Bad Judgment: “Time” Apologizes for Including “Feminist” on its List of Words to Ban

I’m sure most of you know that Time magazine added the word “feminist” to its list of proposed words to ban last week—and yesterday the magazine’s editor Nancy Gibbs posted a note at the top of the poll apologizing for its inclusion:

“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.”

Feminists around the word—whether out and proud, or quietly on the inside—have been outraged by the inclusion of the word, especially as it came from such a respected magazine as Time, and especially since the editor who put together the list is a woman. I have to say that when I first heard about this, my opinion of the publication plummeted—and fast.

Although the poll is meant to be humorous and the magazine justified its action as not having anything against feminism itself (and adding that we should “stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade”), it didn’t bode well with celebrities, journalists, or the general public alike, with people taking to social media to voice their dissatisfaction. What is particularly insulting is that a word that refers to a social movement which has resulted in massive advancements for half the world’s population was included alongside nonsensical words and phrases such as “bae,” “I can’t even,” and “om nom nom nom.” In fact, the only word I agree that should be banned on the list is “bossy.”

More disturbingly, “feminist” was winning the poll at one point with 45% of the votes but as Jezebel soon discovered, disgusting site 4chan (the same one that leaked nude photos of Jennifer Lawrence) was responsible, putting out posts on its /b/ board that encouraged people to vote for the word. One user said, “Let’s trigger some bitches,” while another, when the figure dropped to 38%, stated “Pick up the slack guys.

My favorite social commentary comes from feminist writer, professor, and author of Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay whose piece published in the Washington Post is as angry as it should be:

“I keep trying to imagine a universe in which too many public figures declaring themselves feminists would be a bad thing. This would have to be a universe where “the issues,” as the poll vaguely mentions, no longer exist—one where women enjoy unlegislated reproductive freedom and have easy, affordable access to birth control… Women would be paid the same as men. They would be free from the threat of violence, harassment and sexual assault while going about their lives. Women would be able to rebuff a man’s advances without getting killed, as 27-year-old Detroit resident Mary Spears was last month. They would be able to participate in intellectual debates without disagreement being couched in terms of their looks or sexuality. In this universe, where women would be free to simply live their lives, “feminist” would become an antiquated term. I’d be tired of hearing it, too.”

What is most reassuring, however, is that we now live in an age where something like this will no longer fly. If this happened 100 (providing the word entered the vernacular by then) or even 50 years ago, the word would have surely been banned. Although, as Roxanne Gay points out, we do not live in a universe where the genders are equal, we do live in a universe that enables more (and different kinds of) people to have a voice, which greatly contributes to this being one of the most exciting times for the gender equality debate. It’s just a shame that Time couldn’t recognize that.

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