At the end of last year, TIME magazine published an article titled “Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?” Previously, they “banned” words like “twerk,” “YOLO,” and “OMG,” because they thought it would make the reader “seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through their own eardrums like straws through plastic lids.” Now I have my problem with this article lies in TIME’s decision that “feminist” should be a contender this year.
The interesting part is since the release of this article/poll, TIME Magazine has since released an apology in the form of an editor’s note for their inclusion of the word “feminist” in words to ban for 2015. That still will not negate me from criticizing TIME for including “feminist” on words to ban to begin with.
That’s right, smack dab alongside “obvi,” “yassssss,” and “turnt,” “feminist” sat in the poll of words to be banned. Their justification? The article said, “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.”
TIME apparently decided that now that “feminist” is a word used more and more often in pop culture and by pop culture icons, it’s passé. They may have attempted to hedge this with the disclaimer “you have nothing against feminism itself,” but immediately undermined the thought by going on to portray feminism as an unimportant, tired concept. In doing so, TIME fails to recognize how important it is for major figures to represent feminism (as well as other social justice issues and movement) in the mainstream media and how this actually perpetuates these movements.
Feminism has a long history of being regarded as a dirty word associated with man-hating, hairy lesbians. While I am all for lesbians and girls who want to rock an unshaved look, these descriptions historically have negative connotations and were associated with feminism to make it seem undesirable. So for young girls to see women they idolize (like Beyoncé, Taylor Swift, Emma Watson, or whoever it may be) declare themselves feminists is truly incredible. Seeing a major celebrity like Beyoncé on a stage backlit by the word feminist in bright lights shows her fans is hugely impactful. Furthermore, when male celebrities like Joseph Gordon-Levitt state that they are feminists, it shows that not only is feminist not a dirty word, but in fact a powerful one that can be applied to all people, including young men. In this way, the importance of this movement and the impact these representations could have are far more important than the mild aggravation of it apparently being a repetitive occurrence.
But perhaps we can take some good from this blunder: TIME’s poll shows that feminists have gained enough power to worry our opponents. If the movement wasn’t successful, there would be nothing to concern the patriarchy. But the reality is that there are clearly people who still fail to understand how beneficial feminism is. Hopefully, celebrities will continue to use their public positions to positively represent feminism and shape public and individual perceptions of the movement despite how annoying TIME magazine may find this. So, sorry that you have to hear about basic rights, TIME. Next time we’ll make sure to be even louder.