Facebook Twitter

Join the discussion: Is feminism misunderstood?

SHARE Join the discussion: Is feminism misunderstood?
President Jimmy Carter signing an extension to the Equal Rights Amendment.

President Jimmy Carter signing an extension to the Equal Rights Amendment.

NARA, Wikimedia Commons

“Women Against Feminism” is a new social media movement that has sparked a debate across the Internet, leading to discussions on what it means to be a feminist in the 21st century.

Women Against Feminism (WAF) began on Tumblr in 2013 and moved on to Facebook earlier this year. These social media sites feature pictures of girls and women holding (usually hand-written) signs explaining why they are opposed to feminism.

A wide range of reasonings can be seen, from “I like when men say compliments about my body,” to “I don’t need feminism because it reinforces the men as agents/women as victims dichotomy.”

Whether these reasonings seem superficial or profound, there have been several responses to the movement, for the most part arguing that WAF doesn’t understand what feminism is.

“It seems like a lot of these problems these women have with feminism would be solved with a five-minute conversation,” wrote Allegra Ringo of Vice. “I would, however, suggest changing their blog name to Women Who Would Really Benefit From Learning What Feminism Is.” (Note: While this Vice article is acceptable for a wide audience, not all stories on the website meet Deseret News standards)

Emily Shire of The Daily Beast agreed, writing that being a feminist does not mean conforming to any universal set of values, despite what people commonly think.

“People do not realize you can be a feminist and pro-life,” wrote Shire. “You can be a feminist and a stay-at-home mom. You can be a feminist and disagree with the birth control mandate of Obamacare.”

Others believe anti-feminism might be a deeper problem than a lack of understanding.

“I think the WAF are ultimately utilizing the same strategy I (used to utilize): Sisterhood is dangerous. Much safer to uphold the status quo, to say to your oppressor, ‘You know what? I think you're right about this whole feminism thing,’ ” wrote Emily McCombs of the feminist blog xoJane. “Aligning yourself with the dominant group and upholding their ideas is a subconscious attempt to benefit from their power.”

McCombs argued that anti-feminists are primarily taking the stance that they have because they don’t want to be perceived as confrontational, or part of a faction group. They don’t want to promote change, McCombs said.

“But there is hope, because for me at least, anti-feminism was a phase in a process of political awakening,” McCombs wrote. “The very youth of most of the women in these photos is encouraging. They have so much time to learn and grow, to be exposed to different environments and viewpoints, to educate themselves.”

But the idea that WAF members are being told by feminists that they need to educate themselves only proves the anti-feminists’ point, some argue.

“Women Against Feminism should prompt the feminist movement to re-examine its prejudices,” wrote Cathy Young of Newsday. “Instead, too many feminists have responded by mocking the dissenters as stupid, ignorant man-pleasers. Ironically, in doing so, they validate another complaint often heard from the new anti-feminists: that feminism claims to speak for all women and is intolerant of different opinions.”

Anti-feminists don’t feel represented by feminism, Young wrote, and those that argue WAF doesn't really know what feminism is are missing the point.

The dictionary definition of feminism provided by Young in a Time article is “the theory of the political, economic and social equality of the sexes,” but Young wrote that WAF is “judging modern feminism by its actions, not by the book.”

Very few of those in WAF would disagree with the dictionary definition of feminism, according to Young. It’s the actions and rhetoric of modern feminists that they disagree with. Self-proclaimed feminists like Shire can understand this.

“Mocking Women Against Feminism validates their argument that they don’t belong in the movement and affirms their belief that feminism has no space for them,” she wrote. “We—and by ‘we,’ I mean feminists — need to be the bigger person in this battle. We need to make every effort to promote feminism as a big-tent movement, and we need to admit that it doesn’t always appear so welcoming.”

Shire cited writer Grace Chapman, who once got into an argument with a woman who announced that she was not a feminist. As the argument progressed, Shire quoted Chapman as saying, the woman’s face “hardened in quiet confidence that she had just been proven right. That we feminists were all the same. Shouty, elitist and actually a little bit mean. Men haters and blamers, women victimizers and blamers.”

While feminism’s intentions might be good, Shire wrote, it also may have a PR problem.

“In order for feminism to be truly powerful it needs to be accessible and engaging, to everyone,” Shire quoted Chapman as saying. “And at the moment it’s just not, not yet.”

Bethan Owen is a writer for the Deseret News Moneywise and Opinion sections. Twitter: BethanO2