‘Feminism’ Declared 2017’s Word of The Year by Merriam Webster Dictionary; Here’s Why

Shruti Venkatesh
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‘Feminism’ Declared 2017’s Word of The Year by Merriam Webster Dictionary; Here’s Why

Searches for the word 'feminism' increased 70 percent year-on-year in 2017

2017 was a year that belonged to the ladies. Almost the entire year was defined by women who took a bold step forward to speak about issues they face. From offline protests, online hashtags to the Time Magazine cover, women ruled the roost. Not surprisingly then, Feminism has been declared the word of the year by Merriam Webster Dictionary. The dictionary states that searches for the word ‘feminism’ increased 70 percent year-on-year in 2017. 

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It might be recalled that the year saw several movements and hashtags headed by women. The list includes the nationwide protests by women after Donald Trump won the US Presidential elections. Women in the entertainment and media industry also exposed several top names in Hollywood for their alleged sexual misconduct. This was followed by #MeToo, using which, women across the world shared their stories of sexual harassment. It inspired several dance videos and music videos, and Time magazine named “The Silence Breakers” of the #MeToo anti-harassment movement as its Person of the Year. After this, a new hashtag has been going viral, and that is #MeNoMore that aims to end sexism and harassment in the music arena.

Feminism being declared as the word of 2017 is a hat tip to the year defined by such strong examples of women empowerment. Merriam states that in 2017, there was a 70 percent increase in online searches for “feminism” compared to 2016. There were multiple spikes corresponding to a string of news reports and events. Searches reportedly rose after the Women’s March on Washington and other US cities on January 21, the day after Trump was sworn in as president. Yet another spike was when the White House adviser Kellyanne Conway, the first woman to run a successful US presidential campaign, said in February that she did not consider herself a feminist. 

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The dictionary stated that searches for ‘feminism’ also saw a spike after the outpouring of sexual harassment allegations that have ‘unseated well-known figures in Hollywood, politics, business, and triggered the #MeToo social media campaign by women all over the world.’ In the dictionary, ‘feminism’ is defined as the “theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests.”

The other two words which saw a spike in 2017 was ‘Complicit’ and ‘Dotard’. Interestingly, both are connected to Donald Trump in some way. ‘Complicit’ was connected to Trump’s sacking of FBI director James Comey, Russian interference in the 2016 election and ‘Dotard’ was used by North Korean leader Kim Jong-Un in a statement about Donald Trump in September this year.