arguably, most of the celebrities who have stepped forward in this post-Weinstein era with their #MeToo stories have both. They have verified Twitter accounts with armies of followers, and the relative protection of knowing that, if there is fallout from naming their accusers, they still have the resources to support themselves.

Women who aren't celebrities — housekeepers, restaurant workers, assistants — don't have similar platforms or protection. They can tweet their "#MeToo" and report incidents of sexual harassment, but it doesn't have the same ripple, and it often comes with a completely different and more devastating set of personal and professional consequences — particularly for women of color and other marginalized communities. Unlike celebrities, there aren't thousands of people for them to tweet their stories to, people who would rally in their defense and spread the outrage; there likely isn't money stockpiled away for them to wait out whatever happens to their career in the aftermath. They don't have reputations or connections to protect them. Most of the time, they're on their own.

Today, TIME released their highly anticipated Person Of The Year Award for 2017, naming the Silence Breakers of the #MeToo movement. The feature highlights dozens of people who have not only come forward with #MeToo stories in the last few months, but have been working tirelessly to change the narrative on sexual harassment for much longer than that.

Ad failed to load

But TIME didn't just change the narrative by shedding light on an entire movement instead of one person. They changed it by giving women with ordinary jobs something that they are rarely given, if ever: a meaningful platform. Among them were a hospital worker, a hotel housekeeper, an office assistant, a former dishwasher, and seven workers from the Plaza Hotel. The majority of these women were interviewed and talked on the record; two of them did not.

The anonymous hospital worker featured in TIME's article "fears for her family's livelihood should her story come out in her small community." The anonymous office assistant "live[s] in a very small community" that, according to her, "just think usually that we're lying and complainers." We don't know their names or their faces, but we have certainly heard their stories before. For many women in their positions, the consequences could be even worse.

Ad failed to load

It is important to note that, given their resources and clout, TIME could have easily found women in these professions to talk and be photographed on the record. It is crucial that they didn't. The decision for anonymity doesn't say anything about TIME or the nameless women who came forward; instead, it says all too much about the massive gap that still exists among industries, race, and socioeconomic backgrounds, determining whether or not it is "safe" for a woman to come forward about sexual harassment or assault.

It demonstrates that even if we can give women a platform, there is something TIME or any other publication still can't give — the protection to come forward, and know that the professional and personal consequences won't be too much to bear.

TIME on YouTube
Ad failed to load

It is incredibly important that TIME gave a face to women in everyday jobs facing sexual harassment. It gives a platform to women in ordinary roles, but more importantly, to women of color, both in the celebrity world and out — it is no secret that the #MeToo movement has a history with minimizing and dismissing the voices of women of color, despite the fact that a woman of color — social activist Tarana Burke, who was featured in TIME's profile — was responsible for the birth of it. This issue is only exacerbated by the lacking platform for accounts from women working in roles in the service, domestic, and administrative industries, which disproportionately affect women of color as well. By focusing on industries outside of Hollywood, TIME is making progress toward filling a crucial gap, elevating women's stories in a way they should have been from the start.

It is also incredibly important that they gave a voice to women in these same industries who weren't able to give a face, because their stories matter, too. Women's experiences are made no more or less important by whether or not they are "brave" enough to report them publicly, because we should never demand "bravery" or anything else from people who experience harassment or assault. They owe the world nothing.

The two women who chose to remain anonymous represent their industries, but they also represent much more than that: the hundreds and thousands of other women who anonymously shared their stories on Reddit boards, or only talked about it over drinks with trusted friends, or didn't talk about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault at all. They represent the omnipresent fear that women feel not just in encountering sexual harassment, but reporting it; they represent the very real consequences they face if they do; and they represent the fact that some women are circumstantially more vulnerable than others.

Ad failed to load

The two anonymous women in TIME's profile are there to serve as an important reminder to all of us — this has been an incredible, painful, progressive year in exposing the problematic power dynamics and taboo of the current sexual assault narrative, but the work here is far from done. The work will be done not when we can "convince" people to come forward publicly about their harassment, but when we create a society where everyone — regardless of gender, race, sexual orientation, disability, socioeconomic background, or industry — feels like they have both the platform and protection to come forward from the start. TIME's profile was an important step, and proof that we still have a long way to go.

Ad failed to load
Must Reads

What I Learned About Work-Life Balance After Relapsing From Alcohol Addiction Recovery

Almost two years ago, I woke up in a hotel room, groggy and dehydrated, with my clothes all over the room and my nightstand filled with mini bottles of liquor. I had spent the previous two days drinking all the alcohol in my mini bar. I'm not sure wh…
By Irina Gonzalez

Everything Leaving & Coming To Netflix In March, So You Can Plan Your Next Marathon Now

Even though the groundhog saw his shadow — forecasting six more weeks of winter — a nice spring thaw is already on everyone's minds. Fortunately, Netflix has things squared away for March. Whether you're ready to cozy up in front of a fire or get you…
By Sophy Ziss

11 Thoughts That Mean You’re Not As Happy With Your Partner As You Might Think

Even if your current dating situation seems to be going well — you're hanging out, having fun, having sex, etc. — it's still possible that you might not be happy with your partner, and thus not truly happy in your relationship. This can be a gut feel…
By Carolyn Steber

25 Book Recommendations From Your Favorite TV Characters

Although the two may seem like natural enemies, the truth is, television and reading are a match made in bibliophile heaven. Not only are some of the best shows based on or inspired by literature, but whenever you turn on the tube you can be sure to …
By Sadie Trombetta

Bustle Editors On CPAC + 'Making A Murderer'

Adulthood is, essentially, just waiting until the weekend hits — which is why I know we're all glad it's finally Friday. Whether your plans are to catch up on all the Netflix content that'll be leaving the platform at the end of February, a weekend g…
By Danielle Colin-Thome

7 Signs Your Energy Is Closed Off To Love, According To A Psychic

Finding love requires more than just the actions of going on dates or setting up an online dating profile. It also requires opening yourself up to love and giving off the vibe that you're open. You may not even realize it if you're energetically bloc…
By Suzannah Weiss

It Took Heather Graham YEARS To Make A Movie About Women Ditching Toxic Men. The Reason? Men.

