Time Magazine’s #sorrynotsorry apology for including “feminist” on banned words poll

Let’s back up to last week when Time Magazine released its “Which Word Should Be Banned In 2015?” poll, otherwise known as the “Worst Word Poll of All Time.”  The poll kind of offended everyone, especially with its inclusion of the word “feminist.” Their reasoning wasn’t any better. Apparently Time doesn’t have a problem with the “idea” of feminism, but is sick of celebrities talking about feminism and wants us to “stick to the issues” and “quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.”

If you’re like, “But wait, how can I ‘stick to the issues’ if I can’t even use the word ‘feminist?’” don’t worry, it’s not you it’s Time. You are certainly not crazy, it’s the idea of banning the word ‘feminist’ at all (plus the completely gobbledygook explanation that they served up) that’s crazy.

The Internet lit like wildfire after the poll was published with many a piece, and thousands of tweets calling out the mag. A lot of people took their frustration out on Katy Steinmetz, the contributor credited with the poll. Though Steinmetz did write the nonsensical explanation re: why we should ban the word feminist from the English language, she was one of many journalists who contributed definitions to the piece, and she reports to editors (as all journalists who work for major pubs do) who absolutely need to be held as accountable as Steinmetz for this error in judgment.

To be fair, Time did respond to the uproar. Now, at the top of the poll, Time managing editor Nancy Gibbs has posted the following:

Editor’s Note:

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.

–Nancy Gibbs

It’s bad enough that a female journalist came up with the explanation as to why “feminist” should be banned, it’s really bad that a female managing editor like, barely apologized for the inclusion of the word, but what really rankles is the fact that “feminist” is STILL ON THE LIST. And, as last reported, the word was winning thanks to the grassroots efforts of misogynistic Internet trolls.

If we’re going to throw Time a bone, we’ll throw them this: they did publish a piece today by author, activist, and feminist Robin Morgan entitled “Feminist Is A 21st Century Word.” As a response to the kerfuffle, Morgan covers the global history of the word as well as her evolving associations with the term, ending her well-worth-reading piece on this powerful note:

The dictionary definition is simple: “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Anyone who can’t support something that commonsensical and fair is part of a vanishing breed: well over half of all American women and more than 30 percent of American men approve of the word — the percentages running even higher in communities of color and internationally.

But I confess that for me feminism means something more profound. It means freeing a political force: the power, energy, and intelligence of half the human species hitherto ignored or silenced. More than any other time in history, that force is needed to save this imperiled blue planet. Feminism, for me, is the politics of the 21st century.

Okay, yes, Time, good job publishing this smart and timely counterpoint piece. You get credit for that. But not as much credit as I think you want. This doesn’t cancel out the fact that “feminist” is STILL on your poll. If you’re really sorry, take this word off your list, and in the future try not to ban words that were created to fight for equal rights and make this world a better place.

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