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Anti-feminism refers to any ideology which:
- Opposes the entire project of feminism
- Opposes equality between the sexes[note 1]
- Considers one biological sex inferior to the other (typically women to men)[note 2]
- A combination of the above
Worth noting is that people who oppose only certain schools of feminism, though not all schools, and do not oppose (but indeed support) the wider struggle of feminism itself, are to be considered — as they consider themselves — feminists.[note 3]
For example, we all recognize that one may fully adhere to one school within politics (be it liberal, conservative, socialist or miscellaneous), and that doing so is sufficient for said person to be safeguarded from accusations of being "anti-political", without needing to somehow endorse all camps and spectrums in all of politics first.[note 4]
Furthermore, acknowledging differences between the sexes is in no way inherently anti-feminist — notably, the celebration of the fundamental differences between men and women is one of the core tenets of the postfeminist school of feminism.[note 5]
Many individual schools of feminism are completely incompatible with each other, just as many individual schools of politics are. This phenomenon is just as little a contradiction in feminism as is the identical cases of differing opinion within politics in general. Quite to the contrary, this diversity of thought is the opposite of dogmatic, and is rather indicative of the nuance and richness of thought within feminism as a whole.
In fact, the very suggestion that the broad scope of feminism is some kind of monolithic ideological project driven on by a radical activist intelligentsia is nothing but conspiratorial propaganda invented by neoreactionary anti-progressives, and perpetuated by anti-feminist groups like the men's rights movement — as their continued cultivation of victimhood (while themselves conducting a smear campaign against feminism) is crucial to the perpetuation of their fringe views.
The term "anti-feminist" itself is rightfully considered pejorative among progressives, much as the term "feminist" is used as a snarl word by cliques espousing the views covered in this article.
- 1 Traditional gender roles
- 2 Feminism was good, is bad
- 3 Rape culture
- 4 Feminism as based on a bad idea
- 5 First world, middle-class white, privileged point of view
- 6 Libertarian view
- 7 Men's rights
- 8 Feminism and neopaganism
- 9 See also
- 10 Notes
- 11 References
Traditional gender roles
This view, disproportionately held by those on the right wing, holds that there are "traditional" gender roles for men and women which are inherently good. Usually, these "traditional" gender roles are the roles held by men and women during the 1940s-1950s — as opposed to agricultural and pre-industrial traditional roles.
Social conservative view
Social conservatives are the most visible and influential opponents of feminism, often using a straw man depiction of feminists' support for abortion rights as an excuse not to take any of their other opinions seriously, turning complex arguments into one-liners like "They don't want to take responsibility for their (sexual) actions" or "They want to have their cake and eat it too." This is depressingly similar to conservative Christians accusing atheists of being atheist only so they can live "sinful" lives.
Concerned Women for America and Phyllis Schlafly have separately decreed that a woman's only place is in the home (despite being a college-educated activist attorney who has worked outside it for much of her life), and that feminism destroys women. Some female wingnuts have stated a wish to abolish female suffrage due to feminism's attempts to free women from their traditional roles as servants to their husbands.
Another great example is Rick Santorum, who has a gold mine of hilariously sexist views against feminism. He wrote a whole chapter of his book It Takes a Family about women and feminism. Its memorable moments include:
“”The radical feminists succeeded in undermining the traditional family and convincing women that professional accomplishments are the key to happiness. […] Radical feminists have been making the pitch that justice demands that men and women be given an equal opportunity to make it to the top in the workplace.
“”One of the things I will talk about that no president has talked about before is the dangers of contraception in this country, the whole sexual libertine idea. Many in the Christian faith have said, "Well, that's okay. Contraception's okay." It's not okay because it's a license to do things in the sexual realm that is counter to how things are supposed to be… I'm not running for preacher, I'm not running for pastor, but these are important public policy issues.
Conservative religious view
Due to the social conservatism inherent in many religions, many churches are behind the times in gender equality, or even actively opposing it. This has made many religious communities a cornerstone of anti-feminist sentiment.
A preacher at a tent revival once proclaimed, "Women's Lib! Let me tell you about women's lib. If my wife came home talking about women's lib, she'd (chuckle, chuckle) she'd be picking her self up off the floor." At which point the wife jumped up shouting "Amen, Amen" and this was quickly emulated by most of the rest of the congregation.
In populist far-right circles it is also relatively common to pretend to be feminist all the while actively promoting very traditional gender roles — often reminiscent of Kinder, Küche, Kirche.
