“Pansexual” Was Merriam-Webster’s Most-Searched Term After Janelle Monae Came Out

Janelle Monae (Amazon Music)

Janelle Monae (Amazon Music)

Last week, Rolling Stone published an interview with musician Janelle Monae, pegged to the release of her new album “Dirty Computer.” This interview proved significant because, after years of dancing around the subject of her sexuality, Monae actually came out.

In Monae’s own words:

“Being a queer black woman in America,” she says, taking a breath as she comes out, “someone who has been in relationships with both men and women – I consider myself to be a free-ass motherfucker.”

Monae’s definition of her sexuality led to a spike in an unlikely place: Merriam-Webster searches. As @MerriamWebster reported via Twitter:

Merriam-Webster's tweet about searches for pansexuality (Twitter)

Merriam-Webster’s tweet about searches for pansexuality (Twitter)

The dictionary reported that searches for “pansexual” rose 11,000% after the Rolling Stone interview. And that spike carried over into the next day:

Merriam-Webster's tweet about the staying power of "pansexual" as a search term (Twitter)

Merriam-Webster’s tweet about the staying power of “pansexual” as a search term (Twitter)

Thank you QUEEN for dropping that knowledge!!

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Searches for “Feminism” Rose 70%+ in 2017

Beyonce's 'Flawless' performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Awards

Beyonce’s ‘Flawless’ performance at the 2014 MTV Video Music Award

Feminism made a huge impact in 2017, and it was especially felt on the Internet. Dictionary website Merriam-Webster reported that searches for the term grew 70% over searches in 2016.

Searches for “feminism” corresponded to major events in 2017, such as the Women’s March in January and the #MeToo movement, and the release of relevant media such as “Wonder Woman” and “The Handmaid’s Tale.”

The dictionary also named “feminism” its 2017 Word of the Year. The term beat out other popularly-searched terms such as “complicit,” “empathy” and “gaffe.”

Ellen Pompeo is the Highest-Paid TV Actress at $20M a Year

Ellen Pompeo in 'Grey's Anatomy' (Today)

Ellen Pompeo in ‘Grey’s Anatomy’ (Today)

Actress Ellen Pompeo has played the titular role in “Grey’s Anatomy” since 2004. And she’s finally making bank for it.

Pompeo is earning $575K per episode (!!), to the tune of $20M per year (!!!). She could also bring in another $6-7M with backend deals. Pompeo is now the highest-paid actress on TV.

Congrats to Ellen! May we all have the courage to go after what we’re worth!

UVA Rape Story Retracted: Has It Happened Before?

UVA (Brohammas)

UVA (Brohammas)

Last week, “Rolling Stone” released an investigative report on its now-infamous piece “A Rape on Campus.” The report, produced jointly with the Columbia Graduate School of Journalism, delved into fact-checking the narrative. Ultimately, the investigation found many fact-checking and methodology errors (overall termed a “systematic failing”), and “Rolling Stone” retracted the piece.

I was interested to see if any other investigative journalism pieces, specifically on rape cases, had been retracted at any time. But I wasn’t able to find any. The closest things I could find were examples of victims later recanting their stories.

This has proven to be a first for the journalism world in that such an expansive feature (on such a timely, hot-button issue, no less) has been so thoroughly demolished by its fabrications. Though the story initially drew awareness to rape victims on college campuses, it ultimately ended up casting more negative light on the publication and journalist who covered it. Let’s hope that future journalists covering sexual assault stories will be scared into performing their due diligence to get all the facts right.

 

The Numbers Behind Stanford University’s Sexual Assault Problem

Stanford University (Stanford)

Stanford University (Stanford)

Last week, Stanford University swimmer Brock Allen Turner was charged with raping an intoxicated and unconscious woman in January. Allen was discovered by two men, who then chased after him. The men tackled and held Allen to prevent him from escaping, while a third man called the police.

Since then, Allen has “voluntarily withdrawn” from the university (more likely, it was either that or face expulsion), and won’t be allowed to re-enroll. His profile has also been removed from the nationally-ranked swim team’s website. Stanford will also conduct its own investigation of the crime.

This is notable for a few reasons. Rapes on college campuses have made headlines recently, notably the “Rolling Stone” UVA article, and subsequent fraternity scandal. But this is the first time we’ve recently seen a school take a hard line against rape. The university made a swift and decisive action, leaving no room for public outcry.

Specifically for Stanford, this is a pretty bold move. According to the “SF Gate,” the school has been one of the schools called out for their sexual assault policies (as in, they’re not stringent enough). Stanford Law professor Michele Landis Dauber prepared a report on sexual assaults at the school, and found the following:

Between 1997 and 2009, just four of 175 reported sexual assaults were formally adjudicated at Stanford, with two of the alleged attackers held responsible.

Doing the math, only 2.29% of reported sexual assaults were tried over a period of 12 years. (And, with what we know about the reporting of sexual assaults, it’s probable that the sheer number of them that occurred was much higher.) The alleged attackers were only held responsible 50% of the time. Pretty shameful.

Dauber noted that the numbers have improved since the report: The university has been “more welcoming” to victims and followed through on investigations (which could mean following through on more investigations, and/or following through more closely). But of course, there’s always room for improvement.

Let’s hope that Stanford’s actions incite other colleges to make the right decisions when, not if, they’re faced with similar situations.

UVA Sexual Assault: Rape Punishments on College Campuses

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

UVA Rotunda (Hoo Stories)

On Nov. 19, “Rolling Stone” published a harrowing article on a UVA student’s 2012 gang rape, and its eventual social and political fallout and complications around the campus. The article goes into depth in detailing UVA’s culture of avoiding the topic of sexual assault, and terming any assaults mere “bad experiences.”

The article cites UVA’s honor code culture that also functions to keep sexual assault quiet. It points out that 183 students have been expelled for violating the honor code since 1998, but there have been no expulsions resulting from reporting sexual assault (which is arguably more prevalent, from anecdotal data).

This isn’t just a UVA issue. Last year, Yale allowed five students guilty of “nonconsensual sex” to continue their education at the Ivy institution without suspension or expulsion. (The sixth one was suspended and future probation.) Instead, they were given punishments ranging from sensitivity training to a reprimand.

The “Rolling Stone” article notes that one in five women will be sexually assaulted during their time in college, but only 12% will report an assault to the police. So it’s clear that the actual numbers are much higher than those being reported. Hopefully, this UVA case will spur on more open discussions on sexual assault, particularly on college campuses, and urge universities to hand out heavier punishments for assailants.