Antifeminism – An Online Trend




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Feminism isn’t necessary anymore. At least that’s the claim made by many proponents of a growing antifeminism movement. No longer is this movement the prerogative, as it has been historically, of backwards-looking males who have no wish to see the status quo reconstructed. In fact a recent trend rocking the Internet has seen many women voicing antifeminist views.

There’s a plethora of websites discussing the topic and a large debate on Tumblr and Twitter, using the hashtag of the now famous social media campaign Women Against Feminism. Their Facebook group has more than 16,000 likes. On YouTube, numerous female users explain in their own videos why they are against feminism.

Women post selfies holding messages: ‘I don’t need feminism because…’ Their arguments range from the most complex to naive and apparently trivial. Some read: ‘I don’t need feminism because I love my boyfriend and we both respect each other’; ‘I don’t need feminism because I want to promise my man to love him, honour him and obey him’; ‘I don’t need feminism because I have the same equal rights as men’.

While some of the antifeminist arguments are against specific aspects of feminist theory, some others are simply opposed to the dominant and perceived ideas of a modern movement which sustains the need for a critical movement acting on behalf of women. According to some experts, the antifeminist movement has been historically largely based on religious and moral views, and frequently supported in argument by Biblical references.

Proponents have often put an enthusiastic emphasis on the need for the submission of women to men as well as a critique of the aggressive attitude held by some feminists. According to Occhipinti, the movement is centred on the idea of women returning to the domestic sphere to maintain the house and raising children as fundamental for the betterment of society.

For decades, there have been movements labelled as antifeminist such as masculinism which criticises the effects of the feminization of society and supports the interests of fathers and male partners. Other antifeminist views are based on an argument which misconstrues feminism as supporting women as superior to men and therefore as promoting inequality. 

In addition, a debate promoting the need to give a voice to men who suffer oppression is also ongoing online and many also label this as antifeminist. Many see the current antifeminist movement taking place online (and centered around this campaign from Women Against Feminism) as the direct result of misconceptions of what feminism actually is.

The origins of the movement seem to trace back to a social media project run by Professor Rachel Seidman of Duke University, called Who needs feminism? This project aimed to bring about awareness of feminist issues and incite dialogue, through asking students to share their reasons for needing feminism over social media. It certainly did release some strange inhabitants of Pandora’s Box, as thousands of women started to respond to this project with antifeminist views of their own!

Journalists, researchers and feminists have since weighed in, raising concerns about the amount of ignorance and incoherence displayed in many of these critiques of feminism seen online. Many have also made reference to the privileged backgrounds of the women sending such messages, perhaps free from the worst forms of sexist abuse which threaten those women living less comfortable and secure lives.

These relatively privileged women doubtless still face a degree of inequality, which we must assume they ignore, embrace or simply accept. Yet the majority of the world’s victims of domestic violence, poverty, illiteracy, abuse and modern slavery are women. They also have lower salaries and perform the bulk of the unpaid domestic work which goes on in the world.

The debate is still ongoing but one thing is for sure: feminism is not dead and this is not demonstrated only by the ongoing inequality between men and women but also by strength of its counter-movement.

References

Blais, M., & Dupuis-Déri, F. (2012). Masculinism and the Antifeminist Countermovement Social Movement Studies, 11 (1), 21-39 DOI: 10.1080/14742837.2012.640532

Occhipinti , Laurie (1996). Two Steps Back? Anti-feminism in Eastern Europe. Anthropology Today, 12(6), 13-18.

Image via Dasha Petrenko / Shutterstock.

Lorena Nessi, PhD, MA

Lorena Nessi PhD is an award winning journalist, researcher, and cultural sociologist. Her Bachelor's was in International Relations, Master’s degree in Globalization, Identity and Technology, and PhD in Communication, Sociology and Digital Cultures. She received the Avina scholarship for investigative journalism while working for the BBC. Her fields of interest include digital cultures, sociology, social media, technology and capitalism.
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