Time Magazine is at it again. First their "bad apple" cover outrages teachers and parents across America sparking boycotts and a petition with hundreds of thousands of signatures. Then Time offends thousands of practicing witches, pagans, and human rights activist when they published an online article that compared witches to terrorists, at a time when U.N. Refugee workers are desperately trying to address the growing violence and homelessness facing accused witches around the world, giving rise to a petition with thousands of signatures. But perhaps that was not quite enough people offended, so now the powers that be at Time Magazine have offended half of the entire human race by their recent proposal to ban the word "feminist".
Each year, Time features a list of words that they think should be banned, and ask readers to vote on their top pick. Usually the list features non-sense, annoying internet slang like some of those on this year's list, including "bae," "om nom nom nom," and "obvi." But this year, of all years, for some bizarre reason they added the word "feminist" to the list, and the backlash has been brutal. So brutal, in fact, that Time Magazine editor Nancy Gibbs has had to issue an apology.
"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."
The apology is now listed above the poll itself. However, as of this writing, they have not removed the word from the poll, which has many doubting just how sincere of an "apology" this actually is.
Looking back, it could be said that 2014 has been one of the most pivotal years in recent history for breathing new life into the various feminist movements, and has re-introduced the public and mass media to the conversation on the rights of women and the issues they have been struggling with for decades, both in the United States and around the world. So to pick this year, of all years, to try and silence the voices of millions of women was a disaster in the making.
This point has not been missed by feminist critics like Alyssa Rosenberg, who wrote in the Washington Post, "This is lazy outrage bait. But I am biting anyway, because Time could have trolled readers by calling a ban for the word on "feminist" any time, the magazine is considering it in a year when the conversation about the meaning of the term is as rich as it has been in some time."
In a year where street harassment has become part of the public conversation, when celebrities are calling out one another over fake feminism, or trying to capitalize on the word for their own personal gains, it would seem that women in mass media should be doing more to encourage the conversation to continue in 2015. However, Time Magazine is suggesting that it be silenced instead. Ana Merlan at Jezebel was quick to state the general disgust at Time Magazine's inclusion of the word feminist in her usual manner of cutting sarcasm. She also documents several anti-woman websites that were fueling campaigns to get votes for the banning of the word, in many cases, just to offend women by any means necessary.
"Yes, why does everyone have to talk about feminism? Why can't we all just be feminists quietly? At home? Only very late at night when everybody's sleeping? Or like in our teeny tiniest voices? Or in a soundproof hyperbaric chamber, maybe, where it won't, like, bother anybody?"
Sadly, this does seem to have been the general consensus over the past few years, this idea that it is okay to be a feminist as long as no one actually knows that you are a feminist, as long as you do not say it too loudly or, worse yet, actually expect change or become an activist for the rights of women. Time Magazine's suggestion to ban the word "feminist" from the entire lexicon and discourse of the coming year seems to loudly trumpet this draconian view that any who dare speak too loudly or too boldly for the rights of women shall be banished from the land of mass media.
But the real heart of this controversy is not even that Time Magazine wants to ban the word feminist, which is undoubtedly offensive in and of itself, but as Merlan points out, that "making a case for banning a word that refers to a mass social movement alongside the nonsense phrase "om nom nom" is pretty stupid."
Even for a publication that has had a history of unfavorable portrayals of the feminist movements, it was still a move that could have only one outcome easily predicted by anyone. In fact, it seems like such a ridiculous move that it has many wondering whether or not Time Magazine's entire point in this endeavor was solely to cause such offense, after all, bad press is better than no press and all that, right?
"Did the writer not work with at least one editor who considered the message being sent by including "feminist" in a list of words that should be banned? Or maybe no editors considered the message, or they didn't care. Perhaps they thought it reasonable to once again make feminism, and in turn the concerns of women, a sacrificial lamb," asks Roxane Gay from the Washington Post.
What Time Magazine seems to have missed in the proceeding episodes of offending readers, is that when you are producing media for the masses, your words have power, they contribute to the national, even global conversations, attitudes, and yes, even actions that affect millions of people. And whether you are targeting a small group of people to malign as they did with their attack on witches, or whether they are trying to silence an entire social movement that affects half of the people on the planet, publicity bait at the expense of others is something that far too many readers are getting fed up with.
As far as the fate of the word "Feminist" in 2015, Time Magazine's poll aside, perhaps no one has expressed just why women need feminism now, more than ever, better than the feminist blog Glosswatch.
"So yes, I am tired of this whole feminism thing. Apart from anything else, it's so bloody repetitive. Always the same thing, year in, year out. When will it ever end?... I'm bored of just how painfully obvious it is that women's lives are not valued as much as men's."