BY: REGAN MCNEILL
I was surfing the Internet, just like you are probably doing right now, when I came across something I had never seen or heard of before. I had stumbled upon an anti-feminist Twitter page and at first I thought it was some sort of ironic joke. I scrolled down to read countless tweets by women proclaiming why they do not need feminism in 140 characters or less. As I looked into what I thought was an Internet subculture, I was shocked to realize that anti-feminism is a full-blown phenomenon that has taken flight on the World Wide Web.
I guess you could say that at one point or another in my life I’ve been guilty of categorizing feminists into one large, happy-go-lucky group. My definition of a feminist is someone who wants equality for all people, no matter their race, gender, abilities or sexuality (etc.). This admittingly nuanced definition is open to interpretation, but it is best in line with the ideals of a liberal feminist. A liberal feminist essentially believes in the political and institutional rights of the individual. In this model the sexes are not at war, but are a whole together. From my experience as a young lady growing up in the 21st century, this is the most popular kind of feminism.
Yet when many people picture feminists they tend to imagine something much more radical. Perhaps they see a group of men-hating women that have formed a hairy arm pitted, bra-burning sisterhood over the rejection of patriarchy entirely. Even so, not all radical feminists fit into this stereotype.
You see, there are many kinds of feminism and we all subscribe to our own version of it, but there are also many versions of anti-feminism.
Anti-feminism is a movement driven by women who feel that their rights have been misunderstood. One of the major anti-feminist groups I have come across online is called Women Against Feminism.
Women Against Feminism actually started on Tumblr in 2013 in response to the Who Needs Feminism campaign that launched the year prior. Who Needs Feminism started as a Duke University class’s social experiment, but turned into a viral Tumblr movement, where contributors would post pictures holding signs stating why they need feminism.
Here is what some of the signs said.
I need feminism because:
“I have hair all over my body and I don’t want to feel sad or ashamed for being like this.”
“Women and men still aren’t equal.”
“We’re in 2015 and my brother still controls how I dress and talk.”
“People still ask what the victim was wearing.”
Women Against Feminism is also a site that posts pictures of women holding up signs. Unlike Who Needs Feminism, Women Against Feminism shows signs with explanations as to why women don’t need feminism. I can tell you now that the site does not seem to have issues getting contributors.
Here is what some of the signs said.
I don’t need feminism because:
“I like when men say compliments about my body.”
“I am a victim of nothing but my own bad choices.”
“Someone disagreeing with me does not equal attack.”
“I am capable of thinking for myself.”
“I just need human rights.”
“Evolution gave us different skills, this is not oppression.”
“A man holding open a door is not a misogynist pig, he is a gentleman.”
“It no longer stands for EQUALITY.”
“I like men looking at me when I look good. That’s why I do this.”
“I love being a true woman! I love to cook for my husband and clean house.”
“Feminism is no longer a fight for women’s rights, but a way for woman to victimize men for their own personal gain.”
We have all encountered some sort of Internet movement that involves people holding up signs or questioning the status quo. Think Stop Kony, Black Lives Matter or the Syrian Uprising as examples if you have not heard of these feminist and anti-feminist movements. You’ll notice that they come and go, are symptomatic of bigger social issues, peak in popularity and never seem to have a lasting impact. So what is so special about women’s suffrage and the Internet? Maybe the fact that the recent feminist and anti-feminist uprisings on social media wrongly pin women against each other.
Even though there are stark contrasts between the two organizations and the movements they represent, I do ask you to keep an open mind and understand where both these groups are coming from. If there is one thing I know for sure, feminism (no matter what kind it is) is about the individuals taking it upon themselves to take on a point of view and live accordingly. The virtual world just makes it easier for these movements to look like mass conformity than well, movements.
The major thing that I noticed is that Women Against Feminism and other anti-feminists think that because of feminism women are often pegged as the lesser sex in relation to men and that if you speak up against feminists they will attack you. The anti-feminist movement instead is not built on the hatred of men (like it thinks feminism is), but rather encourages women to embrace the rights they already have and tries to look at “women’s issues” like rape and abuse from a male perspective.
While I appreciate the fact that anti-feminists want to look at men’s issues and empower women for the rights they already have, I disagree with the mentality that feminism is built on misandry. Even if women have achieved similar rights to men in some areas, it does not mean that these rights are inherent. They have been fought for by feminists.
In its own twisted way, the anti-feminist movement is a new form of empowerment for women and I applaud that. I am happy to think that women feel a sense of sisterhood in affirming the rights they already have and they know that they don’t have to conform to any vision society has of them, but that option is available if they want it to be.
Whether they like it or not (no, they wouldn’t like this), I consider Women Against Feminism feminists because they are comfortable enough to stand up for what they believe in as individuals. The only thing I am unhappy knowing is that those women who identify as anti-feminists may have forgotten where those rights came from in the first place.
Of course many of the issues women experience, so too will men. But I am a full-blown feminist and proud of that indeed. I am not going to jump down your throat for telling a “woman in the kitchen” joke, but I cannot deny the wage gap or slut-shaming rape culture. I cannot deny the fact that because of their sex, women have been denied the hand in writing a history that men have created. And I cannot forget that without feminism I would not be able to vote or earn a degree, alongside my other peers of other sexes and colours.
The thing is, I subscribe to my own kind of feminism and you do too. I’m a bit liberal, a bit radical and I am a bit of anti-something (just not feminism). While I realize the Internet may be the place where people express their views, it is not the sole place where they are practiced. When it comes to feminism and the camps women join, the Internet is only a small slice of the entire pie. So it’s important to look beyond what the Internet feeds you and decide for yourself, by yourself, where you stand. Especially before you start making signs about it.