When did ‘Feminist’ Become a Bad Word?: Women Rejecting Feminism

By Lauren Ferguson

Side Image, Annyston PenningtonWhen did the word ‘feminist’ become a bad word? Growing up, I always rejected the idea without a second thought, and as 12-year old girls, my friends and I often laughed at the notion, insisting we liked shaving our legs and didn’t hate men. However, as I grew up and became aware of what it meant to be a woman in a patriarchal society, I embraced feminism and what it meant for me. But while I see my friends and I growing up and embracing feminism, I see many women are also adamantly rejecting it.

This week on Tumblr, I came across the blog Women Against Feminism. The blog features many millennial women posting their radically misinformed reasons on why they are against feminism; believing that American women are not oppressed or that women should not overtake men. As well as stemming from inaccurate claims, the blog also uses hateful language and misogyny to justify their claims, such as calling women with high sex-drives ‘sluts’ and referring to aggressive feminists as ‘feminazis’. It seems even with the growth of feminism in popular culture, many are still misinterpreting it. Women Against Feminism seems to be adamantly against the radical and pro-misandry feminists (a small outlier of feminism as a whole) and assumes all feminists behave in such a manner. Women Against Feminism does not know what feminism is, and is just a misrepresentation of it. However, the notion of feminism remains largely undefined, and has been since its conception.

Unfortunately, the definition of feminism and the movement in its entirety have always been skewed, with the movement Side Image 2 Annyston Penningtonfrequently rising and falling in popularity. American feminism began in the late 19th century, with Susan B. Anthony and Elizabeth Cady Stanton fighting for suffrage and basic gender equality. They succeeded, and in 1920, the 19th amendment, which allowed women to vote, was signed into law. However, after the movement, feminism as a whole began to vanish. No major laws for women were passed for almost 40 years, and women began to once again conform solely to the role of the housewife. However, Betty Friedan revitalized feminism with her book The Feminine Mystique, sparking the second wave feminist movement and ushering in many positive changes for women. Congress passed the Equal Pay Act, the FDA approved contraceptive pills, and Roe v. Wade gave women availability to safe healthcare. Many other laws against sexism and rape were also passed, but similarly to the suffrage movement, second wave feminism disappeared after a few years. The newest and perhaps most convoluted feminist movement, third wave feminism, began in the 1990’s and follows us to today. Third wave feminism has been heavily critiqued for its lack of a cohesive goal, and equates only to an extension of second wave feminism.

Feminism finds itself in a complex state now due to the sheer amount of information and connectivity available with the rise of the Internet. Everyone has the ability to declare what feminism is and isn’t – so who has the ultimate say in what feminism is? It’s side Image Annyston Penningtonimportant to note that what defines feminism is unique to every feminist. Each person may need it for different reasons, and that’s what makes it so accessible and beneficial. The problem seems to be that those with the most radical opinions are usually the ones that gain the most attention; in this case, Women Against Feminism. Google Trends showed the term ‘Women Against Feminism’ was almost never searched for until July 2014, when the blog got media attention and became one of the most searched for blogs. These radical groups of women spark more controversy and therefore more discussion and are more widely heard, leading to a complete misunderstanding of feminism.

It’s hard to find an answer to what feminism means for everyone due to a variety of opinions on the subject. What’s liberating about feminism is that it means different things for different people. But while feminism is unique to each person, Women Against Feminism twists it into a hateful entity that attacks other’s beliefs instead of using their own to liberate themselves.  Some people may just see the ignorant claims against feminism on their Facebook newsfeed or misandric views and believe that is what feminism is. However, what struck me about Women Against Feminism is that the women voicing their opinions often believed the same thing most other feminists believed. They wanted equality, not one gender dominating the other. Because at its core that’s what feminism is. It’s not about women overtaking men. It’s simply the women’s side of the humanistic issue of equality. Whether they knew it or not, some of the women on Women Against Feminism wanted a feminist world.Side Image- Annyston Pennington

Ultimately, the misrepresentation of feminism is horrifically bad for the goals of women in American society. Many of the anti-feminists on Women Against Feminism want feminist things, such as the ability to be able to choose motherhood or human rights for everyone. But, by actively rejecting feminism, they are also participating in the rejection of having the rights to make these choices. Whether they notice it or not, it’s feminist to want equality for everyone, including boys, and it’s feminist to want to chose a career, whether it be in an office or at the home. By rejecting feminism, they give up fighting for the ability to be able to make these choices. It was easy for Stanton’s feminism and second wave feminism to disappear, and it may happen to third wave feminism to as well, unless all of us together take a stand.


