By Lauren Ferguson
When 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 frequently 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 important 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.
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