"Feminist," "bae," "yaaasssss" and "kale." What do these seemingly unrelated words have in common? According to Time Magazine, they're all terms that may lead you to "seek out the nearest pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums" -- and they should possibly be banned from our collective vocabulary in 2015.
Yes, that's right. Time insinuates that famous women "coming out" as feminists, or misdefining the term (two topics which Time regularly covers) must never be reported on again. And apparently the best way to accomplish that goal, is to ban the word altogether.
According to Time's Katy Steinmetz, banning the word feminist isn't about actual feminism, it's simply about making people stop "throwing the label around," specifically media outlets who ask celebrities to "state their position" on the term. To which we say: LOL, no. We quite literally cannot.
In a poll that asks readers to select one word that should be banned, "feminist" is winning by a large margin. (As of 4:30 pm on Wednesday, it was at 44 percent, while the second-place word, "bae" had a mere 14 percent of the vote.) The word's position in the race doesn't come as a surprise to anyone familiar with the vitriol that is regularly directed toward women who identify as feminists.
The fact that a well-respected publication like Time would even consider including "feminist" on a list of words that should be banned is unfathomable. (Unless, of course, they were trying to troll, in which case... well done!)
The only upside of such an ill-advised poll is that it gives us a chance to remember how powerful and impactful the label of "feminist" really is. Feminists have earned women the right to vote, they've fought for reproductive rights and equal pay, they've tackled rape culture on college campuses (and outside of them), they've used the Internet to demand that a diversity of voices be heard, and they've created a movement for equality that benefits people of all gender identities. Even if it was feasible to "ban" the word "feminist" -- which, in the world of ladyblogs and Twitter feminism, it's certainly not -- doing so, in essence, would erase the existence of a decades-long social movement.
Time might find it unproductive to discuss Beyoncé's feminist leanings, but there is a reason that those of us who identify as feminists celebrate when influential women correctly define -- yes, including Taylor Swift and Beyoncé -- the term and publicly identify with it. It signals that big picture conversations about social, political and economic equality, which have been traditionally considered "radical" or "fringe," are trickling down into the most mainstream of pop culture outlets.
As Rebecca Traister wrote in an August piece for The New Republic, Beyoncé's VMAs performance meant "that attention to gender inequity is alive, revived, and that it is powered today by a broader, more diverse, more youthful and far glossier energy than it has been in the past four decades."
We can debate what feminism means and how to enact it better, but if Taylor Swift can teach a 12-year-old girl to value herself a little more, and understand that there is an entire social movement supporting her in that endeavor, then I'll sure as hell use my platform to celebrate that.
So, should we keep talking about "feminists" even if that conversation is, at times, imperfect? In a word, "yaaasssss."
UPDATE: 11/16/14 5:00 p.m. -- Time issued an apology at the top of the original poll. The statement, written by Time Managing Editor Nancy Gibbs reads:
TIME apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban. While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost, and we regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.
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