The word “feminist” is already in decline

It’s not about hating men.
It’s not about hating men.
Image: Reuters/Konstantin Chernichkin
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Time magazine was bludgeoned on social media last week for including the word “feminist” in its word banishment poll. The annual poll asks readers to vote on a word that should be banned from the English language forever because it is so cringe-worthy that it makes you “seek out the nearest pair of chopsticks and thrust them through your own eardrums.”

Feminist was mentioned alongside 14 other contenders such as “om nom nom nom” and “obvi.”

The magazine later apologized for including the word in its poll.

But was Time actually onto something with its silly proposal? Because it looks like the word feminist is actually at risk of extinction.

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Google’s n-gram viewer allows armchair historians to trawl for phrases in millions of books digitised by the search giant. The words “feminist” and “feminism” have been seeing a steady decline since 1996 in the English corpus. (You cannot search beyond 2008.)

The words saw an upward spike from late 1960’s till 1996, which is the same year Eve Ensler’s The Vagina Monologues premiered in US.

Here is what the last hundred years look like for feminism:

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On the other hand, “misandry,” which means hater of men, has had a pretty good run in the last five years.

Many people assume—incorrectly—that feminism means hatred or dislike of men. On the Facebook group, Women Against Feminism, many users, mostly women, have posted their pictures with banners that read: “I don’t need feminism because I love my boyfriend” or “I am mom to 3 boys.”

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This month, actress Salma Hayek said: “I am not a feminist…. I believe in equality.”

Feminism is simply the radical notion that women are people. Could the diminished usage of the term mean women have actually attained equality? If only…