Time magazine’s annual poll of the year’s “worst words” looks for words that make you “definitely cringe,” even “exhale pointedly,” even “seek out the nearest pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids.” And it asks people to “vote another word off the island” (and if I never hear that phrase again, I’ll be okay). Or, as The Mary Sue’s Susana Polo instructs, “Time to get out your Language Curmudgeon Bingo Cards, and mark off the squares for ‘slang associated with African-American culture,’ ‘words used by young, internet-savvy women,’ ‘ten year old internet memes,’ and ‘one desultory entry for an overplayed trend associated with middle class white people, i.e., hipsters.'”
This year’s poll includes bae, basic, bossy, disrupt, I can’t even…, influencer, kale, literally, om nom nom nom, obi, said no one ever, sorry not sorry, turnout, yaaasssss, and… 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.
(Do they have Susan B. Anthony parades?)
That right now, feminist is sitting well at the top, with 49 percent of the vote to bae‘s 13 percent and 4 percent for om nom nom nom — among Time‘s readership, feminist is more annoying and ban-worthy than the written interpretation of indistinct eating noises — seems to me to be an indication that maybe we need to be using the word more rather than less.
If there’s a way to “stick to issues” like the gender wage gap, domestic violence, rape on college campuses, street harassment, unrealistic representations of women’s bodies in media, repeated and growing incursions on reproductive rights, underrepresentation of women in business and government, without pulling out the f-word, I’m perfectly cool with that. What you’re going to get there, though, is a bunch of women and men coming together under some other name in pursuit of those goals, because feminism, as a movement, is just the coming together of people in pursuit of goals like that. It doesn’t always work out as planned — there will always be factioning, there will always be waves, there will always be people excluding some and taking advantage of others, as happens any time human beings are involved in a movement — but people will come together. Maybe in marches, maybe in advocacy, maybe just in shared identity. And generally, they end up with a word they use that helps them recognize each other, and in a couple of years that’s the one that climbs up your butt and ends up on Time‘s list of words to ban.
tl;dr: It’s not actually feminist but really is feminism that’s bugging you on that one, and it’s not going anywhere, so maybe just stick to commonly used Instagam hashtags.
It’s not like people haven’t actually been feminists as long as there have been women. A lot of times they didn’t say it, because there wasn’t a word for it, and then even when there was a word for it a lot of people weren’t in a position to talk about it out loud without suffering horrific consequences. But that doesn’t mean they didn’t identify that way. And if you’re going by Chimamanda Adiche’s definition of the word (the one brought onstage in lights by Beyonce) — “the person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes” — then yes, a lot of people, women and men, qualify. So Time‘s complaint there is that they’re actually saying it out loud now, which… Sorry (not sorry) you have to hear that, Time.