Women Against Women Against Feminism

Posted on July 19, 2014 by Richard Goulter
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Pictures of people with pieces of card saying “I need feminism because…” have apparently been on the rise. Women Against Feminism is apparently a Tumblr where women posts pieces of card saying “I don’t need feminism because…”.

And that upsets some people. So there’s a convenient list of posts some for, some against.

Arguments. Opinions. Name calling and condescending insinuation abound.
Isn’t it wonderful?

So, uh, let’s see if we can examine these opinions and figure out something sensible as to why so many folk are so upset. [Wow, there were a lot of links, so if you’re lazy, you could skip to the conclusion].

The first link is the genesis, to a BuzzFeed listicle. (author Rossalyn Warren). It ends with a gif of ‘NOPE’.
(While no one expects an argument from BuzzFeed, this is still an interesting mode of presentation: show the opinions people have without annotation. Presumably the author expects none of the readers would ever agree with these Women Against Feminism, though).

Their second link to a piece on rawstory.com (author Amanda Marcotte) is written with vigour; in even the first paragraph, the author describes Women Against Feminism as

a landing ground for women who respond to sexism with denial and who hope to be protected by misogyny by hating other women first

Although phrased in an inflammatory way, this seems to be more/less the author’s thesis here. We can rephrase it a bit more fairly “Problems exist, and denying these problems does not make them go away.”
Maybe “thesis” is the wrong term. The author more/less uses this as a premise to nitpick against the statements some Women Against Feminism have made. That’s fine.
But it’s disappointing that the author doesn’t also give credit to other points made (which she apparently doesn’t disagree with?). Also disappointing is the inflammatory and unreasonable tone of the article. There are some interesting points here, but it probably shouldn’t be the onus of the reader to make the argument “civilised”.

(Btw, Women Against Feminism call this author a “horrible feminist”. This might indeed be considered name-calling, but the author doesn’t seem kind to those she disagrees with, “horrible”, and the author seems to be a feminist… Still. Name-calling is bad).

The third link is to Cosmopolitan. (Author Ellen Scott). While an apt name for discussion on equality, (“citizen of the stars”), WAF’s author doesn’t seem as content:

this was the height of hypocrisy by a magazine that preys on women’s insecurities

There’s surely some kind of meta / irony in all this: if these WAF are women taking a stand with their opinion and making statements like this, then surely this is some kind of ‘feminism’ / high respect for women?
The author of the Cosmopolitan piece makes this point, too:

It doesn’t matter if someone who identifies as a feminist expresses views you don’t agree with - that doesn’t mean you can’t be one too.

What we need now is to straighten out our collective understanding of what feminism actually is. Please, no more celebrities saying they’re not feminists because they “love men” or “believe in equality”.

Feminism is about equality for men and women. That’s it. It’s that simple.

The issue, the author claims, is “simple”.

Anyway, the author also expresses her shock and desire to “weep for humanity” at seeing that anyone would not identify as a “feminist”. The author condescends to suggest why these women might not be for “feminism”:

Perhaps it’s because big news sources rarely discuss the status of women in places like Saudi Arabia, where women can’t drive, and can’t vote until 2015. Maybe it’s because these women just don’t realise that in Yemen, women are not legally allowed to leave the house without their husband’s permission. Maybe these women are being exposed to news sources that sympathise with rapists, casting rape victims as girls who made poor moral choices.

I’d suggest that if the author thinks a women’s rights in the US is the same as in “places like Saudi Arabia”, then the author is over-simplifying the issue. Which is nit-picking, perhaps, but this demonstrates the kind of simplications the author makes in opting to not recognise WAF’s points.
Well, that, and:

Yes, sometimes feminism gets distorted, especially on a place like Tumblr. The people with the strongest, most radical views tend to be the ones who shout the loudest, and so they’re the only ones that get heard. Feminism is not an exclusive club, or a way of policing women.

