is anti-feminism really a thing?
The ‘I Don’t Need Feminism’ movement is taking hold across the blogosphere. But is this a terrifying step backward for women, or a radical rejection of an outdated concept? And wouldn’t the ultimate in feminism mean supporting these women’s voices?
"I don't need feminism because I'm not a bitter and ugly person inside and out who needs to bring others down just to feel good. We are not all born the same. Equal rights does not mean men and women should act the same way and do the same things. We are all different. Puting [sic] a man in jail because he can't read your mind is wrong!"
"I don't need feminism because my BEST FRIEND is a guy! He respects me and loves me, as I respect and love him. NOT ALL MEN ARE BAD."
"I don't need feminism because I am heterosexual and so a world without men would suck."
Whether you actively call yourself a feminist or not, these judgments seem a little absurd, right? A little misguided, a little ignorant? These are real quotes written by real women who photograph themselves holding papers reading the statements and post them on the Women Against Feminism Tumblr. Scrolling through this blog may elicit feelings of rage, shock, horror and sadness. But guess what. If you are in fact a feminist, you keep fighting to protect the right these women have to voice these opinions, whether you agree or disagree with them, like them or not.
Among the misconceptions touted are: that it is a movement against men; that it shuns women who want to stay at home instead of work; that it ignores biological differences between men and women; and that it judges any woman who isn't out there actively protesting and rallying as bad.
So what might drive any self-respecting woman to hold their sisters back in the fight for equality? Although there may be myriad reasons a woman would post to this site, from background to personal experience, there are a few recent phenomena that might contribute. For one, there is an ugly strain of "feminists" who have instilled in these women that to be a feminist you have to be a bully - when these bullying types are further from feminists than the anti-feminist types. And secondly, clearly, the anti-feminist faction doesn't have a firm grip on what true feminism means. Among the misconceptions touted are: that it is a movement against men; that it shuns women who want to stay at home instead of work; that it ignores biological differences between men and women; and that it judges any woman who isn't out there actively protesting and rallying as bad.
These misconceptions came from somewhere, and in some cases, that somewhere was someone calling themselves a feminist and preaching these beliefs. In other circumstances, well-meaning, logical beliefs are just completely misunderstood, some purposely and some accidentally. But wouldn't true feminism support anti-feminist women's rights to publicly state their opinions? Their free speech as women is one of the hard-earned fruits of first and second wave feminism.
Barbara Miller's documentary Forbidden Voices told the story of Iranian journalist and blogger, Farnaz Seifi. Seifi had started blogging about women's rights in Iran a decade ago, when the Iranian government had very few restrictions in place for blogging and creating online content, as it hadn't been an issue before. But as websites were brought to their attention, they began to put harsh rules in place, even censoring Google searches with the word "women" so as to try and squash any further circulation of the growing feminist movement. Seifi was arrested in 2007, blindfolded and interrogated, and forced to flee Iran after being released on bail.
Presumably a lot of the women who consider themselves anti-feminist would actually be feminist if they were clear on the movement's true meaning and history.
Feminists fight for the rights and equality of women, including free speech, without judging what women will choose to do with those rights. The efforts of feminists and the Women's Lib movement have won a multitude of victories, and these moves forward should be how feminism is seen instead of a list of distorted, misrepresented beliefs. Because of Women's Lib, we have the Equal Pay Act, making gender-based wage discrimination illegal - even though we are still working toward pay that is truly and always equal. The movement was also able to help overturn a law that banned contraception because it was believed to "violate" the "privacy rights" of married couples. It helped see out the openings of domestic violence shelters and the launch of training programs in domestic crisis intervention for police officers.
In the same way, no matter how difficult it might be to do so in the face of such strong words, feminists have to keep fighting to protect the rights of anti-feminist women to voice their beliefs. And it's another responsibility of feminists to try to stop the ways the movement is misunderstood. Presumably a lot of the women who consider themselves anti-feminist would actually be feminist if they were clear on the movement's true meaning and history.
The women who don't want to be part of a group that shames other women or hates men might be the same women who would, in fact, want to be part of a group that supports equality and better rights for women in addition to the fair treatment of all humans. Although it's no one's place to say anti-feminists are wrong for their feelings, those feelings can be hard to confront. It's upsetting that such a large faction of young women is so against the goals of feminism, and often with such hatred. In the face of these mystifying young women with their ardently lettered signs, feminists should fight for their education, and for their right t
Text Courtney Iseman