Women Against Feminism, also known as #WomenAgainstFeminism, is a Twitterhashtag, Tumblr blog, and social media campaign on Facebook, YouTube, and other Internet media in which women post pictures of themselves, some in "selfie" style, holding up handmade placards stating reasons why they disapprove of modern feminism. Most of the posts begin with the statement, "I don't need feminism because", followed by their reason(s). On a larger scale, it is also a grassroots movement of women who disagree with feminism for various reasons.
Origin and content
The Women Against Feminism campaign began on Tumblr in July 2013, presumably in response to the "Who Needs Feminism" campaign. According to The Daily Dot, the campaign gathered steam in July and August 2014, when several prominent columnists and bloggers brought media attention to it.
In an opinion piece for The New York Observer, Nina Burleigh wrote that she believes some posts on Tumblr were not submitted by women, but rather are sock puppets of men's rights activists, citing similar themes and content to that used on men's rights websites. Examples she cited include: "I don't need feminism because only the weak-minded buy into cults", and "because blaming men for your OWN insecurities and mistakes is WRONG & ABSURD." In an opinion piece for The Boston Globe, Cathy Young reported an analysis of posts on the hashtag by blogger "AstrokidNJ", which determined that 46 percent were egalitarian, 19 percent commented on men's issues, 12 percent criticized feminist intolerance toward dissent, and 23 percent promoted traditionalist views such as support for distinct and traditional sex roles, chivalry, or full-time motherhood. In a piece for Time, Cathy Young stated that some Women Against Feminism, while they are able to acknowledge feminism's struggle for women's rights, believe that "modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force." Other examples of comments on the hashtag, reported by Time, include: "because I like to shave my legs and wear a supportive bra"; "because this movement is less about equality, and more about dehumanizing men"; and "because Susan B. Anthony was pro-life & pro-family today's feminists are not".
The response by the media, social commentators, and feminists has included support and criticism. As of 19 August 2014, the campaign's Facebook page had garnered 21,000 "likes".
Supporters say modern feminism has gone astray in some ways and cite examples such as radical feminists not supporting trans women and saying things such as, "anyone born a man retains male privilege in society, even if he chooses to live as a woman", and related complaints that some feminists exaggerate women's problems while ignoring men’s problems. Also cited was the abortion debate and the argument that women have suffered as a result of a feminist culture that promotes casual sex as empowering. In an op-ed for The Globe and Mail, Margaret Wente supports Women Against Feminism saying she believes modern feminism has become a belief system that presents a distorted view of reality based on misandry and victim-culture and she questions the existence of rape culture.
Critics say the young women involved in this campaign do not appear to know what feminism is and are arguing against an imaginary foe using straw man arguments. A commentator from Time writes: "Most of the posts include some reiteration of the central misunderstanding about feminism, that a core belief of feminism involves hating men." A commentator from The Irish Independent wrote, "being anti-feminism is like being pro-apartheid, or a big fan of social injustice, but no one would think it's cute to hold up a sign saying that."
Commenting on the campaign, Anette Borchorst, professor and researcher in sex and gender in the Department of Political Science, Aalborg University, stated that "there have always been disagreements and debates within feminism and those debates help to advance the movement." She added that, "Feminism has always generated debate among women and it is difficult to imagine a feminist world-view that everyone can agree on."
A September 2015 column on openDemocracy by Beulah Maud Devaney asserted that Women Against Feminism mainly represents the view of privileged women who want to maintain the status quo and are, thus, deliberately misrepresenting what feminism stands for. According to Devaney, "As intersectional feminism becomes more popular it is, sadly, to be expected that some white, straight, cis first world women will see the emphasis on their own privilege as an attack. In a similar way feminist calls for a more inclusive beauty standard and appreciation of multiple body types can be read as an attempt to undermine the received wisdom that ‘skinny white girl’ is the ideal aesthetic." Devaney adds that Women Against Feminism has failed to stem public support for the feminist agenda, that its influence is minor, and that its arguments are, "easy to dismiss." Devaney concludes, however, that the anti-feminism it represents deserves closer examination.
