Why We Can’t Ban Feminism
By: Juhi Varshney
TIME Magazine’s annual poll to ban a word included a delightful selection of colloquialisms this year including “kale,” “om nom nom nom,” and “feminist.” Yes, you read that right. TIME placed “feminist” – a word denoting a political and social movement committed to bridging disparities, defying stereotypes, empowering women, and eradicating oppression – in the same category as a leafy green vegetable and the onomatopoeia that follows a satisfying meal. While the absurdity is laughable, it is also disheartening to see such a special movement in the lead of this poll, thanks in part to 4Chan. TIME’s justification for including feminist stemmed from annoyance with all of the celebrities who have been embracing the term. ”Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around,” they concluded in their explanation. While the magazine later expressed their regrets at their less-than-tasteful inclusion, questions still remain. Why didn’t anyone protest its original inclusion? Why was feminism reduced to terms of the glitzy celebs who now endorse it? And regardless of who endorses it, why do so many people still grossly misunderstand the crux of this movement?
As much as some people (many women included) want to believe that gender inequity is a remnant of the past and that we live in a postfeminist world, we don’t. The staggering rates of body insecurities, wage disparities, and violence that women face are a testament to the necessity of the movement. Feminism stands up for women regardless of their race, class, sexuality, ability, gender identity, or citizenship. Feminism believes that every person – especially marginalized groups like women – deserve humanity and respect. It is founded on the belief that everyone is inherently valuable, and it seeks to support women, people of color, working people, LGBTQ+ people, people with disabilities, and immigrants because they are exploited and oppressed by society daily. Feminism being misconstrued as misandry or man-hating is an oversimplified attack, and it is a lazy false criticism against the movement. Popular celebrities like Beyoncé, Emma Watson, and Aziz Ansari embracing the term feminist seemed to annoy the public further – so much that TIME tried to ban it.
Feminism is here to stay. Of course, we all dream of a world where we don’t need feminism because oppression has been entirely eradicated, but there is far too much work to do before this vision can become a reality. We need it for the young girls growing up in a cruel society, for the single mothers stigmatized by stereotypes, for the working women who have to juggle minimum wage jobs to earn a living, for the college students walking back home late at night, for the women of color who are too often removed from this discourse, for the LGBTQ+ individuals who face the constant threat of violence, and for countless others who are equally important and equally valuable.
I imagine that TIME magazine is not really against the aforementioned principles and ideals, but their attempt to ban it highlights the ignorance that follows the word “feminism.” The backlash was heartening though, and it signals that there is a large percentage of Americans that does understand and appreciate feminism as well as a population that is open to conversation about it. If anything, the outrage in response to this poll is a testament to the tenacity of the feminist movement. In our quest to eradicate the structural barriers that interlock to maintain all forms of oppression, we feminists can’t be stopped. We can’t be quelled. We can’t be deterred. And we certainly can’t be banned.