For instance, Frauke Petry, one of the three party leaders of Alternative für Deutschland, said that "chance equality" is needed and not "result equality". In a party that has the enforcement of traditional gender roles in the party program, that certainly means a lot:
“”AfD wants the equality of genders and works to remove all the existing disadvantages. Despite this we refuse to address gender related quotes in jobs and politics that focus on the removal of traditional gender roles. Only ownership, ability and performance should be the decisive criteria. The AfD stands for chance equality, not result equality.
What this equates to is an unwillingness to push for increased female equality or the breakdown of any hurtful gender norms, leaving the status quo quite intact.
Some feel that truly empowering women means that women should be able to choose to take on "traditional" feminine roles if that suits them personally. Some advocates for this broader approach to feminism argue that Western women are under pressure to do too much. This has some genuine truth to it, but it is unclear how feminism, if properly done, would prevent women from pursuing whatever role they wanted.
Feminism was good, is bad
In some corners, feminism has gained a bad rep; this is especially evident when pro-equality public figures refuse to use the term, with reasons ranging from a feeling that the term has taken on a negative connotation to an outright misunderstanding of core feminist beliefs and aims. According to a 2014 speech to the United Nations by actress Emma Watson, this is based on the idea that feminism is "dogmatic" or "man-hating."
It is common among MRAs, conservatives, and other modern antifeminists to say that "modern feminism" is somehow different from "true", "real", "historical", or "traditional" feminism. Modern feminists are supposedly (1) supporters of female supremacy and/or (2) misandrist.[note 6] These arguments are usually supported by a quote such as "all men are rapists" or similar actual instances of feminist extremism. However, such examples are extreme minorities within feminism[better source needed] (comparable to TERFs or lesbian separatists), as any investigation of feminism should show. Anti-feminists often like to bring up how most of the opponents of the women's suffrage movement were other women, without noting that there was a schism, particularly in the British women's suffrage movement, with the National Union of Women's Suffrage Societies (more commonly known as the suffragists) led by Millicent Fawcett favoring parliamentary discussion and the creation of Bills versus the Women's Social and Political Union (called "suffragettes" derogatorily by Charles Hands in The Daily Mail – proving that old prejudices die hard – but quickly adopted this label themselves) led by Emmeline Pankhurst who preferred direct action and used more militant tactics.
Rush Limbaugh even invented his own pet derogatory term, "feminazis." He then tried to retract this, claiming that he has no regrets about using the term, although he insisted that not all feminists were feminazis – apparently this applies to only 25 of said feminists, and they live predominately in the United States.
If you see someone proclaiming themselves as an "egalitarian" rather than a "feminist", try to figure out whether they're:
- Holding fundamental feminist views (read: striving for equality) but just don't want the label (for whatever reason)
- A garden variety antifeminist concern troll
In the first case, it's people trying to evade the hate spawned by the ragefest that is the contemporary "debate" about feminism. Being an egalitarian and feminist are not mutually exclusive. Crucially, egalitarianism is a central thesis of non-crank feminism in that it seeks to promote equal rights for everyone. It can be held to debate that the opposing syntactical term "machismo" is negative, turning "feminism" into the same thing on the opposite side of the spectrum, and only positive by convention. "Egalitarian could thus be considered a fairer and more accurate term while keeping the same meaning currently attributed to "feminism" without the bias or unwanted association with radical feminists (aka feminazis).
In the second case, "egalitarian" is a strategic buzzword anti-feminists and MRAs use to pretend to be progressive. It's the ideological equivalent of "What about men's rights"? In their minds, everyone already has equal opportunity (or men are the oppressed sex) and therefore, feminism (and other progressive movements) are either unnecessary or outright harmful.
Advocating for feminism is seen as being discriminatory against the majority, rather than an attempt to correct centuries of bias against women and the LGBT community — a view based on nutpicking certain radfems, instead of focusing on sweet mainstream movements like sex-positive feminism.
“”Feminism is an ill? Radical feminism only, it turns out, which tries to overthrow the whole system of thinking on which we have hitherto depended as opposed to the tradition of female emancipation, beginning with Wollstonecraft and people like that, which is I think a completely different thing, and part of the natural reform of our institutions and our way of seeing things.
|—Even conservative philosopher Roger Scruton takes care not to impugn all of feminism|
Unlike the other three terms, this is both;
- A genuine branch of feminism with genuine problems (which other branches of feminism are not blind to)
Radical feminism includes in its branches TERFs (who exclude trans people), SWERFs (who exclude sex workers), and other people who like equality — just not for those people. Notable nuts include Andrea Dworkin and Valerie Solanas.
