I’m usually not a fan of accusing people of doing something only as “click bait”, but there’s just no getting around the fact that’s what Time was doing by including the word “feminist” in its list of options for words that should be “banned” in 2015. I defended the word at Slate, but wanted to do a follow-up because of what happened: Misogynists are flooding the poll and up voting “feminist” so that it’s winning.
This matters, because there’s been a bunch of disingenuous gum-flapping about how this wasn’t supposed to be a diss on feminism itself. Katy Steinmetz, in the piece, said she has “nothing against feminism itself” but that she just wants to “stick to the issues and quit throwing this label around”. (Is there anything more pretentious than pretending to be above basic descriptors? What next? Opposing proper nouns?) When confronted about this silliness on Twitter, she doubled down:
@RebeccaSchinsky Please see the blurb for context. The inclusion is responding to trends in the media, not feminism itself.
— Katy Steinmetz (@katysteinmetz) November 12, 2014
So the claim is that this wasn’t supposed to be a slam on feminism itself. But surprise, dum-dums! That is exactly what the people voting on the poll are using it as. In an entirely unsurprising turn of events, Jezebel reports the men who linger around forums that are built for men whose bitterness against women manifests in objecting to women’s basis human rights are encouraging each other to vote and vote often to keep the word “feminist” at the top. Indeed, at this point, the only thing this poll is being used for is so that misogynists can express their hatred of women. You can say that this wasn’t intended to be a slam on feminism until you’re blue in the face, but in fact, a slam on feminism is exactly what it is.
Which isn’t to say that I think the people flooding this poll speak for any large group of people. Online misogynists are good at this kind of asymmetrical warfare because they have a lot of time on their hands and hating women is a major priority for them, whereas the pro-woman factions tend to have too much to do to organize pointless campaigns like this. (Thus, Gamergate.) This was made worse by the fact that the poll was overall far too stupid for anyone with an ounce of intelligence to give enough of a shit to vote. Given the choice between “bae” and “disrupt”, I choose “who gives a shit, let people talk how they want to”. Which wasn’t an option.
Steinmetz may claim that none of this was intentional, but since it was entirely predictable, I’m raising my eyebrows dramatically. You can tell people to vote “feminist” for some obscure, media-obsessed reason, but you can’t be surprised when the reason that 110% of them are voting that way is to express their hatred of women and women’s rights.