Feminism, as word and concept, hit its peak in 1996 — according to Google’s interesting Ngram Viewer, a tool that tracks the usage of words and phrases in over five million digitized books published between 1500 and 2008, anyway. That seminal year was a big one for feminism, after all. The Vagina Monologues by Eve Ensler premiered in New York and Bikini Kill released the album Reject All American. The Third Wave had officially arrived.
The word “misogynist,” used to denote a person who hates, dislikes, mistrusts, or mistreats women, peaked in it’s usage around the same timeframe.
Bitch, cunt, twat and slut however, haven’t hit their peak quite yet. The Ngram charts show a steady uptick starting in the early 1960s, with no signs of the use of these lovely words slowing down thus far.
Welcome to 2014. We’ve stopped writing books about feminism. The same Ngram Viewer chart can tell us mentions of ‘feminism’ or ‘feminist’ were down 40% in 2008. The above mentioned gendered slurs have become increasingly acceptable and appear to be here to stay.
My Facebook feed (and probably yours as well) regularly features content from websites that seem to cater to feminist women, though they may not declare themselves as such. Jezebel, lavender-scented corner of the Gawker Media monster, bills itself as “Home of Shiny Happy Ladies.” XoJane is “where women go when they are being selfish, and where their selfishness is applauded.” Bustle is “by and for women who are moving forward as fast as you are.” While on Clutch, an online magazine aimed at women of colour, the about page doesn’t include as many cutesy platitudes or catch phrases, still conspicuously absent is any mention of the “F” word, or “womanist,” which several of the writers identify as due to a reluctance to align themselves with mainstream feminisms incredibly problematic history with the intersectionality of race and gender. The Alexa stats for these four websites place them all within the top 10,000 (by page views) in the United States, and Bustle and Jezebel both crack the top 1,000. Feministing.com, alternatively, barely makes it into the top 20,000.