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Time’s 2017 Person Of The Year Proves Society Needs To Change Rape Culture

"The Silence Breakers" opened the floodgates. Now it's time to do something.

12/06/2017 13:04 EST | Updated 12/06/2017 13:04 EST

The #MeToo movement effectively took over 2017 after The New York Times published a report exposing Hollywood producer Harvey Weinstein's history of sexual assault and harassment. That's why it was no surprise that Time magazine chose to honour "The Silence Breakers" as their 2017 Person of the Year.

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Some of the women featured on the cover include Ashley Judd, who was the first to call out Weinstein for his abhorrent sexual behaviour; Taylor Swift, who testified against a radio station host who groped her; former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, whose sexual harassment allegations brought down the company's CEO; and a woman whose face cannot be seen, representing the countless women (and men) who experience sexual misconduct but choose not to come forward.

Today.com reports that these individuals "set off a national reckoning over the prevalence of sexual harassment" and opened the floodgates for others to come forward.

"The galvanizing actions of the women on our cover... along with those of hundreds of others, and of many men as well, have unleashed one of the highest-velocity shifts in our culture since the 1960s," Time's editor-in-chief Edward Felsenthal told NBC's "Today."

Among the volume of celebrities that have spoken out about their experience with sexual assault or harassment is Canadian actress-turned-filmmaker Sarah Polley.

In October, following the initial Weinstein allegations, the 38-year-old Torontonian wrote an op-ed for The New York Times entitled, "The Men You Meet Making Movies."

In her piece, she revealed that while working on the 1999 film "Guinevere," Weinstein implied that having a "very close relationship" with him would advance her career. At 19 years old, Polley turned him down, stating that she wasn't "very ambitious or interested in acting, which was true."

Brian de Rivera Simon via Getty Images
Sarah Polley attends the 'Alias Grace' premiere during the 2017 Toronto International Film Festival.

The allegations against Weinstein shed light on one of Hollywood's biggest problems, but also helped open people's eyes on smaller scales.

As HuffPost Canada senior editor Rebecca Zamon noted, the scandal echoed one that plagued former beloved CBC broadcaster Jian Ghomeshi, whose alleged history with sexual assault came to light in 2014 and shook Canadian media. Ghomeshi's relationship with the CBC came to an end in October of that year.

Luckily, other companies are also taking a stand against sexual assault and harassment. Most notably, Weinstein (of The Weinstein Company), Kevin Spacey (of Netflix's "House of Cards"), and Matt Lauer (of NBC's "The Today Show") have all been fired from their respective jobs due to serious allegations of sexual misconduct.

For Time's 2017 Person of the Year issue, the magazine interviewed a number of women and men who have experienced sexual assault and harassment at their jobs. Besides celebrities like Taylor Swift and Rose McGowan, this included hospital staff, retail workers and hotel maids, proving how widespread the problem really is.

Time has chosen a Person of the Year since 1927 to highlight "the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse," the Toronto Star reports. This is why U.S. President Donald Trump made the mag's cover in 2016.

Although Time previously revealed that their Person of the Year editions began as a fluke, they are certainly helping to create change today.

Activist Tarana Burke, who created the #MeToo movement in 2006, spoke to "The Today Show" on Wednesday about Time's 2017 cover.

"I've been saying from the beginning, it's not just a moment, it's a movement," she said. "And movements build over time and they're strategic. Now the work really begins. The hashtag is a declaration but now we're poised to really stand up and do the work."

Burke is right. Now that people are realizing how widespread issues of sexual harassment and assault are, it's time to do something about it to change our culture.

The hashtag is a declaration but now we're poised to really stand up and do the work.

According to William Fujarczuk, an educator at Waterloo, Ont.'s Sexual Assault Support Centre, men need to be held accountable for their actions and take responsibility for them before real change can occur.

In a previous interview with HuffPost Canada, Fujarczuk noted that men need to recognize how they "have been socialized and what we do in our day-to day-lives that could perhaps be contributing to this culture of sexual violence."

Luckily, some men have responded with the positive hashtag #HowIWillChange, to not only create solidarity with victims, but to also declare how they will continue to be allies to women.

Let's hope the awareness brought by Time's 2017 Person of the Year issue will keep the momentum going for positive change.

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