Let’s talk about the F-word. Some use it sparingly, others declare it loudly and some oppose using it altogether—but banning it? That’s what Time proposed last week in its annual online “word banishment” poll, and I’m not talking about that four-letter word. I’m talking about “feminist.”
“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?” Time writer Katy Steinmetz asked, lumping the word in with expressions of the moment like “bae,” “turnt,” and “yaaasssss.” “Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.”
Time has since taken down the poll and apologized for including “feminist” in its roundup (the word was in the lead when the poll was removed) thanks to Twitter exploding with angry tweets and re-tweets. But the ticker tape hasn’t settled just yet.
According to the Violence Policy Center, Nevada has the sixth highest rate of women murdered by men in the country. Compiling reports from domestic violence programs throughout the state, the Nevada Network Against Domestic Violence asserts that 11,768 temporary protection orders were filed in fiscal year 2013. And the National Network to End Domestic Violence’s 2013 census shows that 359 domestic violence victims in Nevada received critical services in just one day that year.
So really, let’s talk about the F-word. Does “sticking to the issues” necessitate banning a word that connotes a decades-old movement to eliminate violence against women while empowering women with the notion that their lives matter? For many of the 3 billion women in the world who face varying degrees of sexism and violence in their everyday lives, “feminist” is more than a declaration. Like the civil rights and LGBT movements with which feminism is deeply intertwined, it’s not about labels or defining party lines—it’s about social justice.
Feminism might be having a sort of twisted 15 minutes of fame, but even when this moment is over, women and men around the world will continue to work toward equality.
And thanks to celebrities like Beyoncé, Emma Watson and Joseph Gordon-Levitt, thousands of young people might be inclined to learn about feminism because they heard it from their role model first.
But feminism is far bigger than any one celebrity or Elle cover—it’s a multitude of theories and lived experiences that run deep with years of fight and fortitude. It has a personal, complex meaning to every feminist—but a four-letter-word? That’s one thing it isn’t.