The cover of Time‘s 2017 “Person of the Year” issue, unveiled Wednesday morning, is extremely powerful: It features the “Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo movement, several women who have spoken out against workplace sexual harassment, assault, and misconduct in the past year. As intense as the image of Ashley Judd, Taylor Swift, corporate lobbyist Adama Iwu, agricultural worker Isabel Pascual, and former Uber engineer Susan Fowler all standing side by side is, you may have missed the strongest imagery of the whole cover photo.
In the bottom right-hand corner of the magazine cover is another person who is almost completely cropped out of the picture. All that’s visible is a black jacket–clad elbow resting on the table next to Susan Fowler and in front of Swift — meant to symbolize the unnamed women who have not publicly come forward about their experiences, but who have painful stories nonetheless (survivors should never feel obligated to share their stories). Time national correspondent Charlotte Alter explained to BuzzFeed News the “intentional” decision.”
“That’s an anonymous woman who is a hospital worker who was experiencing harassment and didn’t feel that she could come forward [publicly],” she said.
In the full Person of the Year feature story, the 28-year-old mom of two said that she had complained to HR about a hospital executive who repeatedly came on to her at work, but that she was afraid of the consequences she and her family could face if her story got out in her small Texas town. She also chose to stay anonymous, she said, “as an act of solidarity to represent all those who could not speak out.”
The story also includes the testimony of another unnamed woman. The 22-year-old former office assistant, who lives on a Native American reservation, said she felt “trapped” after a co-worker forced himself on her. Since her company didn’t have an HR department, she felt like her only option was to quit her job. “I stayed anonymous because I live in a very small community. And they just think usually that we’re lying and complainers,” she said. “On the reservation, we keep to ourselves and don’t really put too much out there. I thought of all the other people that had no voice. They’re scared to do something like this because their parents say, ‘You’re not supposed to do that. You’re not supposed to speak up.'”
The symbolism of the cropped-out woman on the Time cover is similar to New York magazine’s meaningful decision, for the cover image of its July 27, 2015, issue, to include an empty chair in a picture of 35 of the women who have accused Bill Cosby of sexual abuse, Business Insider notes.