The American Merriam-Webster dictionary said that everyone’s new favorite “F-word” was the most looked-up term of last year.
The yearly statement was released in December and it claimed that the word was “a top lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events.” Online searches increased immensely, by 70% more than 2016.
This proves a significant rise in general interest, but looking closer, it is possible to see what may have stirred the curiosity.
Searches for the term rose during and after the Women’s March in January, which was born as the March on Washington and became a global movement of more than 600 marches around the world.
The original march on Washington was organized primarily to send out a bold message to the new administration on Donald Trump’s first day of office, with many slogans reporting his infamous line “Grab them by the pussy” and the reactionary catchphrase “Love Trumps Hate.” The following sister marches all over the world also addressed reproductive rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, religious discrimination, LGBTQ rights, gender and racial inequities, workers’ rights, environmental issues. Among the participants were people of all genders, sexualities, races and social classes, in the true spirit of intersectionality that feminism advocates for.
Now, almost a year later, the major cities of many countries are readying themselves to march again on the first anniversary of the original Women’s March on Washington.
In February, Kellyanne Conway, White House senior adviser and counselor to Trump, declared in very clear words that she is not a feminist. She explained it is difficult for her to call herself a feminist because she is not “anti-male.” That speech gave an erroneous definition of feminism and probably sparkled a general confusion that led to millions of people looking up the term “feminism” itself.
“Feminism” spiked again in searches as media outlets started doing coverage on Patty Jenkins’ Wonder Woman.
Before the movie even came out, the trade press started hailing it as the feminist movie of the decade, and after it came out, the debate concerning its feminism only rose and rose. The fact that it was the first solo female superhero film in years set it up for success. Considering that it was also directed by a woman and starred a woman of color, Wonder Woman got a free access to feminism royalty simply for existing. Throughout the year, many other media products determined an increase in searches for “feminism,” like the Hulu show The Handmaid’s Tale and Freeform’s The Bold Type, which prides itself in being a pioneer of stealth feminism.
More recently, feminism was against protagonist of the conversation when the #MeToo movement exploded on social media and the sexual harassment allegations against Harvey Weinstein finally became public.
On October 15, actress Alyssa Milano tweeted: “If you’ve been sexually harassed or assaulted write ‘me too’ as a reply to this tweet.”
Since then, over 6 million people joined the movement by tweeting #MeToo ,a campaign originally created in 2007 by black activist Tarana Burke to raise awareness about rape in society. Feminism is an intrinsic element in speaking up against injustice and women regaining control over their body, and the movement has also been highly educational since so many people have found themselves googling the meaning of the term itself.
Dictionary.com instead chose another word of the year: “complicit,” after a satirical Saturday Night Live sketch that starred Scarlett Johansson as Ivanka Trump. The video was a mock commercial for a woman’s perfume: “Complicit: the fragrance for the woman who could stop all this, but won’t.” Back in March when the SNL sketch aired, millions of people looked up the term complicit.
Why? Just one month later, she declared in an interview, “I don’t know what it means to be complicit,” intending that there is nothing illegal or morally wrong about her father’s government and that she has no involvement in any illicit activity.
It’s way too early to tell, but what could be 2018’s word of the year? I vote intersectionality.