The Time Person of the Year cover is a visual reminder of how white feminism attempts to dictate the direction of progress while BIPOC are expected to do the behind-the-scenes (or between the pages) labor.
I held my breath
when I saw the TIME Person of the Year shortlist, hoping that the weekly news magazine would not vindicate Trump after crowning him with devil horns on last year’s cover. Thankfully, the magazine gave credit to the well-deserved Me Too movement and the thousands of sexual assault survivors who have come forward in recent months.
It was their selection of cover models that left something to be desired. No men or nonbinary people were featured, and although Tarana Burke was granted a feature inside, the founder of the Me Too movement is noticeably absent from the front cover. Standing solemnly in the right corner is Taylor Swift, who won a lawsuit
earlier this year against David Mueller, a radio DJ who groped her during a meet-and-greet event. According to Swift, Mueller reached under her skirt during a photo op and grabbed her ass. After the photo was taken, Swift alerted her security staff, who confronted Mueller and informed his employer of the incident. Blaming Swift for his firing, Mueller sued her for damages to the tune of $3 million. Swift, refusing to be silenced, counter-sued for $1.
No one is denying the significance of that moment and what it demonstrated to Swift’s young fans about standing up to our abusers, but we cannot ignore how the pop star’s privilege played a role in her victory. We also cannot ignore Swift’s selectivity in supporting feminist movements
, and how she only seems to do so when it serves her interests. TIME’s decision to position her as a voice of the movement is not only inaccurate, it displaces victims like Ke$ha, who literally lost everything by refusing to back down from her abuser (and yes, I am aware of Swift helping her cover legal expenses).
The TIME magazine cover doesn’t get it entirely wrong. They recognize victims who are unable to come forward by picturing the arm of an anonymous woman. They also feature Adama Iwu, who is changing the face of lobbying with a campaign to expose sexual harassment in Sacramento. Since the Me Too movement was reinvigorated on Twitter via Alyssa Milano, it’s become clear that the status quo is changing. The entertainment industry will likely never be the same, but to honor the spirit of this movement, we have to give space to those who continue fighting an uphill for justice.