Those who identify as feminists often face their fair share of criticism, even abuse, as well as support. A lot of said abuse is ignorant, vicious trolling. The kind that drives incredible women like Mary Beard to go on TV to let the world know that ‘my views on anything are irrelevant to the size and shape of my vagina’ – what a world it would be if that was universally obvious. If you believe passionately in changing things for the better and argue for any cause that tries to do just this, you’re likely to experience something ranging from a couple of tweets-worth to a barrage of ignorance telling you why you’re ‘wrong’.
A lot of the people who claim to be against feminism that I’ve come across often just don’t seem to have educated themselves about it. Inexplicably, they seem to be too busy to read a couple of decent articles that would quickly help them understand that feminism actually isn’t about annihilating all men, yet they’re never too busy to write four long paragraphs explaining why feminism is evil/unnecessary etc. Then there are those who claim to be against feminism, yet have a good understanding of what it tries to do. These people don’t seem to be, in my opinion, very nice people at all. It’s difficult to have a good, constructive debate with someone who is either blissfully ignorant or whose views are so warped that they’re beyond reasoning with. Those who dedicate time and effort to arguing against people who are trying to make society a better place for women aren’t doing any good for the world. They’re not the ones giving hope to, say, survivors of sexual assault who have been made to feel guilty, or victims of domestic abuse.
Perhaps that’s why groups like ‘Women Against Feminism’ make so little sense to me. Actually, this honestly doesn’t even make grammatical sense to me; I read this title as the same thing as ‘Women Against Women’. It doesn’t make any sense. Why wouldn’t you want equality for your own sex? Of course, there have always been women speaking out against feminism. There were women who fought against the suffragettes. There are still women who don’t agree that we should have the vote. In a recent, brilliant article in the Guardian, Jessica Valenti claimed (rightly, I think) that when men oppose feminism it’s frustrating but predictable – ‘groups with power have always been loathe to give it up’. But when women are against feminism, it feels like ‘betrayal’.
Clearly feminism doesn’t mean that women should always like and agree with all other women – women make up half of the population; clearly not all of us are going to have the same views. But female anti-feminists are truly baffling – ‘Women Against Feminism’ has a Facebook page full of peppy meant-to-be-inspirational quotes encouraging their members to speak out against feminism, but the movement is regressive rather than progressive. While feminists fight for progress, change and improvements for women all over the world, on top of the achievements the movement has already secured – which, incidentally, won these self-proclaimed ‘anti-feminist’ women their political voices and educations in the first place – these women seem to be fighting for a reversal of what has been done. Bizarrely, they want to stop progress for women in its tracks. Buzzfeed recently ran an article showing pictures of 14 girls against feminism alongside their quotes. Horrifyingly, the sexism they display is all too similar to that of men who claim to be against feminism. Slut-shaming and victim-blaming like there’s no tomorrow, these women claim that they are not ‘victims’, that ‘they can take responsibility for their actions’, that no one should be led to believe that ‘the actions of slut are acceptable’. While most of them are almost laughably ignorant, such as the one that begins ‘I don’t need feminism in my life, only equality’, each and every one of them really stings.
There are few things that frustrate me more than a woman who looks at her own life, her own opportunities, kind of feels like she probably has the same rights as men, and decides based on this that there’s no need for feminism. This view is unbelievably naïve. Aside from anything else, there’s a world beyond your own. The women claiming that they won’t ‘play the victim’ naively and ignorantly ignore the women that are victims of abuse, assault, harassment, who might not have the power or the will to make their voices heard in a culture that will more than likely make them feel like the guilty one.
The world of the female anti-feminist is a baffling one – hopefully one that is going out of style as more and more women seem to be openly and comfortably calling themselves feminist. After all, feminists throughout history have fought for equality against both men and women and have won so many victories. Eventually, the people that we remember are the Emmeline Pankhurst’s and the Mary Wollstencraft’s; those who wouldn’t take no for an answer and who refused to quieten down. The ones we remember are those who, against all their opposition, continued to fight for progress. I’m not idealistic enough to say that everyone should suddenly see the light and become diehard, radical womens’ rights activists. But curing ignorance has never been so easy. What I am saying is – and if ever I run into a supporter of a group like ‘Women Against Feminism’, I would be only too happy to point out – that the definition of feminism, in all its beauty and simplicity, is a Google search away.