The author paints the picture that the “feminists” who WAF so despise are the radical nutcases and not really what feminism is about.
Crucially, to me, this seems like a cop-out: the attitude rejects only the feminism that these WAF are rejecting, without ever having “feminism” take responsibility for the ‘radical’ attitudes. (Moreover, “feminism” can be ‘self contradictory’, but to disagree with “feminism” is abhorrent?).

Regardless, perhaps with all these interesting points to consider, the issue isn’t so simple as the author hopes to claim.

The next is from Marie Claire (author Suzannah Ramsdale), (who WAF praised for Marie Claire reading their points!), which starts out defining ‘feminism’:

‘The belief that men and women should have equal rights and opportunities.’

Marie Claire don’t particularly engage here with an argument, but invite reader comments. (Let’s not consider the comments section).
It’s probably fair to give kudos to the author, anyway, for calling the points “strong and controversial” (rather than the name-calling from the first link).

Perhaps the one thing to note is that the author’s attitude of “who would disagree with feminism other than a misogynist? Oh, a woman would?”.

HuffPo is next.
Their first line is beautiful:

It’s basically a collection of all those awful arguments you hear against feminism

But don’t worry, WAF call them “semi-fair” probably for their last paragraph:

But before anyone starts judging and shaming the women in this Facebook group who may not define themselves as feminists, it’s important to look at the misleading definitions associated with the word — and do the work to educate people as to what feminism really stands for.

Again, we see what must be a crucial point to any of this controversy: “What is feminism?” (“What things to feminists believe?”).

The two paragraphs of the post I haven’t mentioned both refer to another HuffPo post about the campaign which preceeded this picture-of-myself-with-a-bit-of-cardboard thing; the point of that being people are fine with “gender equality” but not fine with “feminism”. (Though, the images that post highlight are more in line of “This is my identity and I am a feminist” rather than “This is my view and I am a feminist”, which WAF seems to counteract).

The next post from metro.co.uk has a killer title:
Is the Women Against Feminism Tumblr Proof that we’re fed up of being part of generation feminism?
(author Hannah Gale).

The author also asks “But what does feminism even mean anymore?”; dubiously they continue with “It’s supposed to mean equality for women”. But the author also describes WAF in a way which the above authors generally haven’t:

This Tumblr is not an expression from women that they want to go backwards in time, this is an act against what the modern day feminist has come to represent in society, as the page describes it ‘a toxic culture’.

Young women are actually stepping back and saying ‘is this how we should be treating men?’ and it’s kind of nice.

(The author is then a bit mean to feminists in the same way that the other authors have been mean to anti-feminists, if we’re reading all this objectively).

Then another from HuffPo which WAF so delightfully describes as “this one was ridiculous, playing dumb”.

Probably not playing dumb, but here the author’s attitude is unsurprising:

The last time we checked this is what feminism stood for, and we’re not the only ones to disagree.

And has little else to say, besides the author delving into the comments section (“take a Women Studies class”).

The next, from IJReviwe (author Caroline Schaeffer) is simply a (supportive of these WAF) reposting of the images.

The next one which says anything is from TotalSororityMove (author is user Lucky Jo) which WAF describes as “ridiculous and patronizing”.

[WAF is] a group comprised of women who are seriously misinformed, but nonetheless confident in their decision to reject feminism. They decided to offer up a few pictures on their reasons for defying feminism in a laughable display of personal opinions and convictions against their idea of “feminism.”

They also noted the irony of WAF’s feministic flavour, as well as (clearly) thinking WAF don’t understand what “feminism” is.

Delightfully, TSM post images in reply to many of these, which are full of snark and patronsing attitudes. Snark is beautiful for attacking naive points, but the images here seem to be more about bullying and belittling. (Really, guys? “You don’t know what feminism is, so let’s be feminists and bully you about your misunderstanding”).