In October 2015, Angela Epstein mentioned the blog in an editorial criticizing feminists for being unpleasant to women who disagree with them, saying, "I don't expect all women to agree with me. But there are many who do. Look no further than the proliferation of websites such as Women Against Feminism."
- ^"Women Against Feminism". Tumblr. July 2013.
- ^ abSmith, Michelle, "Actually, women, you do need feminism", The Conversation, 18 August 2014
- ^ abcWente, Margaret, "Women against #WomenAgainstFeminism", The Globe and Mail, 9 August 2014
- ^Elderkin, Beth, "Who are the 'Women Against Feminism'?", The Daily Dot
- ^Burleigh, Nina (30 July 2014). "Women Against Womyn: First Wave, Second Wave, Third Wave, and Now Three Steps Back". New York Observer. Retrieved 10 August 2014.
- ^ abYoung, Cathy, "Women Against Feminism: Some women want equality without anger", Boston Globe, 2 September 2014
- ^ abcYoung, Cathy. "Stop Fem-Splaining: What #womenagainstfeminism Get Right:". TIME.com. Retrieved 2015-11-19.
- ^ abAlter, Charlotte (23 July 2014). "#WomenAgainstFeminism Is Happening Now". Time. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^Knisley, Lisa, "What we can learn from the 'Women Against Feminism' Tumblr", The Daily Dot
- ^Durgin, Celina, "Anti-feminists Baffle Feminists", National Review, 28 July 2014
- ^ abcRiley, Naomi Schaefer, "Scenes from the feminist implosion", New York Post, 4 August 2014
- ^Valenti, Jessica, "Feminism is about women's financial freedom, not just chivalry or labels", The Guardian, 7 August 2014
- ^Tremonti, Anna Maria, "Women Against Feminism: What does it mean to be a feminist today?", The Current, 4 August 2014
- ^ abMartin, Heather, ""Women Against Feminism" Misses the Point: Why No Woman (or Man) Should be Against Feminism", HuffPost, 4 August 2014
- ^"Women Against Feminism - THE 100- year struggle reversed on a whim". Irish Herald. 2 August 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^"You Don't Hate Feminism. You Just Don't Understand It". The Daily Beast. 24 July 2014. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^ abLindberg, Helle, "Nu går kvinder selv til kamp mod feminismen" (Women Themselves Now Battle Against Feminism), TV 2, 19 August 2014
- ^Abcarian, Robin (8 August 2014). "The willfully ignorant women who post on 'Women Against Feminism'". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^Teital, Emma (8 August 2014). "Feminism is not whatever you want it to be". Maclean's. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^Harrington, Katy (3 August 2014). "Why would anyone be against feminism?". Irish Independent. Retrieved 9 August 2014.
- ^Devaney, Beulah Maud, "The overlooked history of women against feminism", openDemocracy, 21 September 2015
- ^Epstein, Angela, "Why are feminists so unpleasant to women?", The Telegraph, 13 October 2015
It’s the same with feminism as it is with women in general: there are always, seemingly, infinite ways to fail. On the one hand, feminism has never been more widely proclaimed or marketable than it is now. On the other hand, its last ten years of mainstream prominence and acceptability culminated in the election of President Donald Trump. (The Times published an essay at the end of December under the headline “Feminism Lost. Now What?”) Since November 9th, the two main arguments against contemporary feminism have emerged in near-exact opposition to each other: either feminism has become too strict an ideology or it has softened to the point of uselessness. On one side, there is, for instance, Kellyanne Conway, who, in her apparent dislike of words that denote principles, has labelled herself a “post-feminist.” Among those on the other side is the writer Jessa Crispin, who believes that the push to make feminism universally palatable has negated the meaning of the ideology writ large.