Feminists both of yesteryear and today emphasise the importance of addressing modern rape culture (essentially, the manner in which society justifies, normalises or in other ways encourages sexual assault). This goal is something that pretty much no one except the most aggressive anti-feminist types (and MRAs, but I repeat myself) think is a bad goal.
As with all social issues, most of the American Right's criticisms revolve around how feminist criticisms of the way in which society treats sexual assault doesn't fit in their "everyone is an individual" framework. Admitting that women are oppressed would mean having to revise their ideology to go beyond their belief that capitalism is beautiful and produces no systemic inequalities.
Everything is rape
However, some academic feminists have made unprecedented observations of rape culture, finding "rape" in places that largely have nothing to do with sexuality or sex at all. For example, what later became known as the "Beethoven rape controversy" was ignited by this statement by feminist musicologist Susan McClary:
“”The point of recapitulation in the first movement of the Ninth is one of the most horrifying moments in music, as the carefully prepared cadence is frustrated, damming up energy which finally explodes in the throttling murderous rage of a rapist incapable of attaining release.
Andrea Dworkin, the noted anti-pornography feminist, believed the cesarean section surgical procedure intended to save the life of a woman and fetus when vaginal birth was not possible was rape, stating "the uterus of the whore [is] entered directly by the new rapist, the surgeon." Charming!
These… unique viewpoints certainly do exist, and it is worth taking the time to refute some of the more widespread and egregious ones, but they are unfortunately used in attempts to stereotype the entire feminist movement. In some cases, similar quotes are either fabricated or mined. One of the most common is "all men are rapists" or "all sex is rape", usually misattributed to Catharine MacKinnon (although she and Dworkin undeniably had very extreme views as to what constituted rape), Marilyn French, or some other feminist figure of your choice. According to MacKinnon, the quote misattributed to her was "made up by the pornography industry in an attempt to undermine her credibility," and although Marilyn French did actually write the phrase attributed to her, what is usually not mentioned is that it was said in the person of a fictional character (based on Valerie Solanas) in French's novel The Women's Room. Most feminists agree that all of these viewpoints are excessive, to say the least.
"1 in 5"
A few of the people combating the problem of campus rape have at times resorted to ignoring inconvenient facts (e.g. the vaunted "1 in 5" statistic being a wild extrapolation from a study whose author said had never been intended as authoritative), which only serves to unnecessarily polarize the issue, but one can at least understand the anger at the lengths they have had to go to for the problem of campus rape to even receive recognition.
Silencing rape defendants
Another core issue feminists frequently address is the very real problem of rape victims being silenced and stigmatized, which has yet to be fully dealt with. On the other hand, at times this gets taken to extremes and ends up with people who uncover or discuss simple factual problems with a specific rape allegation being accused of rape apology.
One of the more disturbing cases of this occurred when Rolling Stone first published A Rape on Campus, when the first writers who did basic fact-checking reported a huge array of glaring inconsistencies and gross journalistic misconduct; instead of jumping at the hope that such horrific events as the article described hadn't happened, a large number of people launched shrill accusations of blaming the victim. When it became clear that the allegation was false (chief among the blindingly obvious falsifications was that the person accused of orchestrating the rape literally didn't exist) a few, including Jessica Valenti, refused to accept it as such. While their argument that the case would make it more difficult for people to report campus sexual assault had some merit, it seems not to have occurred to them that unquestioningly supporting a disproven allegation would have the same effect, making it harder for victims of actual assaults to be taken seriously. There was also a strange reluctance to even admit to the possibility—which at that point was what every piece of evidence pointed to and would seem to be the best outcome of all—that nothing had occurred in this specific case. Many, although not quite all, apologized for their condemnations and emphasized that attacking wrongfully accused people did not in any way help to combat the many hardships real victims face.
Distinguishing genuine rape culture from crank concerns
Recently (2015) a women's studies professor at an established (founded in 1870) large (27,000 students) Midwestern university in the United States discovered that a poster with her picture, a pornographic picture (not of her), her address, phone number and a description of her car had been posted around campus. The flier went on to invite all interested parties to go to her home and rape her. The university response was slow and considered inadequate by some until the teacher and her union demanded more.
Feminism as based on a bad idea
There are also many women who self-identify as feminists but have been highly critical of either the practices of modern and postmodern feminism or their underpinning ideologies — Marxism is a common target for this. These include Christina Hoff Sommers, Wendy McElroy, Camille Paglia, Elizabeth Fox-Genovese, Kate Fillion, Daphne Patai, and others (some of the aforementioned have said very loopy things as well).
