Why that cropped elbow on Time’s Person of the Year cover matters so much

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Kayleigh Dray

Time has been criticised for seemingly cropping one of ‘The Silence Breakers’ off of their prestigious 2017 Person of the Year cover. However, the stray elbow actually makes an incredibly powerful statement about reporting sexual assault.

Earlier this year, President Donald Trump claimed that he had turned down the honour of being named Time Magazine’s Person of the Year for 2017.

Addressing the honour in his typically humble manner, he tweeted: “Time Magazine called to say that I was PROBABLY going to be named “Man (Person) of the Year,” like last year, but I would have to agree to an interview and a major photo shoot.

“I said probably is no good and took a pass. Thanks anyway!”

So, when it was announced that the cover had actually been awarded to ‘The Silence Breakers’ (otherwise known as those who spoke out in the face of sexual harassment and discrimination in the workplace, triggering a massive #MeToo movement across every industry), the reaction online was phenomenal.

As one social media user put it: “It’s less that it’s not Trump that’s Person of the Year this year, and more that it’s so unequivocally anti-Trump (and everything he stands for) that’s giving me my life today.

“Balance ton porc indeed.”

A post shared by TIME (@time) on

Pictured on the cover are five women dressed in black – two of which are celebrities: actress Ashley Judd, who was one of the first to speak out publicly against Harvey Weinstein, and singer Taylor Swift, who won a civil case against an ex-DJ who she said had grabbed her bottom.

Standing alongside them are former Uber engineer Susan Fowler (whose allegation brought down Uber’s CEO), lobbyist Adama Iwu, and Isabel Pascual (an immigrant whose name has been changed to protect her identity).

If you look closely, though, you’ll notice an elbow to the right of the shot with no face or name attached – a move which has sparked some criticism online.

“Really loving the new Time magazine cover, but my sympathies to whoever thought they were going to be on the cover of Time but ended up being cropped down to an elbow,” one commenter shared on Twitter.

However, while the crop may seem like an error, the elbow’s inclusion was intentional.

“The stray elbow on Time’s Person of the Year cover is meant to include victims of sexual harassment who have to stay anonymous: It’s still really difficult for a lot of women to come forward,” Charlotte Alter, Time’s national correspondent, told BuzzFeed News.

This arm in particular, though, belongs to a young hospital worker from Texas who “doesn’t feel […] that she can come forward without threatening her livelihood.”

“She too is a victim of sexual harassment but was there anonymously, she said, as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out,” Time said.

Of course, the publication has identified many more people as part of the #MeToo movement behind the cover shot: the accompanying article spans some 8,000 words, and is five chapters long. It features the likes of Tarana Burke, who created the #MeToo hashtag over a decade ago, as well as Alyssa Milano, who helped it to gain traction on social media in October.

Then there’s Blaise Godbe Lipman, the former actor-turned-filmmaker who accused his former agent Tyler Grasham of sexually assaulting him when he was 18, and Rose McGowan, who publicly accused Harvey Weinstein of rape earlier this year.

There’s Oregon state senator Sara Gelser, who detailed in a formal complaint filed in November a years-long pattern of unwanted touching and sexual harassment by fellow senator Jeff Kruse and indicated that at least 15 women have similar experiences.

There’s Sandra Pezqueda, a former dish-washer, who filed a lawsuit against her supervisor at a luxury resort in South California for sexual harassment lasting months.

There’s Megyn Kelly, the former Fox News journalist whom Donald Trump accused of having “blood coming out of her eyes, blood coming out of her wherever” after she moderated a debate during the presidential campaign.

There’s a group of hotel workers who have filed a lawsuit against their employer. And actor Terry Crews, who revealed he was sexually molested by a Hollywood executive in 2016, has also been included.

A long list of names? Absolutely, but that’s just the tip of the iceberg: there are many, many others (both women and men) who have shared their stories in the thought-provoking piece, too.

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Why so many? Because this “moment”, the magazine says, “doesn’t have a leader, or a single, unifying tenet. The hashtag #MeToo (swiftly adapted into #BalanceTonPorc, #YoTambien, #Ana_kaman and many others), which to date has provided an umbrella of solidarity for millions of people to come forward with their stories, is part of the picture, but not all of it…

“The women and men who have broken their silence span all races, all income classes, all occupations and virtually all corners of the globe.”

In its Person of the Year 2017 cover story, Time adds: “This reckoning appears to have sprung up overnight. But it has actually been simmering for years, decades, centuries. Women have had it with bosses and co-workers who not only cross boundaries but don’t even seem to know that boundaries exist. They’ve had it with the fear of retaliation, of being blackballed, of being fired from a job they can’t afford to lose. They’ve had it with the code of going along to get along. They’ve had it with men who use their power to take what they want from women.

“These silence breakers have started a revolution of refusal, gathering strength by the day, and in the past two months alone, their collective anger has spurred immediate and shocking results: nearly every day, CEOs have been fired, moguls toppled, icons disgraced. In some cases, criminal charges have been brought.”

It’s thought that only 344 out of every 1,000 cases of sexual assault gets reported to authorities, meaning roughly two thirds of incidents will never be investigated.

There are a number of reasons why people decide not to report — from fear of testifying or concerns their attacker might retaliate — all valid concerns considering that out of every 1,000 rapes only six perpetrators will go to jail.

So, by including that stray elbow on the cover, Time has not only paid tribute to the “individual acts of courage” that brought about the “fastest-moving social change we’ve seen in decades” and changed the narrative on sexual assault, but it has also given a voice to all those who are currently unable to speak up.

If you have been subject to sexual assault, call 999 to report it to police.

Information and support can be found at, and

If you need to report assault or harassment on UK public transport, British Transport Police urges victims of sexual assault to report the crime as soon as possible, by approaching a police officer or station staff, calling 0800 40 50 40 or texting 61016.

Images: Time


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Kayleigh Dray

Kayleigh Dray is editor of, where she chases after rogue apostrophes and specialises in films, comic books, feminism and television. On a weekend, you can usually find her drinking copious amounts of tea and playing boardgames with her friends. 

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