First things first: My feminism is not nice.
No one thinks of writing “Always stay sweet!” on the back page of my feminism’s yearbook.
My feminism is a grown-ass warrior with stretch marks and tits that drag almost to the ground. Her hair hangs in greasy knots that she shoves behind her ears. Her breath is foul, and I think she might have filed points into her teeth.
My feminism uses filthy language. She fights just as dirty, with up-close punches to the throat and a knee to the groin. She will break joints in your fingers. She fights every fight as if her life is on the line.
I’m not sure I want to convince her otherwise.
What I am sure of: neither she nor I is overly interested in making “I am a feminist” a comfortable and inviting space to people who would not otherwise choose to affiliate with our kind.
This may or may not be your feminism. That’s fine. That’s between you and yours, and I have no interest in policing.
But if my feminism scares you, that’s probably because she should.
Second things second: Earlier this month, TIME magazine released a poll of “words to ban in 2015.” The word choices included: bae, basic, bossy, disrupt, feminist, I can’t even, influencer, kale, literally, om nom nom nom, obvi, said no one ever, sorry not sorry, turnout, and yaaasssss.
[NB: Apparently this is an annual thing. Last year’s voters opted to ban “twerk.” Nice to know TIME — and its readers — aren’t newcomers to the misogynoir scene. To borrow Melissa McEwan’s suggestion, next time why not just ‘run a one-question poll asking if Black Feminist Twitter should be banned‘?]
But let’s get back to this year’s list. Anything stand out as strange? Out of place? Perhaps has you humming, “one of these things is not like the others”?
Here’s a hint: the trivializing “background blurb” TIME provided made the offensiveness so. much. worse.
You haven’t been so tired of having a single thing talked about and trumpeted and pushed in your face since people started signing up for Twitter.
Oops. Sorry, no — not that one. That blurb’s for kale.
I meant this one. The nomination to ban “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? Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade.
Now, maybe TIME quite knowingly included “adherent of a major social and political movement for rights and equality” in its list of “slightly-too-precious and likely-overused Internet slang expressions” because clickbait. Or maybe its editors really are clueless neophytes in the gender wars, who had NO IDEA, NONE! that including this particular word would lead to the bottom-dwellers of 4Chan and 9gag ballot-stuffing the poll to ensure “feminist” scores a decisive victory as this year’s “most annoying thing ever bar-none yuck those uppity b!tches had it coming.” (Despite the fact that 4Chan has done this kind of thing to TIME many times before.)
Regardless, their apology — complete with not removing the word in question — almost makes the whole thing worse. An Editor’s Note attached to the polling page now reads:
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. (h/t Shakesville)
OH, now I get it! See, I just missed the NUANCE and the INVITATION TO DEBATE SEMANTIC DEPLOYMENT. Silly me. Always letting myself get distracted. Usually by shiny things.
Can we debate the nuances of kale enthusiasm too, while we’re at it? I mean, I like hardy greens as much as the next gal — but I’ll be first to admit kale’s now reached Peak Quinoa-Level Trendiness™ and is probably due for some cultural skewering à la Shit Food Blogger (author of the best-selling 2012 cookbook, Something, Something, Quinoa).
So…what happens if you take TIME correspondent Katy Steinmetz at her word (in a tweet captured by Jezebel) that “The inclusion is responding to trends in the media, not feminism itself”? Though while you’re at it, you might want to overlook any implications you could otherwise draw from her recent piece celebrating Dictionary.com’s decision to pick “exposure” as 2014’s Word of the Year.
You’re probably gonna need to also overlook the fact that, as The Mary Sue points out, “Time has participated […] more than once” in the very process of making feminism into “a thing that every celebrity had to state their position on whether this word applies to them” that the magazine purports to complain about.
Here’s my 2 cents: I couldn’t give fewer fcuks about celebrity endorsements of feminism.
(I warned you my feminism was a potty mouth.)
Roxane Gay puts it more politely:
But it irks me that we more easily embrace feminism and feminist messages when delivered in the right package – one that generally includes youth, a particular kind of beauty, fame and/or self-deprecating humour. It frustrates me that the very idea of women enjoying the same inalienable rights as men is so unappealing that we require – even demand – that the person asking for these rights must embody the standards we’re supposedly trying to challenge. That we require brand ambassadors and celebrity endorsements to make the world a more equitable place is infuriating.
[Sidebar: Could I love Roxane Gay any more than I already do? No. No I could not.]
All these media non-troversies about “which actress doesn’t call herself a feminist” — or “which actor does” — are just business-as-usual, damned-if-you-do-damned-if-you-don’t propositions for the women in question. They are no more my concern than Renee Zellweger’s face then or now (though my profound sympathies to any individuals who may indeed feel helpless against an onslaught of public shaming and demand to maintain a certain persona, either physical or ideological).
However, by all means!, if seeing a particular female celebrity waving her feminist flag with pride played an important role in introducing you to the wider world of inequality awareness, feel free to get down with your bad self. I have no interest in policing that gateway. (Just one word of caution: if you find yourself giving Emma Watson All The Stars for her nice — though hardly ground-breaking — speech at the U.N. but expressing serious doubts about Beyoncé as a feminist brand ambassador, might I gently suggest it may not be feminist purity that’s the root of your concerns…)
As for the menfolks who bravely come out for gender equality, lemme just give you my obligatory disclaimer: I am
profoundly grateful pleased when men ally themselves publicly to feminism. Male allies play a critical role in drawing wide-spread attention to these issues, and I am in no way annoyed beyond snot fully cognizant of that fact.
Now, if you’ll excuse me, I think I hear my feminism in the other room picking her teeth with a rasp — which probably means she has someone’s bones stuck between them again. I wonder if those’re bones she picked up over at TIME magazine, perchance?
Obvi! says my feminism. Mmmm, mainstream media bones. Om nom nom nom…