Time magazine is currently conducting its annual “Which word should be banned from the English language?” poll. The qualifications for a word being nominated, according to Time, is the following: “If you hear that word one more time, you will definitely cringe. You may exhale pointedly. And you might even seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids.” A list of nominees is up on their site right now for readers to vote on.
Amongst the words Time is suggesting should be abolished from our vocabularies come 2015 are “basic,” “om nom nom nom,” “obvi,” “sorry not sorry,” and “feminist.”
Is it just me, or is it troubling that the word “feminist” is on a prestigious publication’s list of words that should be banned from the English language? The reasoning for the proposed abolishment is equally troubling:
“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.”
There’s just so much that is so terribly wrong about this argument. If you have nothing against feminism itself, then why are you pushing to ban the word? Isn’t it a good thing that famous people are utilizing their power to promote gender equality? How can we stick to the issues if we don’t have the word that is crucial to describing those issues at our disposal? And in our current environment, where 1 out of every 6 women will be the victim of an attempted or completed rape over the course of her lifetime and full-time working women earn 77% of what their male counterparts earn, we’re not “throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade,” that’s a malicious way of diminishing the important and necessary work feminists do every day to make this world a better place for both men and women.
When reporter Katy Steinmetz, who created the poll, was challenged on both the inclusion of the word feminist and the blurb explaining why it was there in the first place, her response was kind of dismissive:
This is all, undoubtedly, bad. And unfortunately, it gets worse. As of this writing, “feminist” is leading the polls with a whopping 51% of the vote. “Bae” places a distant second with 12%. Rather than this being indicative of true public opinion, it seems like the word “feminist” is winning because misogynistic trolls have been campaigning on women-unfriendly sites like /b/ and 9gag, One of the commenters on /b/ issues a battle cry saying, “Let’s trigger some bitches!”
I actually find Time’s list on the whole problematic. The vast majority of these words are used by young women on the Internet, a place where they have found a platform that allows them both to be heard, grow their bases, and mobilize when action is needed. Every culture has its own language, and it seems that not only does this poll have a problem with the way young women and men speak, it has a problem with the idea of feminism as part of the social narrative.