Why “feminist” is not just the buzzword of the moment

“Bae,” “basic,” “sorry not sorry” and “literally.” All are words and terms that you probably hear at least once a day if you’re a twenty-something growing up anywhere that has internet access.

They’re also all words that Time magazine suggested should be banned in 2015. The publication’s popular “word banishment poll” comes out every year and is usually a tongue-in-cheek look at some of the terms that have infused popular culture over the previous 52 weeks.

The magazine came under fire this year though, for casually including “feminist” among the list of nominated words.

Yes, the word is bandied about a lot by those in the limelight as another way of saying they are open-minded and not opposed to equality. Taylor Swift has spoken about her “feminist stance,” Joseph Gordon-Levitt says he is “absolutely” a feminist, and Beyoncé notably used the word as a backdrop for her VMA show in August.

But given that women throughout the years have worked tirelessly to ensure they could enjoy the same rights as men, and have often been brushed aside or not listened to, we should be celebrating the fact that celebrities are all jumping on the feminist bandwagon. It makes the journey easier.

As recently as the 1970s, women in Ireland were not legally allowed to work after marriage, to choose their own place of residence, to own their own home or to refuse to have sex with their husband.

Life has changed hugely for women in this century – but so much of that change is down to the tireless work of women’s rights activists… or feminists, to call them by another name.

The rise of “feminist” as a widely used word in popular vocabulary is a great sign, but it’s important to remember that it’s not just a throwaway word.

Feminism is a movement and a lifestyle. While it was once considered radical and a bit out-there to be a feminist, it seems that attitude is fading. The fact that the word is now considered by some to be over-used is a great sign. It means that the term must be becoming a part of modern conversation, and that people must be using it more and more, in relation to themselves and others.  

Time’s editor, Nancy Gibbs released an apologetic statement earlier this week about their decision to include the word in their poll. “While we meant to invite debate about some ways the word was used this year, that nuance was lost,” she wrote. “[We] regret that its inclusion has become a distraction from the important debate over equality and justice.”

In many ways it is understandable that the over-use of the word “feminist” might annoy people. But considering that the feminist movement has only just begun to become mainstream, perhaps it’s better to celebrate its growth rather than to banish it so soon.