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Culture

We Definitely Shouldn't Ban 'Feminist'

'Time' is currently conducting their fourth annual "word banishment poll," focused on expelling annoying overused terms like 'bae.' But there is one word in the poll that doesn't quite fall in line with the rest – 'feminist.'

by Erica Euse
16 November 2014, 6:00am


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Time is currently conducting their fourth annual "word banishment poll," focused on expelling annoying overused terms like bae, basic, and turnt. Sure, these words might make me want to "thrust chopsticks through my own eardrums" after hearing grown-ass people awkwardly try to work them into their everyday vernacular. But there is one word in the poll that doesn't quite fall in line with the rest of this year's choices or even previous winners like OMG, YOLO, and twerk. The word is feminist.

Of course the internet, specifically Twitter, had a lot to say about the term for the women's movement being included on a list with internet nonsense like "om nom nom nom." But the author of the piece, Katy Steinmetz, defends feminism's inclusion with the following description.

"feminist: You have nothing against feminism itself, but when did it become a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them, like some politician declaring a party? Let's stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like sticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade."

The topic of feminism has gotten a lot of media attention this year, from  ​Beyonce's silhouette being lit up by the word at the MTV Video Music Awards this fall to ​Taylor Swift proclaiming she's a feminist in an interview with the Guardian. In a time when simple liberties like access to ​birth control are constantly being threatened, you'd think having celebrities on our side would be a good thing.

"The word feminist has a long history of being saddled with negative connotations: Rush Limbaugh's complaints about feminazis, Pat Robertson's claim that all feminists want to be witches and kill their children, and the widespread idea that feminists either are man haters or they want to create a world where women can press men," said Patricia Stokes, a Women and Gender Studies Professor at Ohio University. "To have respected and beloved public figures such as Beyonce and Aziz Ansari calling themselves feminists can help us move beyond these silly yet harmful stereotypes."

Although Steinmetz seems to playfully attack the fact that politics have been thrown into her daily entertainment news, reducing feminist to a buzzword, her suggestion that equality between the sexes is simply a trend is extremely problematic. Her description states, "you have nothing against feminism itself," but understanding the term and openly identifying as a feminist is a crucial part of supporting the cause.

And this isn't the first instance in which Time has dissed feminism. In a 1998 cover story, the magazine famously questioned, "Is Feminism Dead?" In the piece, the author described the modern movement as, "silly... a popular culture insistent on offering images of grown single women as frazzled, self-absorbed girls." Now they've set out to wipe the word from the modern lexicon at a time when 5 million women every year become victims of domestic violence and there is a 32-cent wage gap between males and females.

"It takes very little reflection to realize that feminism isn't just the flavor of the month. It has been with us for over 200 years, and its work is still not completely done," said Stokes.

However, some women and men have steered away from self-identifying with the word, because they don't want to be associated with the perception that feminism is about women's world domination. But it is clear that a lot of those people—like  ​Salma Hayek who ignorantly stated that she wasn't a feminist before accepting a Women's Equality Award—simply lack an understanding that the basis of the movement is a desire for equality between the sexes.

"If feminism is going to advance and eliminate injustices, we need people who are willing to do the work, whether it's lobbying or activism, or just publicly stating that they support the goals of feminism," said Stokes. "Those people, whether they claim the term or not, are feminists. Most of them are not famous. But if having an Emma Watson causes a few ordinary people to think about where they stand on gender equality, I can only see that as a good thing."

Since the Time poll has gone up, 4Chan and 9gag users have rallied to vote in favor of banning feminist. The word now leads the poll at 45 percent, 32 percent higher than bae, which is in second place. These men are rallying to vote against such an important word in order to, as one 4Chan user said, "trigger some bitches." And it's this kind of misogyny-fueled behavior that makes the case for why feminist should not be "launched into the deepest, darkest, most hopeless eternity from whence there is no salvation nor return" anytime soon, as Steinmetz suggests. We need to keep saying the word until we can actually live up to its ideals. Sorry not sorry.

Follow Erica on ​Twitter.

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