If you hear that word one more time, you will definitely cringe. You may exhale pointedly. And you might even seek out the nearest the pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums like straws through plastic lids. What word is this? You tell us, Katy Steinmetz wrote, urging readers of Time Magazine to vote in the 2015 annual word banishment poll.
‘Feminist’ along with words such as ‘disrupt’ and ‘kale’ and internet slang words such as ‘yaaasssss’, and ‘turnt ‘ is on Time Magazine’s list for banning.
Julie Bishop, Australia’s only female cabinet minister also has a problem with the word feminist. Bishop doesn’t describe herself as such, saying she doesn’t find the term useful today. “I’m a female politician, I’m a female foreign minister … get over it.”
Julie Bishop’s a very successful woman. She’s the Foreign Minister and the only woman in Cabinet. She was class captain, school captain, managing partner, completer of a short course at Harvard Business School, deputy leader of the opposition under Brendan Nelson. Bishop may not call herself a feminist but much of her success must surely come as a result of the work of feminists who fought for women’s rights to study and work, for suffrage, and the opportunity to be elected to political office. Bishop has also been fortunate to have been born at a time when marriage and motherhood were not crucial to a woman’s survival- again the work of feminists who fought for women to have independent incomes and lives.
So how do we account for Julie Bishop’s stance on feminism? Raewyn Connell, now a professor emerita but for decades a professor of sociology at the University of Sydney explains Bishop this way: She is the product of fifty years of neoliberalism . . . and in this environment, there is a much more insistent individualism than there was even in the same class, a generation or two ago. Jenna Price suggests there are other reasons not to call yourself a feminist such as: the fear your male colleagues already feel when your ambition is just like theirs. The word feminist might further terrify the strikingly incompetent.
While Julie Bishop and Michaelia Cash, the Minister assisting the Prime Minister Tony Abbott on women’s affairs are unwilling to embrace their inner feminist, it is reassuring to read that Deputy Opposition Leader Tanya Plibersek is proud to be a feminist and understands how fortunate she’s been. Plibersek points out the many pertinent reasons for believing in the relevance of feminism today such as: The existence of the 18 per cent gender pay gap and the fact that there are many older women who will retire on much less superannuation than men. Then there’s the truly deplorable fact that one in every five Australian women will experience sexual assault and one in every three Australian women will experience domestic violence in their lifetimes. It is also important to the deputy opposition leader that her sons get to experience a truly equal relationship with their life partner, and the satisfaction of being a hands-on father along with the rejection of unhealthy stereotypes.
Fear and hatred toward feminists exists. On December 6, 1989, a man walked into the engineering school École Polytechnique de Montréal, armed with a semi-automatic rifle. Declaring I hate feminists! Marc Lépine killed fourteen young women.
And in February this year, in the Melbourne suburb of Tyabb, Greg Anderson, killed his 11-year-old son after cricket training, in front of dozens of other parents and children. At the recent inquest into her son’s murder Rosie Batty began the conversation when she said: “It was to get at you… someone wants to make you suffer the rest of your life.” Similarly in his suicide letter Marc Lépine wrote “I have decided to send the feminists, who have always ruined my life, to their Maker. For seven years life has brought me no joy…I have decided to put an end to those viragos.”
Male violence towards women persists . All the more reason that Time Magazine‘s call for banning of the word Feminist is surely premature.