The Washington Post

Is this what an anti-feminist movement looks like?

There’s the movement, the anti-movement and at least one parody movement that involves cats.

A Tumblr called Women Against Feminism has been gaining traction on social media and provoking a variety of responses. The campaign features women holding photos of themselves with text explaining why they don’t need feminism. Similar musings have popped up on Twitter and Facebook, where the Women Against Feminism page boasts more than 16,000 likes.

Some of the more ridiculed submissions to Women Against Feminism verge into potential parody territory.

But many of the campaign’s participants have cited being “for equal rights” as the reason behind their participation, which has also led to a generous dose of mocking.

Buzzfeed let the pictures speak for themselves, but not without getting a little cheeky in the URL of its post, which includes the following: i-do-not-think-it-means-what-you-think-it-means.

The Daily Beast zeroed in on the criticism in a post called “You Don’t Hate Feminism. You Just Don’t Understand It. Writer Emily Shire notes that “at it’s most core basic level, feminism is about equality between the sexes, not advancing one over the other.” Merriam-Webster certainly supports that definition, as does author Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie (as endorsed by Beyoncé).

Shire also cautioned against mocking Women Against Feminism:

Mocking Women Against Feminism validates their argument that they don’t belong in the movement and affirms their belief that feminism has no space for them. We—and by “we,” I mean feminists—need to be the bigger person in this battle. We need to make every effort to promote feminism as a big-tent movement, and we need to admit that it doesn’t always appear so welcoming. 

Jessica Valenti, a prominent feminist writer and columnist for the Guardian, explored “the rise of the anti-feminist woman” in a column earlier this month:

When men are against feminism, it’s frustrating, if ultimately predictable – groups with power have always been loathe to give it up. But when women come out against gender justice, it feels worse: no matter how fringe, the rise of the anti-feminist woman is not just baffling but a betrayal. Obviously “women” aren’t a monolith, and neither are the issues that they care about or believe in. But anti-feminist organizing is based on a deep hypocrisy and selfishness – an ideology built to assure conservative women that as long as they are doing just fine, other women will make do. And they’re putting up roadblocks to progress right in the middle of a renewed feminist awakening, with retrograde sexism that’s ultimately not too different than that of their male counterparts.

Valenti’s column did not reference Women Against Feminism. But as the campaign made the rounds on Twitter last week, Valenti chimed in:

The campaign does have supporters. In an essay for Time, Cathy Young, a contributing editor for Reason magazine, defended Women Against Feminism, dismissing the notion that its participants do not understand feminism:

For the most part, Women Against Feminism are quite willing to acknowledge and credit feminism’s past battles for women’s rights in the West, as well as the severe oppression women still suffer in many parts of the world. But they also say that modern Western feminism has become a divisive and sometimes hateful force, a movement that dramatically exaggerates female woes while ignoring men’s problems, stifles dissenting views, and dwells obsessively on men’s misbehavior and women’s personal wrongs. These are trends about which feminists have voiced alarm in the past — including the movement’s founding mother Betty Friedan, who tried in the 1970s to steer feminism from the path of what she called “sex/class warfare.” Friedan would have been aghast had she known that, 50 years after she began her battle, feminist energies were being spent on bashing men who commit the heinous crime of taking too much space on the subway.

One thing not up for debate: these discussions around feminism and who benefits from it are nothing new.

Who is a feminist now?” asked The New York Times in May, citing a list of celebrity women — from Taylor Swift to Lady Gaga — with varying degrees of feminist identity. At the center of the debate was actress Shailene Woodley, who famously (or infamously) told Time that she does not consider herself a feminist. “No, because I love men, and I think the idea of ‘raise women to power, take the men away from the power’ is never going to work out because you need balance,” Woodley told the magazine.

Woodley later clarified her stance, during an interview on Entertainment Weekly Radio’s “Women on Pop” she said: “The thing I was trying to say we need to eliminate — without the word ‘feminist,’ without any word attached to it — we need to begin to evolve the way we look at sisterhood.”

Bethonie Butler writes about television for The Post.

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