I recently came across the ostensible campaign ‘women against feminism’. Their social media pages are filled predominantly with women cheerfully holding up their handwritten anti-feminist testimonies. Some of the pleas from these self-professed anti-feminists have a Margaret Thatcher feel, an “I owe nothing to women’s lib” quirk to them. My initial reaction was ‘how can any women be anti-feminist?’ (Or any man). Maybe that was my feminist naivety talking. After some time looking through the messages these young women - who are mostly under 25 - are giving, I have concluded that ‘women against feminism’ can do plenty to encourage the feminist movement and contribute even more to its strength.
Almost all of the media stories I’ve read about the female anti-feminist camp have had the same reaction: ‘I don’t get it.’ Neither do I. One of these messages reads “I don’t need feminism! I don’t need something that tells me the actions of a slut are okay.” Another; “I respect men. I refuse to demonise them and blame them for my problems.” I think we need a strict definition of feminism here: “Advocacy of equality of the sexes and the establishment of the political, social, and economic rights of the female sex.”
As I wrote in my article The F-Word, there are over 70,000 rapes committed against women and 9,000 against men each year in the UK and, disgracefully, only 1,000 convictions for the crime. The first anti-feminist testimony encourages one to think that the ‘slut’ (or sexual assault victim) is the one to blame for her actions. Of course those actions aren’t made clear by this young lady. Is it dressing in what she wants to wear, even if it be in a short skirt? Is she just not a fan of the warm weather? Maybe she is the only woman who feels comfortable in a six-inch heel. Is it being flirtatious? This statement immediately excuses a male dominated rape culture. Feminism also challenges the misconstrued view that all men are naturally rapists, but this young lady doesn’t seem to see that. If she were sexually assaulted, by a man or woman, would she want justice; or should we pass her off as being a slut and let her abuser walk free to assault again?
The second declaration of anti-feminism is more common amongst ‘women against feminism’s’ pages; the idea that feminism is an anti-equality movement. At this point I started to wonder if these women had read up on the history of the feminist and suffrage movement, but maybe again that was my unfair feminist coming through. The understanding of feminism as a cause has been somewhat lost in translation. I was recently told by a friend that I should not be calling myself a ‘feminist’, but a ‘women’s rights activist.’ I don’t quite understand the difference here. I understood the two terms to be synonymous.
What ‘women against feminism’ is doing for feminism can be regarded as the impetus that it needs to establish its modern image. Feminism is STILL a movement which seeks suffrage for women in Saudi Arabia and equal pay in the United Kingdom, which seeks equal education for women in developing nations, which seeks convictions for rape and sexual assault. Most importantly, ‘women against feminism’ gives women the voice to be anti-feminist, something which could not have been achieved without feminism, and something which Margaret Thatcher never gave respect to.
Feminism is not a movement that wants to replace the subordination of men upon women with the subordination of women upon men. It is not a movement that demonises men or treats women as weak and need special rights to give them a boost. Feminism seeks all gender equality in a political, social, and economic sphere. That is the only agenda of feminism; equality.
By Soila Apparicio