But the last two paragraphs have something a bit more interesting to say:

We may joke around, but we also can’t ignore that there are some serious problems here. The major issue is that these women are further encouraging the negative connotations associated with feminism. It’s supposed to be an empowering message of equality and respect, not an excuse to victimize ourselves and demonize men. Modern feminists know this. We recognize the true definition of feminism, and we are working hard to destroy old notions about the concept.

I disagree that the “major issue” here is that these women are further encouraging negative connotations.. but, again, “the true definition of feminism” comes up.

And other HuffPo (author Alyx Gorman) which WAF say “this one was more fair, but attributes everything to “marketing” and cosmetics-adjusting instead of the fundamentally toxic culture of feminist culture itself”.
And, again, if titles are summaries of attitudes, then this one’s cute: “Stop Blaming Anti-Feminist Young Women For Feminism’s Marketing Problems”.

Also cute: > Now, excuse me one moment while I get inside my bomb shelter, but I can kind > of see their point. Why would you need a bomb shelter, author? Do you think lots of feminists would get angry at you? Why ever would you think that..

But the author also highlights this: > Seeing people missing the basic point completely; missing the fact that “the > men in my life care about and respect me” is feminism, probably makes you > want to shout and throw things. It probably makes you want to shake your > fists and scream “How could people still think this way?!” > > So that’s what you do. You shout, and throw things and scream “How could > people still think this way?” And the people who still think that way look at > you and say: ” See, I told you they love to shout and throw things, those > bitches are crazy.”

The author then goes on to point out that there’s a huge context and history of argument and disagreement in terms of “feminism”; and that to merely hop on and see current arguments means you’re entering the discussion without sufficient knowledge.
The author also holds the attitude of “feminists are correct, we just need to show people that”. (As opposed to, feminists who do all the aforementioned shouting are in the wrong..).

The next from Death and Taxes Mag (author Robyn Pennacchia) is so wonderfully described by WAF as “the line between commentary and misogyny is blurred here”. (I’m sorry, I know name-calling is bad.. but some of the writing craft from angry attitudes is admirable).

With the title, though, you might have to agree: “Why don’t these ‘Women Against Feminism’ get their sweet asses back in the kitchen?”.

I’m not sure I’d go so far as to call this “misogynistic”; the author suggests out the WAF are probably just women after dick.. which seems both sexist and demeaning. (Okay. That is misogynistic, then. But, sorry, the greater tragedy here is that sensible, respectful discussion is ditched in favour of being rude to those you disagree with). The author also otherwise belittles the women who aren’t “feminists” in exactly the kind of tone the previous author calls a “marketing problem”.

This post does highlight the point that feminism has done a lot historically for women, and so shouldn’t women be appreciative of feminism in that regard? (Moreover, the author goes on to criticise a WAF as freeloading off these benefits without taking the responsibility of the “feminism” label).

As with the other posts, again we see:

For what it’s worth, feminism has one definition and one definition only: it is the radical notion that women are people, and that they are deserving of the same rights as men. If you believe in that, then you’re a feminist. There are many different varieties of feminism out there, just like any school of thought–some I agree with, and some that I don’t–but that is the basic belief that unites us.

(It’s simple, there’s only one definition; but there are different varieties of feminism out there).

More HuffPo (author Lynsi Freitag). WAF retorts “this one invokes the old dogma of “dictionary feminism” and proceeds to tell us to crawl back into our damsel-in-distress shell”

The writing is quite fun to read through, but also in the “women disagree with feminism?!” tone.
But this part is good:

Here’s the thing: this is important. It’s important not only because is it inaccurate and ignorant (which needs to be addressed and corrected) but because it so clearly demonstrates that we have done a mediocre job at explaining what feminism is, its tenets and its purpose. …. We need a clear message with explicit definitions, along with a number of principles we can all agree on and then a few measurable goals in place.

Author’s definition is slightly different from what we’ve seen: “the advocacy of women’s rights on the grounds of political, social, and economic equality to men.” And the author also points out feminism is what got women to where they are today.

