Word of the Year: Fem·i·nism \ ‘fe-mə-,ni-zəm \
By Aryanna Zavala, Copy Editor
In December, Merriam-Webster declared feminism the word of 2017. According to the dictionary, feminism is a noun that has two meanings: the theory of the political, economical, and social equality of the sexes, or organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests. Merriam-Webster had a good reason for choosing feminism, as 2017 was a long year for women’s rights in the country and the world. The year proved to be a memorable one due to all the campaigns, scandals, and protests in the United States.
According to Merriam-Webster, “The word was a top lookup throughout the year, with several spikes that corresponded to various news reports and events.” In 2017, the #MeToo campaign was started after all the sexual assault accusations came to light in Hollywood and in politics, with thousands of shares and stories being passed around on social media. The phrase was created and used by social activist, Tarana Burke, but it was not mainstream until actress Alyssa Milano encouraged women to tweet the phrase to publicize their experiences to demonstrate the widespread nature of misogynistic behavior.
The year was a big year for women’s rights. In the beginning, there were women’s protest around the world rioting against Trump becoming the new president of the United States and for accusations about sexual assault cases against him. On January 21, 2017, a worldwide protest called the Women’s March was held to advocate legislation and policies regarding human rights and other issues, including women’s rights, immigration reform, healthcare reform, reproductive rights, the natural environment, LGBTQ rights, racial equality, freedom of religion, and workers’ rights. With these events and many others that occurred in 2017, it is no surprise that feminism was the word of the year.
In the past 14 years, Merriam-Webster has chosen words based on how it reflects the year and how many times it has been looked up. In 2016, the word was surreal. It seems that the chosen words seem to reflect the year and the chaos that ensued. Merriam-Webster stated that they chose surreal because 2016 was the year where many terrorists attacks occurred and the United States was in the midst of a presidential election.
The word in 2015 was not actually a word but a suffix, ‘-ism’. The dictionary saw an increase in the search of the following words: socialism, fascism, racism, feminism, communism, capitalism, and terrorism. In 2015, the world saw tragedy in the rise of terrorism, mass shootings, and publicized court cases.
What we see in the news influences our ideology and speech and it can clearly be seen in the words we search on the internet. Merriam-Webster has been choosing the word of the year since 2003 and the method they use to choose the words that most reflect the year is by providing a list of 20 words on their website that people vote on. They choose the 20 words by determining the most searched words. The words they have chosen in the last 14 years have greatly represented the year and what people were witnessing in the news.
Words have an impact in our everyday life, and it is great to know that the words of the year seem to reflect human curiosity and their thought process. Feminism reflects the long and impactful year for women’s rights and the cultural shift towards acknowledging women’s struggles.