Dear Time Magazine,
While I don’t appreciate the fact that the word feminist is on your word banishment poll, among turnt, obvi and yaaassss, I’m grateful that you’ve since apologized.
I think this entire incident, however, brings up an interesting question, perhaps relating to your original reason for including the word on the poll: is the nuance of the word feminist lost?
You cited annoyance at its overuse, saying that hearing the word would make you “seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids,” and asking “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?”
What I don’t understand, however, is what makes this terrible. Politicians declare parties to show that they are a part of those political parties. In your same example, celebrities say they are feminists to show that they are feminists. Why is it annoying to hear people supporting gender equality? Where else should we talk about feminism? Were you saying we shouldn’t?
Perhaps, if the term itself were made “obsolete” by everyone embracing gender equality, these declarations would be unnecessary (and then I would be able to understand if they annoyed some people). But the problem is that it’s not, and we still need feminism. We can stop using the term when there’s no more barring of access to education, or street harassment, or wage gap, widespread violence, or objectification. While banning the word wouldn’t erase its meaning, feminism is still relevant as a term.
What I think originally bothered me the most about this poll is that feminism has just started gaining traction in popular media and culture. This isn’t to say that feminism hasn’t always had influence, or even presence. Rather, less people are declaring that they-don’t-hate-men-therefore-they-aren’t feminists, cringing at the f-word itself, or complaining about how all feminists are overly didactic.
You’re a magazine with an incredible readership and amount of influence, and the inclusion of feminist on that poll curbs its movement and dwindles its importance as an issue. I think it’s great that you’ve apologized —“throwing this label” around isn’t what’s diluting its value, because the spread of the label itself means that more people are accepting the term. If feminism’s should promote one thing, it’s definitely not exclusivity. I hope this brings us one step closer to the equality and justice that you mentioned.