It is that time of the year again. The countdown to year-end has begun, and one is somewhat standing at a vantage point to look back and collectively comprehend the way the year unfolded. Like every year, few names and incidents hit the headlines, some pictures provided fodder for memes and certain hashtags not only trended but became movements. The annual list, released by Google, which reveals 2017’s most-searched terms and trends helps in understanding the year that was. Apart from the expected names of phones and calamities, it is the list of people who trended this year that gives a sense of how important and significant this particular year was. Three names from the first five names in the list, unsurprisingly are of men, contrary to last year when there were just two men in the list — Donald Trump, the present US President, and Michael Phelps, who swam the last race of his career in 2016 Olympics and won gold. Does it mean that 2017 belonged to men? The answer to that would be a firm and an unflinching ‘No’. If the year belonged to anybody, then it did to an unified, monolithic identity — the survivors.
The men who trended
Matthew Todd Lauer, the American journalist and former host of The Today Show; Harvey Weinstein, the Hollywood magnate; and Kevin Spacey, the actor, are the most-searched names on Google this year. Lauer is the first name, followed by Weinstein, the fourth name in the list and Spacey, the fifth name. A little probing will reveal that all three of them have a similar reason for being relentlessly searched by people and to have trended this year. All three of them have been accused of (mis)using their positions of power and sexually harassing and molesting others.
A former employee of The Today Show recently came forward and shared with the world the brief affair she had with Lauer back in 2000. Although Addie Zinone, who was known as Addie Collins when she was a production assistant on the show, maintained in her revelations that the affair was consensual, she went on to explain the extreme mental harassment she had gone through on account of Lauer. Soon other women spoke up and Lauer was subsequently fired from the show he had hosted for twenty years. The lid on the Weinstein scandal was lifted on October 5 when The New York Times published a detailed report of decade-long allegations by actors. Rose McGowan and Ashley Judd were among the first women to come forward and publicly speak on Weinstein’s decade-long abusive behaviour and soon the list grew steadily. Spacey had been accused by actor Anthony Rapp of making sexual advances against him when the latter was just 14 years old. In a response to that Spacey had apologised to what “would have been deeply inappropriate drunken behaviour”. In the same statement the actor had revealed about his homosexuality.
The year that 2017 was
These names trending this year do point toward a certain sense of disbelief among people but they also imply that the power dynamics finally, no matter how slowly, is changing. The year 2017 has been the year when those who had been subjugated and silenced for far too long finally let out a collective howl. It has been the year when the shriek of women’s pregnant silences penetrated the deaf ears and propelled others to sit up and take notice. It has been the year when five women, from disparate background and walks of life adorned the cover of Time magazine and were representative of the silence breakers of this year. They were collectively declared as Person(s) of the Year. It has been the year when the word ‘Complicit’ was declared as the word of the year by Dictionary.com and the word ‘Feminism’ was no longer considered a synonym of misandry or pejorative in its implication. It was chosen as the word of the year by Merriam-Webster.
It has been a year about women and of the right noises made by them. Movements on social media were formed this year and the hashtag #MeToo trended for days on end. Women poured their stories and there was an undeniable sense of catharsis as each acknowledged the other’s narrative without skepticism or doubt.
Much like last year, the names that made news started pouring in from the latter half of the year. But unlike last year when people residing in the oldest democracy in the world had collectively rejected a woman as their President, 2017 has been the year when Meghan Markle, a woman of mixed parentage and a vocal feminist is making her way to the Buckingham Palace and has people all across the globe cheering for her. Markle is the second name in the list this year.
Zinone, while narrating her story, had said, “I’m putting my name and face out there to squash any doubts about the allegations from other women against Matt Lauer. I’m validating their stories because some of our experiences are similar. I want these women to know that I believe them, I want to help empower them and collectively we have a voice to change things.” This is what the year 2017 has been all about – women telling their stories and other women believing in them, of unusual friendships being forged and enduring solidarity being retained. This year has been about women having each other’s back – trending or not.
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