Unless you’ve been living under a rock these last six months, it’s fairly safe to assume that you’re au fait with the movement #womenagainstfeminism that is pervading the Internet like some sort of Victorian era illness. Founder of the movement, Janet Bloomfield, started #womenagainstfeminism in response to the #yesallwomen campaign, an online platform in which people can share examples of misogyny in their lives. In a dangerously misguided defiance against women expressing injustice, the #womenagainstfeminism movement is an online initiative that spans across various social media sites like Tumblr, Facebook and Twitter. Women (usually under the age of 30) submit pictures of themselves holding up handwritten signs expressing their detest for feminism, broadly claiming that it has no place in today’s culture.
It takes five minutes perusing the various #womenagainstfeminism sites to realise that their premise is not only confused and imprudent, but reaffirms exactly why feminism needs to exist.
It is not an outrageous claim to say that outside of certain circles, the word feminist is often met with derision. It is still very much a ‘dirty word’, a topic to shirk away from in social situations, and a sometimes even a term used to insult.
It is because of this widespread misunderstanding and mistrust of feminism that women have taken to the #womenagainstfeminism movement. As I look through the hundreds of thousands of images of women holding up reasons that they don’t need feminism, I can’t help but question some potential motivations behind their oppositional activism.
Women are accustomed to adapting various aspects of their appearance, personality, views and opinions to cater to the male gaze. This is evident from a very early age, with young girls being taught the confusing lesson that they must be appealing to men at the same time as not offending their sensibilities. Another example is in the beauty and fashion industry, a force to be reckoned with as women feel pressure to fit within an image of beauty that is largely grounded on what men deem acceptable. This idea can also be extended to various social discussions, political interactions and media panels. Women often censor their input in order to fit within the realms of what is considered attractive to men. Undeniably, subservience, submission and compliance are still traits that the public expect and demand of women. Australia’s unease with Julia Gillard as Prime Minister is an example of just how much gender stereotypes are engrained in our collective psyche. The male gaze not only constructs our views of women, but as a product of this, constructs women’s view of themselves.
Which leads to the #womenagainstfeminism movement. As if a publicly declaring that they are ‘on the boys side’ and therefore still appealing, these women are driven by a popular opinion that is founded on patriarchy.
But the contradictions inherent in this #movement don’t stop there. While on the one hand it lambastes feminists for apparently speaking for all women, it is also clearly attempts to speak for all women, saying that no one should subscribe to the feminist ideals. Even more significantly, it’s ignorant to the billions of women who endure serious acts of injustice based on their gender each day all around the world. As long as some girls aren’t allowed to go to school, or rape victims are stoned to death, or the emphasis is placed on educating girls on ways to not excite men rather than men being educated on how to be respectful of an individual, then I don’t understand how anyone could claim that gender equality has arrived.
Questioning our role in society and reassessing our identity irrespective of gender may be overwhelming for some people, and ultimately leave them in the dark as to the true definition of feminism. Feminism calls for a complete reworking of gender stereotypes and norms, an environment that thrives on equality and unhindered self-expression.
If nothing else, some comedic value has come from this ridiculous and offensive movement. Like a bastion of hope for people who understand what feminism really means, the #womanagainstfeminist (#notofeminism) reactionary Twitter parody highlights the often ridiculous claims made by anti- feminist women.
Some of my favourites from the #womanagainstfeminist (#notofeminism) twitter account:
“i don’t need femimin because i LIKE when men look at me like i am a piece of meat it is like being in a meat zoo and i am the star”
August 9, 2014
“I don’t need femimesm because when men call me a bitch for rejecting them I imagine they mean I’m a female dog that is so nice dogs are cute”
August 9, 2014
Note the misspelling of feminism.
These issues are not specific to one gender, and affect all of us in a negative way. We have inherited a complicated patriarchy, and are clearly still trying to work out how that fits within a modern context. And if this movement is anything to go by, women are in just as much need of an education about issues of feminism and equality as men are.