The XX Factor

Time Wants to Ban the Word Feminist  

I can’t even with this feminist (said no one ever—sorry not sorry).

Photo by Michael Buckner

“Which words should be banned in 2015?” asks a new Time piece, which asks readers to vote on a list of nominees in the magazine’s annual “word banishment poll”:

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. What word is this? You tell us.

Oddly, problematic is not on the list, but feminist is. What’s writer Katy Steinmetz’s argument against it?


feminist: 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.


Yes, heaven forbid we celebrate people who both believe that women deserve equality and think that it’s OK to act on that belief. Of course feminist is having a moment as a word, and, more importantly, as a movement. After decades of anti-feminists distorting its meaning, a combination of Beyoncé’s endorsement and the groundswell of actual feminists writing and advocating online has made it clear that feminists are not the man-eating monsters of reactionary myth but rather people who care about equal-pay legislation, reproductive rights, low-wage workers, and combating sexual violence. That these ideas are still met with resistance means that it’s pretty important to not stifle a word at the moment that the people who actually embody it, as opposed to their detractors, are getting a chance to define it. Also, it’s just ugly and mean to suggest that women should somehow be embarrassed for identifying as feminists. They should be proud! Ticker-tape parades for everyone!

Perusing the entire list, however, a certain theme emerges: Sure, Steinmetz includes what you might call words of privilege, like disrupt and kale. (If you ban the word kale, is that the same as banning kale? Or you’re just not allowed to call it kale? Confusing.) But most of the words Time thinks should be “banned” are internet or hip-hop slang. Baebasic, obvi, yaaasssss, and turnt all make the list—you know, words associated with young people, people of color, and, yes, women.