Society and Culture

No TIME, We Shouldn’t Ban the Word Feminist

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TIME magazine is running an online poll asking which words need to be banned. As TIME explains its own criteria for the “word to ban”:

If you hear that word one more time, you will definitely cringe. You may exhale pointedly. And you might even seek out the nearest pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids. What word is this? You tell us.

The words on the list range from industry buzzwords like “influencer” to attacks on pop culture with words like “bae,” “basic,” and “turnt,” to overly misused words like “literally.”

But there’s one that really sticks out to me–“feminist.” TIME thinks feminist is a word so noxious that it’s worth being banned. But it’s not just TIME, but its voters too, because “feminist” is winning with 50 percent of the votes. There is speculation, though, that “feminist” is dominating the poll so heartedly because of the efforts of notable equality-lovers over on 4chan.

There is a multitude of ways in which this upsets me, the point where I literally just can’t even. (One of the other phrases to make the list.)

Feminism has a controversial history, fine, that’s not a secret. Law Street’s feminist blog, by the inimitable Hannah Winsten, is called “The F Word” in a not so subtle nod to the controversy that surrounds the word. And sure, the word feminism has been bastardized and maligned, and yes, there are “feminists” who have taken it too far. It’s a word that has a history just as rich and controversial and storied as the fight for equal rights itself. Just because some people don’t get it, don’t use it correctly, or find it annoying does not strip it of its meaning. The reason that TIME put for including it on the list was:

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.

Hey TIME: just because you’re tired of how often the word is used doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be used. And what’s this utter BS about “sticking to the issues” instead. The fact that in this day and age the word “feminist” still invokes so much ridicule and hate is an issue unto itself. If you need to be convinced of this, watch this video of feminists reading threatening tweets about themselves.

The fact that feminism is still so controversial a topic in 2014 that women regularly get rape and death threats tweeted at them is proof that we need the word. Pretending that it doesn’t exist or saying that we need a less controversial word isn’t suddenly going to make these kinds of assholes decide: “Oh, never mind, I guess I’ll stop threatening to rape women because they call what they’re fighting for a different word now. Carry on.”

And why does TIME have such a serious problem with celebrities being asked if they are feminists or not? I’d much rather hear that answer from the people whose faces adorn the news way more than they should than an answer to the “boxers vs. briefs” question for the seven millionth time.

No matter how others try to co-opt the meaning, feminism is a pretty simple concept to understand–according to the Merriam-Webster dictionary, it means “the belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.” While being a “feminist” means something a little different to each of us who identify that way, to see it on the same page as words like “obvi” and “yaaassss”–which aren’t even words–is insulting. No one has ever been asked if they’re a man-hater or a lesbian (no, those are not the same thing but yes some people think they are) for typing “yaaassss.” No one has ever, to my knowledge, gotten death threats for using the word “obvi.” There’s history there, and for TIME to pretend that there isn’t is offensive.

For the record, even if TIME bans the word, I’m going to keep identifying as a feminist. It’s part of my story, my history, and my worldview. I’m a feminist and damn proud of it. Too bad a magazine with the twelfth highest circulation in the country is too ashamed to say the same thing.


Anneliese Mahoney
Anneliese Mahoney is Managing Editor at Law Street and a Connecticut transplant to Washington D.C. She has a Bachelor’s degree in International Affairs from the George Washington University, and a passion for law, politics, and social issues. Contact Anneliese at



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