They say you should write what you know. But in Hollywood, that age-old advice apparently needs an addendum: Write what you know — as long as men are into it. And for actor and newly minted director/screenwriter Heather Graham — a woman who swam thro…
By Kelsea Stahler

Target Just Launched A Gorgeous New Home Brand — And Most Pieces Are Under $30

Design lovers rejoice! Everyone's favorite store for pretty much everything is about to make all your daring decorating dreams come true. Today, Target's corporate blog issued a press release that provides a peek into Target's new homeware line, Opal…
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

17 Brilliant Ways To Support Parkland Survivors Wherever You Are

Following the massacre at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, survivors are demanding Congress take action. A large group of students who survived the shooting are opposing politicians' "thoughts and prayers," arguing that inst…
By Sarah Beauchamp

Here's Where Your Next Trip Should Be, Based On Your Zodiac Sign

If you've been craving a vacation, now is a good time to take the plunge. According to data collected by travel site Expedia, late winters and early spring are pretty much the best times of the year to go on vacation. Based on average airfare ticket …
By Callie Tansill-Suddath

How This Quadriplegic Beauty Lover Beat Cancer & Became A Professional Makeup Artist

In 2010, one day before she was supposed to start cosmetology school, Steph Aiello was involved in a car crash that left her paralyzed from the waist down with limited ability to move her hands and one of her closest friends dead. She would spend the…
By Sara Tan

7 Common Marriage Rules That Aren't Good For Relationships

When it comes to marriage, everyone loves to give their two cents, and with all the warnings and advice floating around out there, no wonder people find marriage intimidating. Luckily, you don't always have to play by the rules, and there's some bad …
By Carina Wolff

The Infuriating Way Hollywood Movie Sets Are Designed To Make Life Harder For Women

Whitney Cummings is fed up — with the way Hollywood treats women, and in particular, the way the it treats female directors who have children. While the entertainment industry may be working hard to get more women behind the camera, Cummings wants to…
By Casey Cipriani

Why Uggs Are Never Going Away, Whether You Like Them Or Not

Uggs. The word alone can conjure up memories of teenage years, regrettable outfits, and undeniable comfort. But if, like me, you thought that you've already said goodbye to those fleece-lined tan boots, you can think again. It seems fashion has adopt…
By Lauren Sharkey

Netflix's New Romantic Movie Will Have You Crying Like It's 'The Fault In Our Stars'

Cancer movies are a heartbreaking staple of Hollywood and have been for decades. It's almost a law of nature: new year, new cancer movie. This year, it's Netflix's Irreplaceable You, a heartbreaking original about a longtime couple who get thrown for…
By Olivia Truffaut-Wong

I Got A Breast Reduction & It Was About So Much More Than The Size Of My Boobs

As a young teenager, I pretty much reached peak physical maturity overnight. One day I was wearing my first training bra a la Lizzie McGuire, and the next I was sweatily fumbling around a Victoria’s Secret with 32DD boobs, trying to summon up the cou…
By Sierra Taylor Horton

Adam Rippon and Mirai Nagasu Have Matching Tattoos & The Story Is So Cute

Olympic season gives people the feels. From those shipping Canadian ice dancing pair Tessa Virtue and Scott Moir to Shaun White's gold medal win on Tuesday, the feels are real. Now, there's another reason to get all up in your emotions. Adam Rippon a…
By Shea Simmons

A New Study Says Being In A Relationship Could Change Your Taste In Wine — Here's How

I’d be willing to bet that for many of you, a nice bottle of wine is awaiting you in your near future — and if you’re planning on sharing that bottle with a partner, there might be more to your choice than meets the eye: According to recent research,…
By Lucia Peters

Carrie Brownstein On Why Even The Obama Era Should Have Enraged You

An icy January morning soon after Hollywood's show of solidarity for the #MeToo movement at the Golden Globes and almost exactly one year into the Trump Administration feels like a momentous time to be sitting across from Carrie Brownstein. The Sleat…
By Samantha Rollins

Here’s What The Upcoming Year Of The Dog Means For Your Chinese Zodiac Sign

On Feb. 16 the world will celebrate the Chinese New Year, welcoming the Year of the Dog in like the good doggo it is — we hope. A new year means new zodiac predictions for the 365 days ahead. So, what does the Year of the Dog mean for your Chinese zo…
By Brittany Bennett

7 Signs You're Ready To Get Into A Relationship, According To Experts

It can be difficult to tell when you're ready to start dating again. Maybe you're coming off of a bad breakup, maybe you've just been focused on other things. And, ironically, one of the signs that you're ready to be in a relationship is that you're …
By Lea Rose Emery

The 15 Best Fiction Books Of February Feature Tons Of Extraordinary Women

When the cold winds of February blow in, there's nothing I want more than to hide under my covers with a good book. Luckily, there's more than a few fantastic new fiction books coming out this month, so the only tough decision you'll have to make is …
By Melissa Ragsdale