I nominate the word "reckoning" as the 2017 word of the year.
Forget "complicit," the word that
Everyone, on the other hand, is part of the reckoning.
As one sexual misconduct scandal has followed another in a breathtaking cascade of allegations and apologies and denials, the word has been everywhere.
A few recent headlines:
What Hollywood Could Learn from
A Reckoning on Sexual Misconduct? Absolutely. But How Harsh, Women Ask. (
The reckoning has touched people high and low, male and female, from LA to D.C., from
It has forced us to ask ourselves more starkly than ever before: How have we allowed this degrading, predatory, shockingly widespread behavior to go on for so long?
Like most words, "reckoning" comes with a range of nuance. One dictionary defines it mildly as "a settling of accounts." A more biting definition calls it "the avenging or punishing of past mistakes or misdeeds."
In a reckoning, the past catches up with you. It's the moment the bill collector stops calling and instead breaks down the door.
It's when you learn the delayed cost of what you took for free or for granted, or by force.
A reckoning compels you to look in the mirror, no turning away no matter how much you dislike what you see.
In a reckoning, the truth is set free.
Only a few months ago, "reckoning" wouldn't have been a contender for the year's top word. Then came the stories of movie mogul
The timeline of the 2017 reckoning may, in fact, have started during the president's campaign, when he was caught on tape making vulgar remarks about women, but it took all these other stories to give this moment its momentum.
A reckoning, in part, is consciousness raising, a term popularized during the women's movement of the 1960s and '70s.
Women gathered in consciousness-raising groups to talk about their lives, and together learned they weren't alone. Together, they began to understand the common experiences and social systems that shaped them and consigned women to an inferior status.
Only then -- together and aware -- could they force social changes that began to elevate women toward equal standing.
In the reckoning of 2017, Facebook and Twitter are the consciousness-raising groups. Through social media, women and men have been able to share experiences, an exercise that has made us reckon with how widespread sexual misconduct is, and how damaging.
It's a double reckoning, really. We're dealing with the problem on a grand social scale but also reflecting on it in our private lives.
Like most women I know, and some men, I've had many "aha" experiences during the the past few weeks, thinking back on unpleasant things men have done to me, reflecting on why I didn't publicly protest, or protest at all. Men I know have told me they've been examining their own behavior and wondering where they may have transgressed.
Not everyone is so reflective -- a spin through Twitter will prove that -- but there's no escaping the conversation.
And that's why "reckoning" should be the word of the year. More than any other, it captures the zeitgeist.
It's not over either. A reckoning of this magnitude isn't a short event. It's like an earthquake that won't quit. It demands argument and self-interrogation, and it goes beyond examining or avenging the past.
A true reckoning helps to light the way forward. Once we can see the past, in all its ugliness, we move to the next question: What do we do now?
We need to get clearer on the appropriate consequences for sexual misbehavior. We need to connect the dots from sexual predation to all the other ways sexism plays out in our workplaces and our lives.
The year of the reckoning will last longer than 2017.