This year we lived through a campaign to “ban bossy.” Now, TIME Magazine is contributing to the word-banning bandwagon by suggesting a variety of words, and things that are sort of words, including the word “feminist.”
I get that some people perceive the word “bossy” as pejorative. And there’s no need to explain why we should do away with annoying things that pass as words, like “om nom nom nom.” But just because some people don’t like what some versions of feminism look like, why should we stop using the word that describes those who do?
Clearly, this is a link-bait kind of readers’ poll meant to bring eyeballs to TIME’s website and, at the same time, stir the always successful pot of ‘let’s get women fighting whether they are feminists or not.’
The particularly sad takeaway from this “news poll” is that the idea of banning the word “feminist” is outpacing most of the other words and phrases almost four-fold. Even “bossy” only gets three percent of the vote, and you remember the firestorm that kicked up.
So I’m wondering — should I be offended? I’m a feminist from way back. I’m all for equal pay, equal opportunity for men and women, and, yes, reproductive rights. But that isn’t how TIME has decided to talk about its suggestion to take a very important word out of our lexicon, even if it’s only a way to bring people to its site rather than having an actual conversation about an issue. Here is TIME’s “definition”:
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 ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.
So, that’s not even a definition. Someone at TIME has just decided that the news outlet’s apparent fatigue with the culture of celebrity feminism is cause enough to lump it together with “I can’t even” and “Yaaaaaas.” But do we really want to suggest, even in jest, that we should get rid of a word that really means this:
The advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.
Because here’s what’s going to happen. Girls and young women, like my 9th grade daughter, who have grown up with the idea of gender equality being the norm, are going to see sites, that at one time were respected news outlets, as just pandering in promoting dangerous ideas. No matter what aspect of feminism has them even half-jokingly considering erasing a word that describes women who created a major cultural movement, is a seriously slippery slope.
Of course, things are already buzzing on Twitter about all this, and the article’s author Katy Steinmetz has defended the inclusion of “feminist” on the list:
.@katysteinmetz Inclusion of “feminist” on your list of should-be-banned words in indefensible and gross.
@RebeccaSchinsky Please see the blurb for context. The inclusion is responding to trends in the media, not feminism itself.
Interestingly, Steinmetz’s response to Rebecca Schinsky’s tweet appears to have been deleted. But offering a defense that this is just about trends in the media? Here’s the thing, dear TIME writer — sadly, we live in a media world where that kind of nuance is lost on many, many people, including our generation of kids who still are learning to be critical media consumers. And to even remotely equate doing away with the word “feminist” with getting rid of “bae?” That borders on the ridiculously dangerous.
Joanne Bamberger is an independent journalist and journalism entrepreneur who is also the author of the book Mothers of Intention: How Women and Social Media are Revolutionizing Politics in America. She is the founder and publisher of the The Broad Side. Joanne is at work on a forthcoming anthology about Hillary Clinton. You can find Joanne on Twitter at @jlcbamberger. Also, follow The Broad Side on Twitter at @The_Broad_Side and on Facebook!
Screenshot from Time.com