Since the author so heavily emphasises the word “equality”, here’s probably a good time to point out that “equality” isn’t an easy word for people to agree on, so it’s kindof a regression of a definition.
And, maybe, the author highlights positions where women are less well off than men, without giving examples of where men are less well off than women.

NJBiz is the next to “contribute” to the discussion on the list.

In journalism, fact checking and accuracy is of utmost importance. Clearly, Women Against Feminism doesn’t agree.

The author doesn’t seem to bother retorting with facts, but instead with definitions. (But in this sea of opinions, that’s probably okay).
The author doesn’t seem to think trying to understand those you disagree with is important.
Overall, this is just a devolvement of “WAF say Feminism isn’t about equality, but Feminism is about equality”.

Apparently this French website Konbini also got upset. I can’t read French, but WAF does applaud them for at least reading what WAF had to say.

Daily Life Australia (author Ruby Hamad) didn’t impress WAF, who reckoned they play the “you’re-too-stupid-to-evaluate-modern-feminism-for-yourself” card.. but at least the author does take the time to disagree with some of the images. Maybe the “these girls need feminism” attitude isn’t as cool, though.

Some of the argument is a reiteration of a feminist stance on the issue. Not really moving any argument forward, but this is at least a starting place for people to then ask “why?”, to examine, question, and agree or disagree.

At other times, the point she makes is more like “You’re a female, and we’re feminists, so shut up.”. The author doesn’t go out of their way to point out that feminism is comprised of different schools of thought.

I’d like to note that the author here links to that lovely post from Raw Story without chastisement.


I won’t comment on any particular posts of from these Women Against Feminists. That’s probably okay, since most of these other links don’t either.

A near universal response from these posts (in particular) was an aghast and knee-jerk negativity against these women, and an incredulity that women/people could even hold such opinions.
Alongside this, there wasn’t any particularly strong mood for discussion beyond “if you disagree with me, then you don’t understand what I’m saying”.

Also common was the more positive(?) “oh, but these WAF are really feminists anyway”.

Another point which came up often was that of “what is feminism, anyway”; where the common response was a dictionary definition and a lack of explanation as to why there are feminists who disagree with other feminists, or what different kinds of feminism there are.
The favourite word of the day was “equality”, but this word was introduced with an unexamined sense of being “The Right Thing” without discussion as to what equality means.

A common argument was that the “feminists” which WAF are against weren’t actually feminists.
Other common attitudes were that these women are not entitled to their opinion since women are where they are today thanks to feminists; that any women who isn’t a “feminist” is clearly of such a view because they’re too stupid, or otherwise not engaged in rational thought.

Furthermore, true-blue feminists were unashamed and confident in their name-calling and belittling of these women they disagreed with; nor were these bullies at the radical end of the feminist spectrum, nor were these degradations called out as being out-of-line by others.
The one instance (of the above links) where rude behaviour was highlighted, it was excused or justified as to being because people such as WAF just don’t understand the context of the argument they contribute to. – I suspect if there were more feminists calling out authors like Amanda Marcotte for being unacceptably rude, WAF would keenly share these.

The point that any debate about “feminism” is complicated and has a large amount of context which must first be understood might be a fair one (although it doesn’t at all excuse such rude behaviour); it’s more plausible than “the issue is simple, so shut up if you don’t agree”.
Yet it’s so very clear that little is being done to address such a huge gap in understanding which distances “feminists” from those who identify as “anti-feminist”.
There was a feeling (justifiably?) that to disagree with “feminists” entailed anger and hatred rather than thoughtful discussion.

To say ‘feminism’ is not something to be ashamed of is unfounded.
Many of the “feminists” here are deplorable, and I don’t see that much is being done to improve these attitudes and behaviours.
But it seems clear to me that both sides of the table have valuable things to say and contribute to each other, if only they could sit down together and not be misogynistic about it.

Do take into consideration that these links are from the WAF group itself, who shared links both in favour and in upset of WAF, but hopefully this sample isn’t so unrepresentive.

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