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December 13 2017

Feminism is 2017’s Word of the Year But Women Still Don’t Know What It Means

by Patrice Lee Onwuka

Merriam-Webster announced that “feminism” is the word of the year. It’s not a matter of popularity, but that people still don't understand what it means. Even more, women today don’t know whether they want to align with the current feminist movement.

The word of the year title goes to the word which has had a significant increase in lookups compared to years past because of news events. Searches for the word "feminism" on Merriam-Webster.com spiked 70 percent around several key moments this year.

Searches for “feminism” first spiked during the Women’s Marches in January when streets in Washington, D.C., and other cities were flooded with pink pussy hats and anti-Trump chants. Searches spiked again in February when White House counselor Kellyanne Conway challenged what feminism represents today and declared that she doesn’t consider herself to be a feminist. Finally, the most recent #MeToo movement and breaking news accounts of sexual assault and harassment has driven a spike in searches for “feminism.”

Other minor spikes could be attributed to the fashion world latching onto the term as a trendy slogan and to the entertainment industry where the popular tv series “The Handmaid’s Tale” and the blockbuster “Wonder Woman” film have centered on women and power.

What does "feminism" mean? There’s Merriam-Webster’s definition: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes” and “organized activity in support of women’s rights and interests." Generally, it should be about empowerment and equality for women.

However, women on the left view feminism very differently from women on the right and those in the center. The difference is in how they view and relate to men.

Women on the left view all men as part of the patriarchy – a system where men hold power over women – and are actively working to oppress women. Women on the right view men as partners, friends, and colleagues. We acknowledge sexism and misogyny, but don’t think of it as systemic oppression.

Kellyanne Conway put it this way:

“It’s difficult for me to call myself a feminist in the classic sense because it seems to be very anti-male and it certainly is very pro-abortion, and I’m neither anti-male or pro-abortion. So, 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.”

I like Carly Fiorina’s definition of feminism too:

“A feminist is a woman who lives the life she chooses. We will have arrived when every woman can decide for herself how to best find and use her God-given gifts. A woman may choose to have five children and home-school them. She may choose to become a CEO or to become a candidate,” she said. “I am a conservative because I know we are all equal in the eyes of God – men and women. Our principles work better to lift men and women up.”

There’s good reason why women are searching to understand the term and struggling with what it means to be a feminist. We can and should love men without sacrificing a desire for equality with them. Women on the left have yet to acknowledge that.

“Feminism” may be the word of the year, but many women still don’t know or ascribe to what that means.

 

Independent Women's Forum is an educational 501(c)(3) dedicated to developing and advancing policies that aren’t just well intended, but actually enhance people’s freedom, choices, and opportunities. IWF is the sister organization of the Independent Women’s Voice.​
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