In the developed world of the 21st century, I see the role of feminism as addressing those with the attitude that a woman’s place should be in the home, those who promote a society in which a woman’s work is undervalued, and those who treat women as objects at the disposal of men’s desires. To reverse the centuries of gender roles that have solidified this mentality is no small feat in itself. But to the mission of feminism has been added a new hurdle: the anti-feminist.
Meet the anti-feminist: the immature, smug, self-righteous, yet deeply insecure individuals who on the street might look completely unassuming, but on the internet they take on a new ego with which they insult, mock and attack feminism. Anti-feminists share one particularly cementing belief of who the stereotypical feminist is – angry women with unshaved armpits wearing t-shirts branded with aggressive messages screaming “free the nipple”. This binding misconception has allowed anti-feminists to turn feminism into something of a caricature, and given them the fuel with which to exploit the feminist movement for the purpose of a joke.
These are the cyber-bullies you were warned about in high school, who have found their new target in feminism. But now their job has been made even easier, because instead of having to individually engage their victim, even if it was still via the internet, now these same bullies can victimize whole groups of people, without having to directly engaging any one of them individually. Anti-feminists anonymously project their insults into the cyber-world for all to see, and with minimal effort on the anti-feminist’s part, these insults cause far-reaching damage.
The most impressive example of this is the Meninist movement. Supposedly, a Meninist is someone who feels that men’s rights need to be protected as the feminist movement makes progress towards equality. In principle it might stand for equality of the sexes; in practice, it translates into a mockery of and a push against feminism.
With the minimal skill and effort required to produce one of their “witty” (read: amazingly disgusting and wildly insulting) tweets, Meninists have garnered an extraordinary ability to hinder feminism’s progress. Because their witty tweets inspire hoards of insecure teenage boys to similarly use feminism as a target and a means to relieving some of their personal insecurities. And these witty tweets will be retweeted for more insecure teenage boys to see. And the beast grows and grows and all of a sudden you have people turning these crude jokes into practice and actively enacting policies that work against feminist ambitions to limit the opportunities and rights available to women.
It is natural that when the norm is called into question, those who benefit under the current system feel the need to protect it. But anti-feminists don’t simply make it their mission to preserve some societal norm. If this was the case, their insults would not range beyond reminding women that their place is in the kitchen or telling a woman to make them a sandwich, for example. But the fact that anti-feminists directly attack feminists, going beyond solely insulting women, shows that anti-feminism is not simply a desire to preserve a certain world view. Anti-feminism is full-blown and indiscriminately-executed misogyny born out of deep personal insecurities.
Anti-feminists aren’t protesting in the streets. They’re not lobbying congress or organizing marches or fundraisers. For the most part, they’re anonymously sitting behind their computer screens, projecting insults so crude some wouldn’t even have the guts to say them in person. To me, this says that anti-feminists are not really concerned with any sort of “mission”. On some level they might be alarmed by the prospect of feminism actually accomplishing its goals, but for the most part I think anti-feminists just blindly insult for the sake of insulting, and the sake of bolstering their fragile sense of self. Feminists can be quite aggressive, which ironically makes them an easy target in this context. Anti-feminists don’t really do much themselves, but they inspire others to take action, making them the source of the problem that has been more destructive than those anonymous individuals behind their computers probably ever anticipated.
So, a word to the anti-feminists: feminism isn’t going anywhere. It is not at your disposal to use for the purpose of a joke, and the more you mock it the stronger it will push pack. We will look back on you like every other radical, angry, scared and misled group that tried to stand in the way of social change, but you won’t have as much space in the textbooks because we don’t even know what your faces look like. How does it feel to stand on the wrong side of history?