Critical theory and Cultural Marxism
It is sometimes alleged that feminism is a branch of "critical theory" or "Cultural Marxism". This frankly is ridiculous. The Frankfurt School -- which created both critical theory and Cultural Marxism -- was created in 1923. Critical theory arose in the 1930's, and Cultural Marxism in the 1960's, with its first use as a term in 1973. Feminism, on the other hand, was first used to mean "advocacy of women's rights" in 1895 and women's suffrage movements (the precursors to modern, organized feminism) were active even earlier -- the UK's first women's suffrage society formed in 1865, and the Seneca Falls Convention was in 1846. It is hard to claim that feminism is a subset of critical theory, when it predates the earliest critical theorists by at least 70 years.
Some have accused feminism, or at least some feminist schools of thought, as dressing up cultural relativism in the garb of women's rights. Krishna Mallick has encouraged working closely with cultural relativists, where the similarities were noted.
First world, middle-class white, privileged point of view
Perhaps the most common and most significant criticism laid against modern feminism had been the privileged gaze of largely white, middle-class writers working on the issues of, and focusing on the experiences of, the white middle class, for a white middle-class audience (white feminism). Much of this criticism has come from within the feminist movement, as women of color and women who are from or work in areas of poverty have emphasized that what matters to a white college-aged woman doesn't necessarily resonate with women fitting other demographics across the socioeconomic spectrum.
Possibly the best example of what is criticized in this way is Sheryl Sandberg, the corporate feminist and billionaire whose book Lean In drew widespread criticism for being completely blind to race/class issues, her downplaying of gender discrimination in the workplace as well as being insufficiently critical to the ways in which capitalism screws over women who aren't as rich as Sandberg.
Feminists of color oftentimes criticize mainstream feminist activism for not focusing enough on race issues that affect women of color as well as oftentimes engaging in racist behavior.
Feminists who engage in racist behavior are referred to derisively as "white feminists".
As in atheist, humanist and skeptical movements, change is afoot, though slowly. More articles appear in mainstream feminist sites about poverty, more discussions of Third World needs (Third World feminism), and writers from various backgrounds are both included in the mainstream dialogue, and are writing about their experiences and needs, targeting others with similar experiences and needs.
Marxist and third-worldist criticism
Marxist feminists have criticized liberal feminism, not because they oppose feminism, but because they believe many feminists define progress in female equality with men by their access to capitalist and imperialist systems. (For example, they take issue with the common view of women being allowed in combat or having places in the Forbes 500 cited as signs of progress.) Rather than criticizing feminism in general, they'd rather have the
bourgeois privileged, middle-class feminists care more about working class and poor women.
Many third-worldists also criticize the way in which first-world feminism frequently glosses over the fact many of the women whose empowerment they promote will engage in exploitative and imperialistic behavior towards women in the third world.
Individualist feminism holds that the key to women's equality is not through government intervention or social upheaval (as the vast majority of the feminist movement believes to be true), but rather through providing equal rights for everyone without respect for gender — which, they argue, will ultimately lead to true equality.
Civil liberties groups such as the ACLU have often criticized feminist opposition to "pornography" as a threat to freedom of speech, such as the Catharine MacKinnon inspired anti-pornography laws enacted in Indiana and Canada, which sought to define pornography as a civil rights violation. The Indiana ordinance was struck down as a violation of the First Amendment. The Canadian statute was struck down by the courts as a violation of the Canadian Charter of Rights and Freedoms.
The "men's rights movement" generally opposes feminism, though some men's rights activists argue that the world needs both male and female reforms. Many more MRAs, though, want to see a "total end" to feminism, and by extension abort the move towards equality between sexes.
MRA talkings points have four main groups:
- That women have used feminism in order to exploit men
- That science (e.g. evolutionary psychology) supports the view that males and females are biologically different (which essentially takes real science hostage)
- That feminism doesn't successfully address several men's issues: domestic violence against men, female-on-male rape, etc.
- That society is biased towards females: women are being favored in child custody hearings, etc.
It is worth noting that — in addition to men raising these issues from the perspective of men's rights — notable, prominent feminists have also taken them on. For instance, some feminists criticize the bias against men during custody hearings because such cases assume that women are the traditional caregivers, and argue that the idea that women cannot rape men is premised on the mistaken notions that men, as such, are always receptive to sex and able to fight off a woman.
