Life, liberty and the pursuit of feminism in 2017

The Merriam-Webster dictionary announced that the word “feminism” was their top lookup this year. But aside from an increased number of searches, was feminism itself on the rise in 2017?

Lidija Pisker
Lidija Pisker NewsMavens, Balkans
Life, liberty and the pursuit of feminism in 2017 - NewsMavens
Feminist march. Wikicommons

Why this story matters:

gender, women's issues

“Feminism” is the word of the year, according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary. One of America’s most popular dictionary companies has been announcing winning words since 2003, as determined by queries in online searches. 

The year started with the Women’s March in Washington, along with related marches held globally following inauguration of Donald Trump as new US president. Regardless of the claims that the march was not feminist, the fact remains that around two million people gathered in cities around the world in support of women's rights.

Later during the year, a two-word hashtag grew into a global movement which made millions of women share their experiences of sexual harassment. It provoked public condemnation of sexual assault and violence against women around the world, which in many cases happened for the first time ever.

Far from English speaking world and typical Merriam-Webster audience, women in the Balkan peninsula have fought their own fights -- this year louder than ever. 

In Bosnia, workers of Gračanica shoes factory boldly opposed the management, who was guilty of the firm’s bankruptcy and their unemployment. A group of female oncology patients in Sarajevo stopped an illegal attempt at kicking them out of a hospital. Local women from Kruščica village rebelled against the construction of a hydropower plant and the destruction of a local river.  

Montenegrin women raised their voice against the common practice of illegal prenatal gender tests and sex-selective abortions in a patriarchal society which pressures women to prefer giving birth to male children to avoid public condemnation.

“Women in black” from Serbia performed the “Crystal Night” to protest against fascism, and Kosovo students developed an app to educate teenagers about women’s sexual and reproductive rights. 

Their revendications were different but their demands were the same -- life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness, unalienable rights owed to all human beings regardless of gender.

In previous years, “democracy”, “socialism”, “science” and “culture” were the most searched terms in Merriam-Webster dictionary, reflecting public curiosity around political and social events at the given time.

Let’s hope “equality” is the next one.

Details from the story:

  • Merriam-Webster defines “feminism” as: 1. “The theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and 2. “Organized activity on behalf of women's rights and interests.”
  • Three years ago, Time Magazine published the word banishment poll asking readers to vote for words that should be banned. The word “feminist” was included along with words and phrases such as “bae”, “influencer” and “sorry not sorry”. The Time editor later apologized saying that “feminist” should not have been included in the list.
  • The credit for having coined the word “feminism” goes to French philosopher Charles Fourier. Feminism as a movement started on the basic premise of achieving equality for women.
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