Lookups for “feminism” jumped 70%
America loves the “f” word.
Feminism is the word of the year, Merriam-Webster announced Tuesday, a fitting one considering women spent 2017 marching around the globe for rights to reproductive health, equal pay and economic security and an environment free from sexual harassment.
The rate at which people looked up the word feminism increased 70% over 2016 on Merriam-Webster.com, and spiked a number of times after political events, the company’s editor, lexicographer Peter Sokolowski, told The Associated Press.
The word feminism has been in the dictorinary’s top 10 list for the last decade. The roots of the word feminism date back to 14th century English and the first actual dictionary reference was made by founder Noah Webster in 1841.
“His definition was, ‘The qualities of females,’ so basically feminism to Noah Webster meant femaleness. We do see evidence that the word was used in the 19th century in a medical sense, for the physical characteristics of a developing teenager, before it was used as a political term, if you will,” Sokolowski said.
Today, it has taken a much more political tone. It’s currently defined by Merriam-Webster as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.”
The word started trending towards the end of 2016 when Hillary Clinton’s loss to President Donald Trump crescendoed into a feminist movement with the Women’s March on Washington in January that spawned similar protests around the world.
There was also a spike in searchers for the word in February after Kellyanne Conway addressed the Conservative Political Action Committee when she said it was difficult to call herself a feminist.
“It seems to be very anti-male and it certainly seems to be very pro-abortion. I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion,” she said. “There’s an individual feminism, if you will, that you make your own choices. … I look at myself as a product of my choices, not a victim of my circumstances. And to me, that’s what conservative feminism is all about.”
More recently, the “Me Too” campaign following the sexual harassment controversy surrounding Harvey Weinstein empowered many women in industries from media to politics and restaurants to become “silence breakers” coming forward with their stories.
And Google paid homage to the term last month when it added German feminist Helen Stocker — the first woman to earn her doctorate from the University of Bern — in a Google Doodle in celebration of what would have been the activist’s 148th birthday.
Merriam-Webster’s other words in the running were: complicit, recuse, empathy, dotard (used by Kim Jong-un to describe Trump), syzygy, gyro, federalism, hurricane and gaffe.
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