TIME magazine poll asks readers to vote for banning 'feminist' as a word

It's much easier to be a feminist today, but patriarchy isn't a historical relic yet. It persists and the way it moulds our thoughts is insidious.

Deepanjana Pal November 13, 2014 17:36:14 IST
TIME magazine poll asks readers to vote for banning 'feminist' as a word

Here's the good news: despite all the obvious differences, it seems there is one thing that the First World and Third World have in common, if TIME magazine is any indication: foolishness when it comes to feminism. In TIME's fourth annual word banishment poll, the magazine asked readers to vote which annoying word should be banned in 2015. The candidates include "bae", "yaaasssss”, "I can't even..." – even though those are three words – and "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?," complains TIME.

Well, that’s a relief. TIME doesn't have anything against feminism itself. Phew. Perhaps it's the phonetics of "feminism" that they find annoying? To paraphrase Shakespeare, would feminism by any other name be as annoying? What if the word for gender equality was "cow"? Maybe TIME prefer that?

TIME magazine poll asks readers to vote for banning feminist as a word

Courtesy: A screengrab of TIME magazine article.

Probably not, because TIME's real grouse with feminism appears to be that too many people are talking about it. They're sick of hearing the word being bandied about in conversations and comments. "Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade," exhorts TIME.

Because “banning” the word feminism is a really constructive step in the process of securing equal rights. Insert slow clap here.

Feminism has indeed become trendy in the past few years and everyone wants to ride that bandwagon. From celebrities to nobodies, the word “feminist” has become a badge of pride for many and rather than being regarded as pesky disturbers of peace, feminists are being heard with respect today. (With reactions like TIME's poll, one has to wonder how long the respect will last.)

For those who say they're not feminists, particularly if the reason is something as absurd as "I like men", there’s often scathing ridicule. And rightly so. Feminism doesn't hate men; it's just opposed to patriarchy, which privileges men over women even though there's no scientific or logical reason to consider women inferior to men.

Ironically for an 'ism' that pops up in the middle of so many conversation, the misconceptions surrounding feminism persist with the resilience of cockroaches. So as a public service, we'd like to address a few concerns. Contrary to widespread paranoia, feminism does not

- Need all women to be lesbians

- Advocate enslaving or victimizing men

- Privilege ugly women over attractive women

- Forbid underarm hair removal

- Require the burning of bras

- Think women are right all the time, every time.

All feminism demands is that everyone be treated equally, irrespective of gender or sexuality. It seems like a simple idea but equality goes against the patriarchal grain. Whether you're a man or a woman or a transsexual, your fundamental rights should be the same, according to feminism. Patriarchy believes otherwise. Power is for men, particularly those belonging to privileged classes. Feminism believes that being a man shouldn't justify higher salaries and being a woman shouldn't mean you get treated like a sex object. Patriarchy victimizes men who don't fit the stereotypes of masculinity, like gay men, for example.

And yes, feminism knows women can be as oppressive as men. That's one of the reasons that patriarchy has survived for so long: women have subscribed to it and attacked anyone who didn't (like feminists, for example).

If there's one thing that has become increasingly evident, then it is how difficult equality is as a concept. Possibly as a result of generations of patriarchy, we can only envision one group overpowering the other, which is why there's that curious vision of feminists toppling men from their position of power and reducing them to leashed pets. Since that's what men did to women in so many parts of the world, it makes sense to many that women will return the favour when the power balance shifts to them. That isn't what the feminists are saying, by the way. It's the vision put forward by those who oppose feminists.

This is why you need feminism and feminists to appear like that ticker that TIME so dislikes – because otherwise misconceptions persist and people remain illiterate. It's because of the past waves of feminism that society has become more equal than it used to be, but that doesn't mean there is no longer any need to rebel. If you're fortunate enough to be among the few who hasn't faced any gender discrimination, then you have the efforts of past feminists to thank.

It's much easier to be a feminist today, but patriarchy isn't a historical relic yet. It persists and the way it moulds our thoughts is insidious.

To quote the women’s rights activist Susan B Anthony, “this oligarchy of sex, which makes father, brothers, husband, sons, the oligarchs over the mother and sisters, the wife and daughters, of every household - which ordains all men sovereigns, all women subjects - carries dissension, discord, and rebellion into every home of the nation.”

Anthony said this back in 1873. The fact that it still rings true is the reason the word “feminist” needs to keep appearing and reappearing. If it disappears, then the idea of gender equality will become even more flimsy than cloud castles.

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