Post by Hannah Barath, Access & Diversity Co-op Student Assistant
In November 2014, TIME Magazine posted a poll with a list of words and expressions that they thought should be banned in 2015. Next to sayings such as “bae”, “om nom nom nom”, and “sorry not sorry” one of the words on this list was the f-word. Not that f-word! The other one… feminist.
The magazine faced an immediate backlash following the release of this poll, and before long an editor’s note was added to the article. In this note TIME Magazine apologized for including the word “feminist” on the list but insisted that it was a joke that people had taken the wrong way and that it was intended to start a debate on how the word was used. Notably, it was never removed and still remains on the list today. Listed next to nonsensical words such as “yaaasssss” it doesn’t feel like a criticism on the way media uses “feminist”, rather it feels like they are making light on a social justice movement for equal rights that has been going on for over a century. The suggestion to ban the f-word – jokingly or not – feels, as Robin Morgan puts it, uncomfortable.
Regardless of TIME Magazine’s reasons for including this word in the poll, it illustrates a problem that feminist movements have had and continue to face. Feminists constantly deal with people who refuse to take their cause seriously (often combined with claims of feminists taking everything too seriously) and people who have misunderstood what feminism really is about. This unawareness of what feminism(s) truly stands for, combined with the fact that so many people have very negative connotations with the f-word, is one of the reasons I think people may be reluctant to identify as feminists.
In media and popular opinion feminists are often depicted as irrational, unreasonable or too “politically correct”. But feminism is really about creating equal political, economic, social and personal opportunities for people of all genders. It is about acknowledging how intersections of race, gender, sexuality, socioeconomic class, disability, and other social identities affect people in different ways and how lived experience differ due to varying intersections of identity.
Some people totally get behind the definition above, but are reluctant to identify and associate with the movement because of its name. They think that “feminism” sounds like it is only for women. A question that often comes up is “if it’s about equality between all humans, why isn’t it called something else, like humanism?” One of the reasons for this (among many other reasons) is because it is part of a social and political movement that is over a century long. The name represents a long history of social justice activism, and to discard that name would in a way discard that history as well.
It is good to keep in mind, however, that keeping the name of the movement does not mean that the movement cannot change – feminism has and is still going through vital changes. Its roots lie in the suffrage movements where women fought for the right to vote. This was led by and made up of mainly white, upper-middle class women, which shaped what the movement looked like and which issues were raised. Over time, feminism has become more inclusive of people of colour, LGBTQ2I folks, and people with disabilities – largely due to work done by activists in these communities. There are still many “white feminists” who see gender-based issues separable from other intersection of identity, such as race, sexuality and/or disability. For feminism to truly be an inclusive movement people’s different lived experiences due to different intersections of identity have to be acknowledged.
Feminism is a movement for everyone. It is a movement for erasing the wage gap. It is a movement for reproductive rights, for transforming sexual education and creating a culture of consent. It is a movement that aims to deconstruct toxic and constraining gender roles. It is a movement for everyone, but one that has mainly been led by women and non-binary gendered people.
In honour of those who have led and driven this movement forward, what better day to embrace the f-word than on International Women’s Day? This day has been observed since the early 1900’s and initially started as a political event. Today it is mainly a day of celebrating women and achievements made in the fight for equality. But it is also a day for reflecting on how the feminist movement has evolved over time, how it will continue to develop in the future and most importantly what we are doing as feminists in the present.
For International Women’s Day this year I will definitely be wearing my f-word button. It’s my way of saying “I’m f-ing proud of being a feminist!”
If you want an f-word button of your own you can pick one up in Brock Hall Room 1203 or by emailing email@example.com or Helena Zhu at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Don’t want to celebrate International Women’s Day alone? Check out this list of events on- and off-campus.
- Vancouver International Women in Film Festival
- March 4 – 8 at VIFF’s Vancity Theatre. A film festival that highlights work produced by local, national and international women filmmakers.
- Under-Celebrated Women Who Inspire
- Friday, March 6, 11 am – 3 pm on the SUB Concourse. AMS SASC is hosting a booth where women who haven’t been celebrated enough finally get a chance to shine. Learn about these inspiring women and add women who have inspired you.
- Celebrating Women of UBC
- Friday, March 6, 11 am – 3 pm in IKBLC 2nd floor. UBC Equity Ambassadors bring you an interactive booth that celebrates women on campus and in your life. Stay updated and participate online through #womenatUBC.
- International Women’s Day with Room magazine
- Saturday, March 7, 7 – 9.30 pm at Heartwood Community Café. Celebrate International Women’s Day and the launch of two issues of Room magazine by attending this event. Featured readings by Hiromi Goto and others.
- Film Screening of Status Quo
- Monday, March 9, 5 pm at Allard Hall. UBC Women’s Centre is screening the documentary Status Quo followed by a discussion of political activism and actions at UBC and in the wider community. Vegan food and drinks will be provided.
- Feminist U: Embodying Everyday Feminisms
- Monday, March 9, 5.30 – 7.30 pm at CSI&C in Brock Hall. UBC Equity Ambassadors are hosting an evening where everyday feminisms will be discussed and female empowerment will be celebrated. Stay updated and participate online through #womenatUBC. RSVP here.