1| Artwork by Annyston Pennington
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Lauren Ferguson

The author

Lauren Ferguson is queer female writer and art team member for the Feminine Inquiry. She is currently a student at The University of Texas majoring in Art History and English honors. Her free time is spent fighting as a wanted vigilante and talking about Tom Waits.

6 thoughts on “When did ‘Feminist’ Become a Bad Word?: Women Rejecting Feminism”

  1. your article is doing nothing but insult people’s intelligence . Everyone knows what feminism is , what they hate is what it has turned into lately . and you know it . NBasically you are calling people dumb and unable to form a logic opinion . In 1956 I would have rooted for feminism , but today in 2015 , feminism seems kind of far fetched . Men and women hate each other today , and that’s not good . feminism need to tone itself down right now, that’s what the feminists don’t understand : they are not NEEDED for the moment , not in the western world at least . they should go to middle east and asian country where their help is REALLY needed , not royally annoy everyone with their futilities . exemple: feminism should take care of black women . they have it hard while the white woman is still the little princess on her little throne . enough of that , no one cares about stupid things like patriarchy and cat catcalling today , people are free to do what they want , women can drive, have their own businesses , become leaders of the biggest entreprises , they have made it ! now is no time to cry anymore, it’s time to take care of those who are REALLY in need .
    Your article smells like smugness and pretentiousness . The way you address your readers – like little children – is a little disrespectful . you are free to be a feminist, why shouldn’t these other women be free to be against feminism ? isn’t that what you fight for ? you are not perfect and the things you do today do not represent real feminism at all ! true feminism belongs in the past , women are ready to move on .
    I’m sure you’ll tell me things like “but you don’t get it bla bla , this is not what feminism means bla bla” but as I said , you need to stop patronizing people . People know what feminism is and it turns out, they don’t like it , they don’t like what it turned so many women into : lonely, sad , spiteful women…with a mission of vengeance against all men

  2. You said it yourself, feminism is different to everybody. Your version of feminism attempts to label others as feminists because they want certain ideals (such as equality, freedom). I feel that is unfair and also an unequal thing to label others in the ways that you do, but ultimately I realize that it is just your opinion and does not necessarily reflect reality. Honest feedback for you…

  3. First, let me start by stating that I am a man. For many, that disarms my opinion automatically, taking away any value it might have in the feminist debate. And that, I am afraid, is part of the problem.

    Feminism, like any cause, can only succeed by convincing the majority of the truth and justness of it’s position. It is not helped by turning 50% of the population into “the enemy,” declaring them all “chauvinist,” “sexist” or misogynist.” The problem is one of excess. While there are certainly men who exhibit the reprehensible traits described with these words, they are not all men. While there are problems in society that disadvantage or objectify women, there are also matters of degree.

    So, while the issues of gender discrimination, women being paid less than men, the “rape culture” and other important items are what feminists SHOULD be focused on, many instead spend their time and harsh words condemning minor infractions of social interaction, many of which represent only the fears and perceptions of the feminist in question.

    Take the case of Mark Zuckerberg, who merely answered inquiries as to his odd habit of wearing gray t-shirts at all times. He commented something to the effect that he was very busy, and he felt worrying about his clothes was not an efficient use of his time. Feminists then took insult, assuming this was directed at women, and calling him a sexist. This is a PERFECT example of everything wrong with feminism today. A worthy cause, highjacked by those who take umbrage with everything, and de-railed by a pettiness that puts their cause in a poor light.

    Is “feminism” becoming a bad word? Perhaps. It’s my hope that it is not too late to change this trend, however. But to change the growing perception that it is a bad word will require that self-identified feminists start focusing on the BIG issues rather than the tiny ones that may or may not be purely matters of their own preconceptions.

    My apologies in advance to anyone who might take my comments as insult. This is not my intent. Myself, I would like nothing more than true equality for both genders (and the transgendered, for that matter). This is intended as (hopefully) constructive criticism.

    Michael

  4. It is a bad, ugly word. At its core, it identifies a philosophy dedicated to “feminizing,” and the only creatures that can possibly be “in need” of being feminized are those who are not already feminine: men. And, for 47 years, men have been systematically turned into wimps, even “metrosexuals” by this WMD of sociological warfare. Mission accomplished. Please see Feminism as a WMD at usaishistory.com Whether a person says she’s a feminist or not is irrelevant. All women in the West have inhaled the fumes, even if they haven’t drunk the Kool-Aid. All have been irreversibly psychologically and sociologically poisoned.

  5. Listen up Feminist (Lauren Ferguson),

    You don’t understand why feminist is a dirty word, but don’t bother to take a step back and see why that is.

    Sincerely,
    An Egalitarian Women

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