In the past few months, I have become increasingly aware of the two seemingly irreconcilable narratives about feminism online, created by and for self-proclaimed “feminists” and “anti-feminists,” respectively. As a feminist myself I cannot claim impartiality in this conversation, but considering that there isn’t much real “conversation” happening anyway–at least not on Twitter or in the blogosphere–I think it can’t hurt to clear up a few misunderstandings, even if many anti-feminists will not read beyond this point.
Compared to the worldwide epidemic of gender-based violence, the seemingly never-ending battle over reproductive rights, the still very real gender pay gap, and the ever-elusive Equal Rights Amendment (to name just a few examples), arguments on the web are a small facet of the women’s rights movement. Still, I think they could reveal a lot about what “feminism” means in public discourse today, particularly because feminists and anti-feminists often claim to be fighting for the same thing. From their names alone, of course, you’d expect the two groups to be diametrically opposed. The Oxford English Dictionary defines them as such:
feminist: “An advocate or supporter of the rights and equality of women.”
anti-feminist: “One opposed to women or to feminism; a person (usually a man) who is hostile to sexual equality [more correctly, gender equality] or to the advocacy of women’s rights.”
And yet many members of both parties claim that they are fighting for gender equality and that the other group is against it. The #antifeminism hashtag on Twitter is full of statements like “Feminism or equality…pick one.” (I’m not talking about anti-feminists who actively hate women, by the way; they are not worth anyone’s time.) So what’s really going on here?