So, turns out all we had to do to get the word “feminism” into the forefront of our pop-culture consciousness is elect a man who brags about assaulting women on tape and humiliates his female colleagues with threatening, sexualized comments as President of the United States of America. Good to know. It really would have been nice if “believing women” could have started trending without giving Hitler McNugget the nuclear codes first, but, hey. Here we are, letting you know that Merriam-Webster, the dictionary of record here at The A.V. Club, has chosen “feminism” as its word of the year for 2017.
To be fair, it’s only partially Trump’s fault. In a press release, the dictionary says that it chooses its word of the year based on two criteria: “the words must experience a high volume of lookups and a significant year-over- year increase in lookups at Merriam-Webster.com.” According to editor at large Peter Sokolowski, there were several “intense” spikes of interest in the dictionary definition of feminism throughout the year, first connected to the Women’s March on Washington in January, then to Kellyanne Conway saying she doesn’t consider herself a feminist in the “classic sense”in February, then finally to the #MeToo movement and the deluge of sexual assault, harassment, and misconduct allegations this fall and early winter that has men wondering, “when will it stop?,” and women asking, “what took so long?.”
Other words that piqued dictionary searchers’ interest this year include “complicit” at No. 2, “recuse” at No. 3, and “dotard” at No. 5—connected to Trump and his various misdeeds and fuckups, all—and the wholly apolitical “gyro” at No. 7, a spike Merriam-Webster attributes to pedants looking to answer the question posed by a musical sketch on The Tonight Show called “I Don’t Know How to Pronounce ‘Gyro’” back in March.
And, in case you’re wondering, the dictionary definition of feminism contains reference neither to throwing men in jail if they say, “did you get your hair cut?,” nor to mandatory castration before attending a screening of Wonder Woman. Instead, it reads:
noun fem·i·nism \ ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm \
1: the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
2: organized activity on behalf of women’s rights and interests