TIME’s Person of the Year reminds us that women don’t matter


TIME Magazine announced its shortlist for Person of the Year today. Fun fact: since TIME started Man of the Year in 1927  (they un-gendered the title in 1999, only 24 years after they dubbed “American Women” Man of the Year), only four individual women have won the title, two of them women of colour.

FOUR. Which makes sense, because it’s not as though women do much, let alone “the most” to ever “influence the events of the year.” Who, us? We’re too busy making Pinterest boards and doing pilates to influence anything. Someone pass the top coat, please. 

The odds of TIME picking a woman this year are less than a third, because there are only three women on the ten-person shortlist: HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius, Supreme Court gay rights activist and newly-enshrined legal precedent Edie Windsor, and Miley Cyrus. Add in the fact that they almost never pick a woman, and the chances are very slim indeed. Then again, they picked ALL AMERICAN WOMEN back in 1975, so we really don’t have the right to complain.

A quick look at the most-searched for and most-read news stories just in the US suggests that Paula Deen, Jodi Arias, and The Duchess of Cambridge should also be on that list – I know, I know, stay with me. Yes, those are all white women, and yes, each of them is objectionable for multiple reasons, but the magazine says they want the people who have influenced the events of this year, and each of those women – “for better or worse,” in TIME’s words – fits that bill. Also, TIME is cool putting Bashar Assad on their shortlist, so in the twisted logic of rewarding people who do terrible things with a magazine cover and a title, those women are more than fair game.

Four individual women in 86 years? I think TIME can do better. I know the readers of Feministing can do better. Who would you pick as 2013’s person or persons of the year?

New York, NY

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia. She joined the Feministing team in 2009. Her writing about politics and popular culture has been published in The Atlantic, The Guardian, New York magazine, Reuters, The LA Times and many other outlets in the US, Australia, UK, and France. She makes regular appearances on radio and television in the US and Australia. She has an AB in Sociology from Princeton University and a PhD in Arts and Media from the University of New South Wales. Her academic work focuses on Hollywood romantic comedies; her doctoral thesis was about how the genre depicts gender, sex, and power, and grew out of a series she wrote for Feministing, the Feministing Rom Com Review. Chloe is a Senior Facilitator at The OpEd Project and a Senior Advisor to The Harry Potter Alliance. You can read more of her writing at chloesangyal.com

Chloe Angyal is a journalist and scholar of popular culture from Sydney, Australia.

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Join the Conversation

  • http://feministing.com/members/mercedes/ Mercedes Allen

    Malala Yousafzai.

  • http://feministing.com/members/vaneeesa/ Vanessa Blaylock

    Time Magazine is irrelevant. Time Magazine has been irrelevant for a long time. Was it ever relevant? Time Magazine is old news for an old century. Their person of the year picks not only demonstrate gender bias, but also conservative values and out-of-date-fulness. Honestly I don’t care who their person of the year is. I’m a lot more interested in who Feministing’s person of the year is. Is it even worth critiquing “that magazine” and giving it, in the process, some degree of legitimacy? Perhaps it’s better just to ignore it. I can’t say ignoring it will make it go away, but in a sense, it’s already gone, if not for reading about it in Feministing today, I wouldn’t even be wasting brain cycles on that irrelevant publication.

    Who would I pick? Well, Chelsea Manning was given a longer prison sentence than the late Nelson Mandela for telling the truth. She should have won the Nobel Peace Prize, but instead was sent to prison. Maybe we can in some tiny way right that wrong by making her Feministing Person of the Year. Of course, I don’t know why I care about the Nobel Peace Prize either. Gandhi didn’t win the Nobel Peace Prize. Maybe the real problem is that things like Time Person of the Year and Nobel Peace Prize are ultimately about a sort of simplistic thinking. Like “hitting a home run” or “winning the lottery.” Perhaps they’re unrealistic because they strive to exist on a scale that most people never have access to. Perhaps the “moment of courage” or “spoke truth to power today” award would be better.

    If we must pick a global name, I don’t think you can do better than Nadya Tolokonnikova. Pussy Riot’s ideology is insightful and compelling. Her letter from prison is a document for the ages.And I think it’s so significant that during their trial, when told that Madonna and Bjork wanted to perform with them, that they said they were flattered but not interested. That they’d never perform at a venue that sold tickets. I love that they can hate Putin so much, yet entirely not be puppets of the West or capitalism.

  • http://feministing.com/members/rachelwalexander/ Rachel

    I would think Malala Yousafzai would be an obvious contender, though she’s kind of faded from her position as a darling of the media since she started criticizing drone attacks.

    • http://feministing.com/members/aought/ Audrey Knight

      Yes, now that she’s pointing out the truth, Corporate Media will drop her like a hot potato.

      The only reason she was given media attention in the first place was for her use as a poster child for “how bad those people are, that’s why we have to be there.”

  • http://feministing.com/members/cody/ Cody

    Elizabeth Warren!

  • http://feministing.com/members/blundertongue/ Fabienne Elie

    Probably Mass. Senator Elizabeth Warren

  • http://feministing.com/members/jackys/ Jacky

    I’ll add another vote for Malala Yousafzai. I’m very surprised that she didn’t even make the list.

    But isn’t this criticism a little premature? I would have waited until they actually picked not-a-woman to publish this. Who knows, maybe they will select a woman this year.

    Besides, it’s not like the selection is made at random by throwing all the names into a bag and pulling one out, so discussing the “odds” of a woman winning isn’t particularly relevant.