When Did Feminism Become 2014’s Dirty Word?

If you’re a female celebrity these days, you better be prepared to be hunted down whether you identify yourself as a feminist or not.

In case you missed the news last week – and lets face it, if you weren’t Kim Kardashian’s oiled up assets you weren’t news – Time magazine called-out the word ‘feminist’ by including it in their annual list of words to ban in 2015. Their complaint? Celebrities are ruining it for the rest of us…

‘Let’s stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around like ticker tape at a Susan B. Anthony parade,’ they declared and in one fell swoop radically missed the point. The internet raged, the magazine quickly penned a regretful apology:

‘Time apologizes for the execution of this poll; the word ‘feminist’ should not have been included in a list of words to ban.’ They continued to back-pedal: ‘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.’

It’s certainly been a rollercoaster ride for feminism in 2014. If you’re a female celebrity these days, you better be prepared to be hunted down like ambushed prey whether you identify yourself as a feminist or not.

For every empowered celebrity getting lassoed for daring to attach herself to the cause (Beyoncé immediately springs to mind), there’s an unsuspecting A-lister who’s pack-hunted like a gazelle for simply getting feminism a bit wrong. Who could forget Katy Perry’s twitterquake earlier this year when she ‘ummed’ about feminism? Questioned about whether she identified herself as a feminist she replied: ‘I used to not really understand what that word meant, and now that I do, it just means that I love myself as a female and I also love men.’ The internet-predators pounced.

Then there are celebrities whose feminism is disregarded due to the clothes they wear, or lack thereof. Miley Cyrus may have declared herself ‘one of the biggest feminists’ but that doesn’t stop many dissecting her values because she likes to swing naked on a wrecking ball. Ditto to Beyoncé : the global star penned an essay on gender equality for The Shriver Report but earlier this year we were more distracted by whether a feminist can perform in a leather thong at the Grammys.

That’s the problem with Time magazine’s ban: telling some ‘feminists’ to ‘stick to the issues’ suggests there is a right and wrong way to embody feminism. You know what is wrong? Suggesting that in order to be a feminist we have to earn points on our members card first. There’s a dangerous game of good feminist, bad feminist being played and the casualties are women. Just because they’re celebrity women, does it make it any less alarming? Surely their feminism counts too.

More worryingly, by reducing ‘feminist’ into a buzzword alongside words such as ‘kale’, ‘bae’ or ‘YOLO’ the movement – not just the word – becomes as disposable as last season’s catwalk trends shoved to the back of our wardrobe.Time magazine finally got it right when they admitted feminism is more nuanced than that.

Behind every use of the word ‘feminist’, whether misunderstood, hijacked or well meant, lies a much-needed discussion about an urgent cause: gender equality. If celebrity feminism is aiding this discussion, and fuelling the debate on prevalent issues such as equal pay, reproductive rights, FGM and domestic violence statistics, then why disregard the word itself as annoying in 2015?

When did feminism become as disposable as this year’s kale fad?

Reading now

Popular