‘Time’ Magazine Faces Backlash After Proposing Ban on the Word ‘Feminist’

The publication put the term on its list of overused words that should be left behind at the end of 2014.

(Photo: Facebook)

Nov 12, 2014· 2 MIN READ
Culture and education editor Liz Dwyer has written about race, parenting, and social justice for several national publications. She was previously education editor at Good.

Back in August at the MTV Video Music Awards, Beyoncé created one of the most iconic images of 2014 when she performed in front of gigantic letters that spelled out the word feminist. It was a powerful visual statement at a show that only a year before had made headlines for Robin Thicke and Miley Cyrus’ racy performance of the rape-culture-friendly song “Blurred Lines.” But according to Time magazine, feminist is one of the words that has become so overused, it should probably get the ax from our vocabularies in 2015.

Time Magazine poll. (Courtesy Time.com)

The magazine’s fourth annual poll of words that should be banned in the new year went live on Wednesday morning. Anyone can vote for one of the 15 words that Time suggests we should be most sick of. Because free speech still exists in America (and terminology comes and goes), it might seem a little odd to put words on the chopping block. So what exactly, according to Time, makes a word worthy of getting banned?

“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,” wrote Time correspondent Katy Steinmetz.

Trendy slang terms that are associated with youth-driven hip-hop culture—bae, turnt, and yaaassss—make up most of the list. Kale, the beloved leafy veggie, made the cut, as did Silicon Valley’s favorite way to make money: disrupt.

Then there’s feminist, which is neither a term coined by a top 40 song nor a trend recently birthed in a corporate boardroom.

“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?” Steinmetz wrote of the decision to include the word in the poll. “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.”

As of this writing, with 46 percent of the public’s vote, feminist is winning the poll. Users of the site 4Chan, which has been ground zero for both GamerGate and the recent release of nude photos of female celebrities, are suspected to be behind the high numbers. (If ever there was a sign that fighting for gender equality is still needed in the world...)

In the meantime, feminists and their allies are coming down hard on the publication.

“Way to discredit a term that represents triumph over centuries of oppression and violence. Not to mention the fact that it’s not just a word, it’s a legitimate school of thought and philosophy that many have died for,” commented Sara Pardys on the Time Facebook page.

Scroll through the other Facebook comments (or check Time’s mentions on Twitter), and it’s clear that the backlash against the poll is more than a war of words.

“Should we ban desegregation too? Subscription cancelled. Called my mother and she cancelled hers too,” wrote another Facebook user named Kate Garvey. Outraged readers may be unsubscribing, but Time has yet to make a statement about the controversy.