I’m Not Buying TIME’s Apology For Saying “Feminist” Is A Word To Ban

TIME managing editor Nancy Gibbs tacked an apology onto the magazine’s “Which Word Should Be Banned in 2015?” article this weekend, expressing regret for including the word “feminist” in the poll. She writes:

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.

I so would like to be pleased with this apology. I so don’t want to say, “This is not an adequate apology.” I hate to be that person, and I get tired of taking issue with the details of the language we use, especially if that language is contained in what looks to be a genuine attempt at apologizing.

But it’s not adequate. It just leaves more questions open. “We meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year” — what ways were those? How was it used this year in a way that is inconsistent with the stated goals of feminism? The only overuse and misappropriation of the word I can think of is that anti-feminists have been using it incorrectly, but if that’s the case, then maybe instead of putting the burden on feminism to fix that overuse and misappropriation, we should ban “MRA” (men’s rights activist) or “SJW” (social justice warrior), an apparent pejorative employed by people like #GamerGate enthusiasts. For that matter, why not ban “#GamerGate”? But then again, we’ve been putting the burden on women to fix the way that women have been treated in this culture for a long time, haven’t we?

Or were they meaning to invite debate about celebrity feminism? Fair, I guess, but the problem with that is that it ultimately leads to conversations about Beyoncé and how she’s not “really” a feminist. She took her husband’s name! She takes pride in her marriage and her monogamy! Her most recent album was fiercely (hetero) sexual! How dare she! That all, of course, falls short of any understanding of Black feminism, but whatever, solidarity is for white women.

So I wouldn’t say that nuance is lost, I’d say that the nuance wasn’t there in the first place. You know what I think? I think “feminist” was included because TIME knew the ladyblog circuit would jump on the opportunity to trash the article, it’d get linked and tweeted and retweeted on publications that have fiercely loyal and extremely engaged readers and it might even spawn a hashtag — and then TIME could cash in on the pageviews, tack an apology onto the article at 5:30 on a Saturday night once it blew over and its own audience was no longer paying attention, and send out a release in time for those ladyblogs to post about it again on Monday (hello!) and re-link to the same article, earning it even more pageviews. I think it was free publicity and easy controversy. Call me cynical.

And what gets me even more is that it’s a controversy — oh, excuse me, “debate” — generated by a publication with such daring contributions to that debate as articles like “It’s A Man’s World, And It Always Will Be” and “Sorry, Emma Watson, But HeForShe Is Rotten For Men.” I wrote six weeks ago about the fact that TIME has been hosting a spate of mostly inane, poorly-contextualized articles by female anti-feminists, so I’m sure you can guess exactly how surprised I was to find out that they’d included “feminist” on the words-to-ban poll. The debate, for TIME, isn’t about how to make feminism more effective, inclusive, or egalitarian; it isn’t about recognizing that the average or casual feminist doesn’t understand or acknowledge the very real issues that men face as a part of their feminism; it’s about whether feminism should exist at all. In feminism, we call that “a tool of the patriarchy.”

But hey, if I’m wrong, TIME, please correct me. It’s just that that half-assed, vague apology didn’t exactly crystallize the magazine’s stance the way its recent history does.

[TIME (1), (2), (3)]

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