by Jenna McDaniel
TIME magazine’s recent decision to propose banning the word “feminist” from the English language was met with understandable outrage. TIME magazine claimed that too many celebrities were jumping on the feminist bandwagon, and that the term was losing its power. As author Katy Steinmetz put it:
“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.”
TIME has addressed the use of the “f-word” by female celebrities prior to this. In fact, the magazine published a list of 17 female celebrities who talk about what feminism means to them, including Shailene Woodley and Kelly Clarkson. After including the article “What word should be banned in 2015?” in its latest issue, TIME faced a barrage of criticism, leaving them with only one option, to apologize and hastily fix the list of words. Caitlyn Dewey, a Washington Post writer, described the quick amendment of the list as simply a calculated play for more page views. In TIME’s apology, the magazine stated their intent was to spark debate and discussion around the word. Whether this is the real reason behind including the “f-word” in the original list or not, it’s a loaded term that stands for so much more that a belief in gender equality and shouldn’t be taken lightly, regardless.
As for the flaky classification of random female celebrities as feminists, Jone Johnson Lewis, an expert on women’s history, defines Feminism in four different ways, in her article titled :
As for the flaky classification of random female celebrities as feminists, Jone Johnson Lewis, an expert on women’s history, defines Feminism in four different ways, in her article titled Feminism Definition:
1. Descriptive – Feminism consists of ideas and beliefs about what culture is like for women just because they are women, compared to what the world is like for men just because they are men. The assumption in feminism is that women are not treated equally to men, and that women are disadvantaged in comparison to men.
2. Prescriptive – Feminism also includes ideas and beliefs about how culture can be and should be different — goals, ideals, visions.
3. Feminism includes ideas and beliefs about the importance and value of moving from A to B — a statement of commitment to behavior and action to produce that change.
4. Feminism also refers to a movement — a collection of loosely connected groups and individuals committed to organized action, including changes in behavior of members of the movement and persuasion of others outside the movement to make change.
I have noticed an alarming trend with regard to feminism and feminists, and it lies in the transition from commitment to behavior and action with the intention of producing the change you want to see. Making that switch is where many people, and maybe the celebrities mentioned above included, lose sight of their goal. Actions do speak louder than words, and it takes a brave and bold feminist to take that additional step towards action that will result in change. According to Jone Johnson Lewis:
“Feminism describes a culture in which women, because they are women, are treated differently than men, and that, in that difference of treatment, women are at a disadvantage; feminism assumes that such treatment is cultural and thus possible to change and not simply “the way the world is and must be”; feminism looks to a different culture as possible, and values moving towards that culture; and feminism consists of activism, individually and in groups, to make personal and social change towards that more desirable culture.”
Being an understated feminist is one approach to the movement, but if the burning passion and desire to create change is there, why stay quiet? Taking action is a tangible way of demonstrating commitment to a cause. Genuine commitment is where we seem to have lost celebrities this time around. With the overwhelming critiques around banning the word “feminist,” perhaps celebrities and other stealth feminists will begin to understand and pursue the importance of committing to a movement that desperately needs their full participation to be successful.