'Silence Breakers' behind #MeToo movement named Time's Person of the Year

The so-called Silence Breakers behind the anti-harassment #MeToo movement have been named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

Other finalists included U.S. President Donald Trump and Chinese counterpart, Xi Jinping

Actress Ashley Judd attends the Women's Media Center 2017 Awards in New York on Oct. 26. Judd was among the first celebrities to level allegations against movie-industry mogul Harvey Weinstein. (Eduardo Munoz/Reuters)

The so-called Silence Breakers have been named Time magazine's Person of the Year.

The magazine cover features some of the figures whose voices have inspired others to speak out since the #MeToo movement began in October — actor Ashley Judd, former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, corporate lobbyist Adama Iwu, singer Taylor Swift, Isabel Pascual, a strawberry picker from Mexico who is using a pseudonym, and a sixth unidentified woman whose face is not shown.

Time's 2017 Person of the Year is a group dubbed The Silence Breakers. The cover features (L-R) Isabel Pascual, Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, Susan Fowler, Adama Iwu, and one person whose face can't be seen. (TIME)

Dozens of men and women have shared their stories in the past two months about sexual misconduct by numerous high-profile men in entertainment, media, business and sports. The revelations also helped prompt millions worldwide to tweet about their experiences with sexual harassment and assault, and cued influential players to examine how to impose change.

Change on the horizon

In Toronto, a group from across Canada gathered on Wednesday to scrutinize the laws and policies that have contributed to sexual assault claims in the entertainment industry. Called #AfterMeToo, the symposium brings together members of the Canadian film and TV community, trauma experts, lawyers, activists and politicians.

Canadian filmmaker Aisling Chin-Yee began by detailing recommendations that would be included in a report to be released in the winter of 2018, as decided upon by lawmakers, activists and industry players.

They include:

  • An industry-wide response that may include labour law changes for better reporting of sexual harassment and assault and dealing with blacklisting.
  • Expanding the definition of a "workplace."
  • Yearly education and training, and bystander intervention.
  • Support for survivors from an industry-wide fund that members would pay into.
  • Boosting government mental health support.
  • Implementing an online reporting system for victims.
  • The immediate establishment of a national independent body that would focus on dealing with sexual harassment and assault with the authority to award punitive damages.

Minister of Justice and Attorney General of Canada Jody Wilson-Raybould took a moment to thank journalists for their work, and urged the audience to approach conversations with respect and without judgment. 

A social media sisterhood 

One of the #MeToo crusade's high profile voices has been actor Selma Blair, who gained the confidence to speak out after connecting on Twitter with fellow alleged victim, Canadian actor Chantal Cousineau.

Blair and Cousineau both accused director James Toback of sexual misconduct during separate encounters in hotel rooms.

"I was disgusted. I was really disgusted for so many years, disgusted with myself the way [Toback] made me feel," Blair told CBC News.

"I didn't want to be a part of this conversation. I didn't even particularly relate to women's stories about coming out about abuse, I didn't want to relate, I just didn't engage in this. But I see how important it is."

'He doesn't really get us:' Selma Blair

5 years ago
Duration 1:04
Selma Blair on looking up James Toback online after many years.

Her allegations have not been proven in court.

The power of a hashtag

The #MeToo movement began spontaneously after actress-activist Alyssa Milano followed on a suggestion from a friend of a friend on Facebook and tweeted: "If you've been sexually harassed or assaulted write 'me too' as a reply to this tweet."

The hashtag was tweeted nearly a million times in 48 hours. The movement was founded by activist Tarana Burke on Twitter a decade ago to raise awareness about sexual violence.

Time's announcement was made Wednesday on NBC's Today show, where longtime host Matt Lauer was fired last week amid harassment allegations. Today host Savannah Guthrie acknowledged Wednesday that this year's winner hits "close to home" and mentioned Lauer by name.

The two runners-up were Chinese President Xi Jinping and U.S. President Donald Trump, himself accused of sexual misconduct by numerous women. He has denied any wrongdoing.

Do you work in the entertainment industry and have a story to share? To send us your tips please email saman.malik@cbc.ca at The Fifth Estate or call (416)205-6017.