Obnoxious. Bossy. Bitchy. Radical. Feminazi. These are just some of the words used to beat down and silence women that express their opinion. Rush Limbaugh first used feminazi in his 1992 book The Way Things Ought to Be, defining “obnoxious feminists” as “feminazis”. The Oxford dictionary defines a feminazi as “a radical feminist”. But what do those definitions even mean?
Feminazi is commonly used in reference to a person that advocates for female dominance and a hatred of men. The word is brought together by the words feminist and Nazi, that ironically mean completely contradictory things. Nazism embodies male domination and discrimination of perceived undesirables to the point of extermination. Feminism encapsulates principles of gender equality, and advocacy of women’s rights. It is not a clever play on words as the creator intended, but a poorly fashioned buzzword that shows ignorance of simple ideological definitions.
My issue is not with men such as Limbaugh, that intend to paint opinionated women as malicious or radical. Those types don’t deserve my time of day, much less an article. It is those that use the word every day. It comes up in memes, generally using a photo of an angry woman with captions that are not only offensive but are completely ignorant of the feminist movement. It’s not as if many of those online are against women or against gender equality, it is my belief that common use of feminazi has formed an association with the feminist movement.
As much as I’d like to maliciously introduce trolls to something called a dictionary it is pure ignorance that is cause of the stigma associated with feminism. For those struggling to find a clear definition, a feminist is someone that advocates gender equality. The movement largely intends to change gender norms in every layer of society, from the home to the political system. This does not mean female dominance or hatred of men.
A meme with another angry woman captioned “Feminism is for equality” written above her head reads underneath “Advocates for women only gyms”. Women only gyms seem to the ignorant eye a feminazi move to exclude men. But it is more complex than that. There is nothing more intimidating than some know-it-all guy, sniggering because you lift significantly less than he does on your first go.
I can hear cries of “not all men” and I mean sure, but that’s not the point. It is the men that do exist, that do intimidate women, that can make gyms incredibly unfriendly. Female only places allow for what has been traditionally male dominated practices comfortable for women to develop their skills. By creating memes like this, it sends a message to women that they are not allowed to learn safely.
More broadly, it is the jokes online that prohibit women from speaking out, to get angry. There is nothing obnoxious or hilarious about the human emotion anger. With the #metoo movement currently rippling through Hollywood and social media, it is important that we recognise that society makes it difficult for people to speak out about sexual harassment. There is an unspoken pressure for the person to fit into the perfect victim category. Did I egg the perpetrator on? What if no one believes me?
Both women and men that speak out against their perpetrators, particularly if they are well known members of society, will find that not everyone believes them. I’m sure that we can all agree that sexual harassment is never okay, but when a person is actually accused, society puts both perpetrator and victim on trial.
For women, it’s the societal norm that they will be labelled as attention seeking or as a slut. What does this have to do with the use of the word feminazi? It relates to the meme of a woman with a voice as somewhat crazy and radical. It tells women in particular that if they speak out, they will become a joke.
Let me make this clear. There is nothing funny or embarrassing about sexual harassment. There is nothing attention seeking about speaking out. So what needs to change? We need to stop putting so much pressure on both men and women to fit within set gender roles. We need to stop turning women that speak out into a meme. We need to stop using the word feminazi.
Using the word feminazi undermines the feminist movement. It silences women. And it shows plain ignorance.