Let's bite the hand that feeds us, shall we?
When Newton said that every action would have an equal and opposite reaction, he couldn’t have foretold that his Third Law of Physics would apply to internet feminism. But even though the backlash is hardly “equal and opposite,” once again, just like in the 1970s, some women seem to be misunderstanding the basic principles of feminism in order to rail against women’s rights with the hashtag #womenagainstfeminism.
This week, perhaps because of the anti-feminism bubbling up on the internet (although they didn’t explicitly say so), NPR re-promoted its 2011 interview with prominent antifeminist activist Phyllis Schlafly who campaigned to stop the 1973 passage of the Equal Rights Amendment–the legislation that would have provided men and women total legal equality. She basically sums up the conservative mindset about feminism:
A lot of people don’t understand what feminism is. They think it is about advance and success for women, but it’s not that at all. It is about power for the female left. And they have this, I think, ridiculous idea that American women are oppressed by the patriarchy and we need laws and government to solve our problems for us… And they’re always crying around about things like the differences between men and women are just a social construct. So they’re really in a fight with human nature. I would not want to be called a feminist.
It’s no surprise that the 89 year-old Schlafly feels this way. But it is somewhat surprising that a small, yet vocal group of young women has started to echo her rallying cry, first on a Tumblr, then on Facebook (with over 11,000 likes) and now with the adorable #womenagainstfeminism hashtag. Most of the posts include some reiteration of the central misunderstanding about feminism, that a core belief of feminism involves hating men.
While this hashtag is unlikely to undo all the progress made by women like Gloria Steinem and Beyonce, it is troubling, as Jessica Valenti over at The Guardian has explained:
Women stopping the progress of other women – especially those who don’t have the power and prestige to work for DC think-tanks or pen anti-feminist books – stings much more than when men do it. That may be a double standard, or naive – I don’t believe in an all-encompassing sisterhood, after all – though it does remind me of how powerful feminists really are: we’ve taken on not just the men in our way, but the women as well.
But there will always be some women who don’t understand feminism, just like there will always be some people who deny global warming. There’s no use getting all worked up over a few stragglers who haven’t gotten on the bandwagon.
So let’s just try to nip this in the bud. Sorry, Phyllis Schlafly, but feminism is here to stay:
With reporting contributed by Hannah Goldberg