Frisky Rant: No, We Should Not Ban The Word “Feminist” Just Because Celebrities Talking About Feminism Annoys You
Yesterday morning, TIME Magazine’s Katy Steinmetz released a list of fifteen words from which we can chose one that most deserves to be “banned” in 2015. The poll, which includes items such as kale and #sorrynotsorry, is intended as a bit of fun, but there is one point where I want to get off the ride:
“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.”
I fail to see how one can have a problem with hearing the word feminist – and any discussion of it, including discussions participated in by celebrities — but not have a problem with feminism itself.
Female celebrities make such frequent comments on feminism because we ask them to comment on it. One of the problems a woman –or any minority, really – faces right out of the gate is being heard or acknowledged. So if a celebrity has something affirmative to say, we certainly want it said into their celebrity mouthpiece so people have a harder time pretending they don’t hear it. People may not value what Emma Watson or Beyoncé have to say as much they’d value what a man has to say, but they value it more than what I have to say, so I’m grateful to those ladies and other outspoken female celebrities for annoying you by saying it.
There’s also something important to be gleaned from how many female celebrities have answered the question with a resounding negative, something so important that I don’t think we’re ready to leave off with bandying the word about in front of the paparazzi. Too many women are literally (another word on Steinmetz’s list) afraid of touching the very idea of feminism with a one thousand foot pole. And I say touching the idea – not aligning themselves with it – because so many responses to feminism bely a serious ignorance of the term and/or the goals of a feminist that it’s almost as though these women refuse to even give the matter any thought. This ignorance is at times so flagrantly displayed that I’m suspicious of its integrity. These women can’t all be this ridiculous.
My suspicions lead me back to the reason women benefit every time a celebrity does proclaim she’s a feminist – I really think most celebrities who eschew the term do so because accepting or demonstrating an understanding of it can put you in real danger. Very real danger. They step back because they are afraid. And then there are the reasons they give — that they don’t want to turn the oppression tables over on men or that they can’t reconcile feminism with the notion of having a caring or strong husband or the word feminist should be exchanged for humanistso as to not exclude men from our attempts to get equal pay and control of our own reproductive systems, since men hate not being invited to a party even if they don’t want to come. These reasons all indicate very clearly what these women are afraid of: hurting men’s feelings. And why shouldn’t they be afraid to hurt men’s feelings, when hell hath no fury like an insulted patriarchy?
Groups who work to maintain our fear of The Butt-Hurt Male — groups like 4Chan or the Men’s Rights subreddit — randomly attack unknown women a plenty, however they often specifically target famous women they see as threat. An easy way to present yourself as a threat, of course, is to label yourself a feminist. This very visible, public pattern – male outrage met with women who worry about stepping on the patriarchy’s toes — is a macrocosm of the less visible struggle faced by non-famous women who wish to assert themselves, even if doing so means hurting a man’s feelings. If a girl has to worry that the word feminist is too annoying to be suffered, what other ideas are she keeping to herself for the sake of not annoying you? The punishments famous women suffer for calling themselves feminists call attention to the danger we stand to face by asserting our feminism in smaller, more private spheres. Keeping this cycle of intimidation visible via the limp-wristed approach many celebrities take toward feminism (and the helps call attention to what we push against ourselves. Feminism benefits from visibility, in all its forms; to vote (jokingly or not) against this visibility by voting to ban the word feministis to vote against feminism itself.