Crispin has written a new book-length polemic on the subject, called “Why I Am Not a Feminist,” in which she offers definitions of feminism that are considerably more barbed than the earnest, cheeky slogans that have become de rigueur—“The future is female,” for example, as Hillary Clinton declared in her first video statement since the election, or “Girls just want to have fun-damental rights,” or “Feminism is the radical notion that women are people.” The dissidence at the root of these catchphrases has been obscured by their ubiquity on tote bags and T-shirts, and for Crispin the decline of feminism is visible in how easy the label is to claim. Feminism, she tells us, has become a self-serving brand popularized by C.E.O.s and beauty companies, a “fight to allow women to participate equally in the oppression of the powerless and the poor.” It’s a “narcissistic reflexive thought process: I define myself as feminist and so everything I do is a feminist act.” It’s an “attack dog posing as a kitten,” and—in what might be Crispin’s most biting entry—a “decade-long conversation about which television show is a good television show and which television show is a bad show.”
Crispin is the founder of Bookslut, a literary Web site that she started, in 2002, when she was a full-time employee at Planned Parenthood, in Austin, Texas. (She was ahead of the word-reclamation curve that culminated in the Slutwalk marches, which were first held in 2011.) After accumulating a modest but enthusiastic following, Crispin closed down Bookslut in 2016, with minimal ceremony. “I didn’t want to become a professional,” she told Vulture, adding, “I just don’t find American literature interesting. I find MFA culture terrible. Everyone is super-cheerful because they’re trying to sell you something, and I find it really repulsive.” Crispin is happy to take the contrarian stance, particularly within spheres that lend themselves to suppressive positivity. The point of “Why I Am Not a Feminist” isn’t really that Crispin is not a feminist; it’s that she has no interest in being a part of a club that has opened its doors and lost sight of its politics—a club that would, if she weren’t so busy disavowing it, invite Kellyanne Conway in.
The effect of the catchy title stands regardless. Crispin’s argument is bracing, and a rare counterbalance; where feminism is concerned, broad acceptability is almost always framed as an unquestioned good. “Somewhere along the way toward female liberation, it was decided that the most effective method was for feminism to become universal,” Crispin writes. And the people who decided this “forgot that for something to be universally accepted, it must become as banal, as non-threatening and ineffective as possible.” Another, and perhaps less fatalistic, way of framing the matter: feminism is a political argument of such obvious reason and power that it has been co-opted as an aesthetic and transformed into merchandise by a series of influential profiteers.
Crispin notes, accurately, that feminism’s history has been marked by a “small number of radical, heavily invested women who did the hard work of dragging women’s position forward, usually through shocking acts and words,” and that the “majority of women benefited from the work of these few, while often quickly trying to disassociate themselves from them.” Reading that second line, I immediately thought of an irksome scene in Megyn Kelly’s memoir, in which Kelly tells Sheryl Sandberg that she’s not a feminist, and Sandberg—whose entire feminist initiative is based on making the movement palatable to people like Kelly, and whose awkward accommodation of the Trump Administration should surprise no one—“passed no judgment” on Kelly’s distaste for the term. Crispin mostly focusses on younger and newer feminists, castigating them as selfish and timid, afraid of the second wave. They make Andrea Dworkin into a scapegoat, she writes; they “distance themselves from the bra-burning, hairy-armpitted bogeywomen.”