Unfortunately, any positive intentions of the men's rights movement have been permanently tainted by the widespread misogyny of its members. Fringe theories often circulate in MRA forums, e.g. claims that feminism is responsible for men's misery in the world, or that feminists are intent on destroying all men. Even when it comes to some of the more legitimate issues, they quickly descend into gross distortions; for instance, on issues of domestic violence against men, an oft-repeated trope is that women always start fights and that a man therefore must resort to bashing her skull in and sending her to the hospital.
Feminism and neopaganism
There has been some cross-pollination between neopaganism and radical feminism, leading to various works of pseudohistory. This commonly involves goddess myths and portrayals of Wicca as the direct descendant of a vast, unified, and ancient goddess cult (for which no actual evidence exists). It also tends to accompany pseudohistories of the European witch-hunts that inflate the number of deaths by witch-hunt and ignore the fact that, while women were the victims in most cases, men were often accused of witchcraft as well (around a fourth of the time). Use of the phrases "Burning Times" or "patriarchal genocide" are usually a good sign you're reading one of these pseudohistories.
- By this definition, radical groups like the TERFs may in fact be considered to be anti-feminist. And we got no problems with that.
- By this definition, gender-essentialist groups like female supremacists may in fact be considered anti-feminist. And we got no problems with that, either.
- Assuming, naturally, that they don't also view one biological sex as inferior to the other, or opposes equal rights for members of each sex.
- By comparison: no individual feminist exists who simultaneously endorses every single school of feminism (as that would be logically inconsistent). This is only presented as problematic by those who wish to cast doubt onto feminism generally.
- What would be antifeminist, however, is — for example — seeking to undermine or embellish the quality of any one individual person by appeals to their biological sex.
- There is some irony in this, as attitudes of antipathy towards all men were more prevalent in second-wave feminism than in the intersectional approach of third-wave feminism.
- 8 Things Some A$$#ole Says in Every Debate About Sexism, Cracked.com
- Rick Santorum's Beliefs About Women Should Terrify You, CafeMom
- Santorum. It Takes a Family (2005) ISBN 1-932-23629-5
- Kvaran, Einar Einarsson, An American Life, chapter 36
- How Dutch women got to be the happiest in the world, Maclean's
- Why women say they are feminists, The Guardian
- Emma Watson recruits men to make the world safer for women with HeForShe campaign, Washington Post
- Considering he is saying it in the context of "militant feminists" allowing a 'Holocaust' of abortions, and the fact that Nazis were also pro-life (at least when it came to "Aryan" fetuses), it may be one of the most contradictory statements in American politics.
- Rudman, Chelsea. "'Feminazi': The History Of Limbaugh's Trademark Slur Against Women" Media Matters for America (Research Department), 12 March 2012.
- She later danced around the comment. See the Wikipedia page for more info.
- Dworkin, Andrea. Pornography: Men Possessing Women. 1989. 
- Andrea Dworkin did say something very similar, that men view all sex as rape, but the detractors do not really care about that.
- Rape seeded, Snopes, which reports Dworkin's view that "Penetrative intercourse is, by its nature, violent." even if consensual, which is almost the same thing.
- Marylin French: Obituary, The Daily Telegraph
- See the Wikipedia article on Frankfurt School § Institute for Social Research.
- See the Wikipedia article on Women%27s suffrage in the United Kingdom § Early suffragist societies.
- See the Wikipedia article on Women%27s suffrage in the United States § Seneca Falls convention.
- "Common Ground of Feminism and Cultural Relativism in Human Rights Discourse: The Case of Sex-determination Test in India", Salem State University
- Everyday Feminism discussing poverty
- Muslim Women Redefine Feminism, Al-Monitor
- Ending oppression in the Middle East: A Muslim feminist call to arms, Australian Broadcasting Corporation
- Summer at the archives with the Visibility Project, Feministing (and Feministing's Sesali Brown, for example)
- The Queer Black Feminist blog
- The Angry Black Woman blog
- See the Wikipedia article on Antipornography Civil Rights Ordinance.
- Donald Victor Butler v. Her Majesty The Queen, 1 S.C.R. 452, 89 D.L.R. (4th) 449, 2 W.W.R. 577, 70 C.C.C. (3d) 129 (1993)
- Youtube: me, a feminist? No way., Karen Straughan
- Feminists Are Afraid Of Evolutionary Psychology, And With Good Reason
- The Truth About Father Bias in Family Courts, Everyday Feminism