When we saw the word “feminist” listed in a TIME magazine poll among words that are ostensibly so overused that they deserve to be put on the chopping block, we were angry — but not shocked. We know what this cheap shot in an otherwise inconsequential online poll is really about: hostility to hearing women’s voices.
It’s About the Poll…
But It’s Not Just About the Poll
The poll asks readers to pick the most cringe-worthy pop culturisms from a list of 15. It includes casual phrases (“I can’t even”), abbreviations ("obvi"), acronyms (“bae”), and onomatopoeia ("om nom nom nom").
As of this writing, “feminist” is by far getting the most votes to get banned. This may be the workings of /b/, the “Internet's home for barely potty-trained trolls” (whose users are encouraging each other to vote for “feminist” to “trigger some bitches”) and and 9gag ("another troll emporium"), as Jezebel reported.
Let’s get one thing straight: The word “feminist” means someone who believes in the equality of the sexes, of genders, of all people. That shouldn’t be controversial or annoying, but the word can stir up strong emotions (even among feminists themselves). It’s political. It’s personal. It’s a concept that activists for women’s health and rights have fought to strengthen and bigots have fought to squash. As Jill Filipovic said, “Feminism is still alive — and still under fire — because it's both a simple concept and an inherently threatening one.” That’s what sets the word off from the other options in the poll.
Not that the other options in the poll are any more acceptable. The majority of the list is vernacular that was already well-established in communities of color and LGBT communities long before TIME picked up on it.
Where Is This Coming From?
We’ll Tell You.
Our society has an extremely long history of attacks on women’s equality, and the definition of feminism has been publicly debated for decades. A recent wave of media attention includes Shailene Woodley’s questionable claim that she isn’t a feminist yet believes in feminist values, Beyoncé’s performance at the VMAs that put “FEMINIST” in lights and sampled a speech by Nigerian author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, Emma Watson’s speech to the U.N. on international gender equality, and Taylor Swift’s feminist re-awakening (oh wait, TIME covered that! Perhaps it was before TIME got “curmudgeonly” about celebs using the word).
Since social movements always face pushback, of course famous women partaking in public discourse on feminism would make some people want to “exhale pointedly” and call for feminists to “quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade,” as TIME wrote. In fact, TIME is sooooo over celebrities talking about their feminism that the magazine implores them to “stick to the issues.” Hold on. First of all, women ARE talking about important issues. We’ve never stopped. (Just read Beyoncé's essay on gender equality.) Second of all, as Roxane Gay tweeted, “In what universe is it a problem that celebrity women are finally claiming feminism in significant numbers?”
We Should Build Up Feminists,
Not Take Them Down
It’s a damn GOOD thing the word "feminist" is being used in the media in positive ways. If anything — feminism (both the word and the meaning) needs MORE amplification, not silence.
We certainly are not sick of hearing about feminism — we like knowing who else considers themselves a feminist. But you know what we ARE sick of hearing? Messages that stand in the way of the real work we should all be doing to make society a more equal place.
If You Take the Poll,
Vote for 'Bossy'
Whatever this inane poll says, we very much need the term “feminist.” So, if you take the poll, vote for the word “bossy” since, according to the Ban Bossy campaign (led by Lean In author Sheryl Sandberg), girls who exhibit leadership skills are often dismissed as bossy.
Still angry? Sign onto our Facebook message and tweet this:
- I'm a #feminist, and proud of it! If you agree, RT and sign onto this →http://bit.ly/1EvezNm