The story behind the anonymous arm on TIME's Person of the Year cover

TIME magazine’s Person of the Year cover featuring an anonymous arm [Photo: TIME]
TIME magazine’s Person of the Year cover featuring an anonymous arm [Photo: TIME]

Earlier this week TIME magazine announced that their much lauded Person of the Year accolade was to be given to ‘The Silence Breakers’; the group of women behind several empowering movements for women – including #MeToo.

The faces of five women who have spoken out about their experiences of sexual harassment – including singer Taylor Swift and actress Ashley Judd – feature on the magazine’s 2017 Person of the Year cover.

If you’d looked quickly at the cover, you might not have spotted it at first, but there was a mystery appearance from the arm of an anonymous woman, representing a sixth member of the photoshoot.

It wasn’t an editorial error or a bad crop – the arm was featured intentionally.

TIME has now explained that the arm belongs to a hospital worker, who wishes to remain anonymous, and was chosen to represent the unheard voices.

“It belongs to an anonymous young hospital worker from Texas,” the magazine explained in an article.

She is a sexual harassment victim, who “fears that disclosing her identity would negatively impact her family”.

“She is faceless on the cover and remains nameless inside Time’s red borders, but her appearance is an act of solidarity, representing all those who are not yet able to come forward and reveal their identities,” the feature continues.

The woman, who made a sexual harassment complaint anonymously, told TIME that she couldn’t stop wondering whether she could have prevented the encounter.

“I thought, What just happened? Why didn’t I react? I kept thinking, Did I do something, did I say something, did I look a certain way to make him think that was O.K.?” she told the publication.

As well as Swift and Judd, the anonymous sixth woman was chosen alongside former Uber engineer Susan Fowler, who wrote a blog post in February about all the ridiculous sexism and harassment she encountered during her time at Uber, lobbyist Adama Iwu, who started the We Said Enough movement to call out the “pervasive culture of sexual harassment and mistreatment” in Californian politics, and Isabel Pascual, who is a strawberry picker and an immigrant from Mexico whose name was changed to protect her identity.

Isabel defied threats of violence from her boss and took part in a farmworkers march against sexual harrassment endured by labourers.

Meanwhile Ashley Judd was among the first actresses to break the silence surrounding Harvey Weinstein’s behaviour around women, while Taylor Swift, won a civil case against an ex-DJ who groped her.

Every year since 1927, TIME editors name a Person of the Year, recognising the person or group of people who most influenced the news during the past year, for better or for worse. And it would be difficult to think of a more deserving group of women this year.

Speaking about this year’s choice Edward Felsenthal, the magazine’s editor-in-chief said: “This is the fastest moving social change we’ve seen in decades and it began with individual acts of courage by hundreds of women – and some men too – who came forward to tell their stories of sexual harassment and assault.”

The appearance of the anonymous woman’s arm in the cover serves as a poignant reminder that while so many people now feel able to speak up about their experiences of sexual harassment, there are still those who feel they have to remain silent. So though, we have definitely made progress this year thanks to movements like #MeToo, as TIME have reminded us, there is still a way to go.

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