The cat is out of the bag: TIME announced their 2015 Person of the Year is German chancellor Angela Merkel, who has been at the center of economic hardship and the ongoing migrant crisis in Europe. This definitely gets a big mazel tov for Merkel.
But, can you actually believe it’s the first time in 29 years that TIME chose a woman as their Person of the Year? We can hardly believe it. That’s almost three decades–it’s honestly inexcusable. And only the fourth woman since 1927.
So, how exactly did this happen? TIME did issue an explanation, but personally, I find the argument lacking. There doesn’t seem to be any kind of straightforward apology offered–no real explanation as to why women never made the cut. Writer Radhika Jones stated:
“As I wrote a few years ago, the label of Person of the Year tends to favor people with institutional power…Since 1986 there’ve been four U.S. Presidents in the mix—three of them two-termers, all of them men. Plus a handful of leaders of the Soviet Union (and Russia), also all men. The Pope keeps being a man. And it’s a lot easier to make news from an address like the White House, the Kremlin or the Vatican.”
In the TIME article she references, she states how inclusion isn’t actually the goal of the title award: “Ultimately, Person of the Year isn’t about inclusion—how could it be, when it’s just one person? Person of the Year is about singularity, for better or worse.”
And in some ways, she is right–people can’t control or dictate who has influence (and influence isn’t always a “good” thing), but that is the very argument for why it’s OK to sit back and allow racist or sexist things to consistently happen–basically, it’s an argument for complacency.
Jones also ends the article with the idea that while we probably won’t have to wait so long for a woman to be named again, she seems to ignore the fact that the reason why there aren’t women “assuming” positions of power, like U.S. presidents, is because of institutional prejudice, not because women aren’t–or don’t want–to be influencers:
“And it seems likely that, as more women assume roles of power around the world, from Christine Lagarde to Janet Yellen to Sheryl Sandberg to Aung San Suu Kyi, we will have more female candidates in the Person of the Year pipeline.”
It wouldn’t have been impossible to include more women, despite the world’s institutional imperfections. Maybe they could have just thought more creatively about who truly has power and influence in the world. That shouldn’t be too much to ask.