Time’s Person of the Year feature is always a conversation starter, either because people agree or disagree with the magazine’s choice. But this year Time was widely applauded for its choice to honor “The Silence Breakers,” the name the magazine gave to the women who have come forward, risking their own reputations and careers, to call out the powerful men who have sexually harassed them.
However, the magazine also chose a runner-up for its Person of the Year: Donald Trump. While it’s fair to say the President has definitely had a significant impact on the state of the world today, many did not fail to notice the irony of the magazine honoring the women standing up to sexual harassers only to then immediately honor a sexual harasser. Trump has been caught on tape saying that he can just grab women “by the pussy” because he’s famous, and has been accused of sexual assault by multiple women.
Sophie Turner, who plays Sansa on Game of Thrones, was initially thrilled at the magazine’s choice, but like many others, had to do a double take when she discovered who the runner up was.
YES. So very proud of these people. You will not be silenced. You are heard. And we believe you and stand with you. https://t.co/eCa0jAe8Ph— Sophie Turner (@SophieT) December 6, 2017
Wait wait wait... Donald Trump as runner up for time magazine person of the year? I honestly have no words.. What an injustice and insult to the inspiring people on the cover to have a known sexual abuser as runner up.— Sophie Turner (@SophieT) December 7, 2017
While many agreed with her, others took the time to point out that Time’s Person of the Year award is not exactly the honor it might sound like. Time has upheld this tradition more than 90 times now, and they continually have to explain that Person of the Year is given to those who have had the most influence, whether that influence was positive or negative.
Important to understand that TIME Magazine's 'Person of the Year' is about acknowledging someone with significant influence. They do not 'honour' anyone with the title, they simply highlight their capacity for influencing culture. Hitler has featured on the cover, for example.— DMac™ (@waronfacades) December 7, 2017
It isn't an endorsement. Just an acknowledgement of whoever has had most influence throughout the year. On that basis, it makes sense.— Anthony Hillman (@axlreznor) December 7, 2017
PotY refers to a person's impact (bad or good). Unfortunately, the title itself connotes a positive title and TIME is constantly finding themselves in the position of having to clarify what it means.— Jen: Ragnarok (@CoolHandLukette) December 7, 2017
But it appears Turner was trying to make a point about optics. It’s pretty provocative to honor the bravery of women who have spoken up about sexual assault at the expense of powerful men and then immediately follow that up with an actual confessed sexual harasser himself. There are other movements and people besides Donald Trump who have had a significant impact on the world this year, both positive and negative, that might have been a less controversial pick.
Either way, it is true that Time does not assign a value judgment to its Person of the Year. Trump was actually the magazine’s Person of the Year in 2016, and they addressed the controversial nature of their award in the intro of the article that accompanied the infamous cover photo."This is the 90th time we have named the person who had the greatest influence, for better or worse, on the events of the year," the introduction read. "So which is it this year: Better or worse?"