Here, and in some other places where Crispin’s argument requires her to take a precise measure of contemporary feminism, she—or this book’s production schedule—can’t quite account for the complexity of the times. From 2014 to 2016, I worked as an editor at Jezebel, a site that, when it was founded, in 2007, helped to define online feminism—and served ever afterward as a somewhat abstracted target for women who criticized contemporary feminism from the left. These critics didn’t usually recognize how quickly the center is always moving, and Crispin has the same problem. Much of what she denounces—“outrage culture,” empowerment marketing, the stranglehold that white women have on the public conversation—has already been critiqued at length by the young feminist mainstream. Her imagined Dworkin-hating dilettante, discussing the politics of bikini waxing and “giving blow jobs like it’s missionary work,” has long been passé. It’s far more common these days for young feminists to adopt a radical veneer. Lena Dunham’s newsletter sells “Dismantle the Patriarchy” patches; last fall, a Dior runway show included a T-shirt reading, “We Should All Be Feminists.” (The shirt is not yet on sale in the United States; it reportedly costs five hundred and fifty euros in France.) The inside threat to feminism in 2017 is less a disavowal of radical ideas than an empty co-option of radical appearances—a superficial, market-based alignment that is more likely to make a woman feel good and righteous than lead her to the political action that feminism is meant to spur.
The most vital strain of thought in “Why I Am Not a Feminist” is Crispin’s unforgiving indictment of individualism and capitalism, value systems that she argues have severely warped feminism, encouraging women to think of the movement only insofar as it leads to individual gains. We have misinterpreted the old adage that the personal is political, she writes—inflecting our personal desires and decisions with political righteousness while neatly avoiding political accountability. We may understand that “the corporations we work for poison the earth, fleece the poor, make the super rich more rich, but hey. Fuck it,” Crispin writes. “We like our apartments, we can subscribe to both Netflix and Hulu, the health insurance covers my SSRI prescription, and the white noise machine I just bought helps me sleep at night.”
That this line of argument seems like a plausible next step for contemporary feminism reflects the recent and rapid leftward turn of liberal politics. Socialism and anti-capitalism, as foils to Donald Trump’s me-first ideology, have taken an accelerated path into the mainstream. “Why I Am Not a Feminist” comes at a time when some portion of liberal women in America might be ready for a major shift—inclined, suddenly, toward a belief system that does not hallow the “markers of success in patriarchal capitalism . . . money and power,” as Crispin puts it. There is, it seems, a growing hunger for a feminism concerned more with the lives of low-income women than with the number of female C.E.O.s.
The opposing view—that feminism is not just broadly compatible with capitalism but actually served by it—has certainly enjoyed its share of prominence. This is the message that has been passed down by the vast majority of self-styled feminist role models over the past ten years: that feminism is what you call it when an individual woman gets enough money to do whatever she wants. Crispin is ruthless in dissecting this brand of feminism. It means simply buying one’s way out of oppression and then perpetuating it, she argues; it embraces the patriarchal model of happiness, which depends on “having someone else subject to your will.” Women, exploited for centuries, have grown subconsciously eager to exploit others, Crispin believes. “Once we are a part of the system and benefiting from it on the same level that men are, we won’t care, as a group, about whose turn it is to get hurt.”
A question of audience tugs at “Why I Am Not a Feminist.” It seemed, at points, as though anyone who understands the terms of Crispin’s argument would already agree with her. I also wondered how the book might land if Hillary Clinton had won—if the insufficiently radical feminism Crispin rails against had triumphed rather than absorbed a staggering blow. Instead, her book arrives at a useful and perhaps unexpected cultural inflection point: a time when political accommodation appears fruitless, and when, as Amanda Hess noted in the _Times Magazine _this week, many middle-class white women have marched in closer proximity to far-left ideas than perhaps they ever would have guessed. Exhortations to “transform culture, not just respond to it” are what many of us want to hear.
Of course, this being a polemic, there’s not much space given to how, exactly, the total disengagement with our individualist and capitalist society might be achieved. “Burn it down”—another nascent feminist slogan—is generally received as an abstract, metaphorical directive. The final chapter of Crispin’s book, titled “Where We Go From Here,” is four pages. In an earlier section of “Why I Am Not a Feminist,” Crispin rails against feminist flippancy toward men, writing, “It is always easier to find your sense of value by demeaning another’s value. It is easier to define yourself as ‘not that,’ rather than do an actual accounting of your own qualities and put them on the scale.” I agree.