Over these past few days I have received a backlash (of sorts) on Twitter, after opposing the trending hashtag ‘#WomenAgainstFeminism’. I had discovered the trend after tweeting about sexism on an early addition of Family Fortunes (don’t judge me) and I was shocked to discover the absolute rhetoric against feminism, both past and present. I issued this tweet:
Now, I realise that ‘now more than ever’ is slightly hyperbolic, but in age where people believe that ‘feminism in no longer needed’, it is in fact needed to prevent the regression of femininity and to promote the progression of womanhood.
Though, within seconds of publishing this, I was bombarded with people challenging my statement, and of course, putting their side across. Now, I am all for a good debate, but it got out of hand quick, with many offensive, sexist and un-educated statements being flung my way. Before I go on, I am a feminist. I am not a ‘male feminist’, I am a feminist. As Emma Watson pointed out – ‘if you believe in the rights of women, then you are a feminist’ and I agree wholly with this simple principle. Through the waves of feminism (first through third, or ‘postfeminism’), it is arguable that second wave feminism brought forth the stigma of the ‘man hating’ feminist, yet it must be remembered that this was a long time ago, and has (but not entirely) begun to deteriorate. This was also part of patriarchal propaganda that was promoted through the media and politics, as a branch of feminism that was ‘ugly’ and ‘aggressive’, but still at its core, believed in the principle values of feminism. Judith Butler also notes that feminism in the 70s and 80s began ‘an unwitting regulation and reification of gender relations’ (Butler, Gender Trouble, 1990), and she prefers ‘those historical and anthropological positions that understand gender as a relation among socially constituted subjects in specifiable contexts.’ (ibid). Butler coordinates her theories of feminism with gender and performativity, and criticises the choice made by (second wave) feminists to render ‘biology as destiny’ and that patriarchal structures mean that the same goes for gender positions (man-masculine, woman-feminine). Yet the crux of feminist ideology is to oppose hegemony, patriarchal and misogynistic structures that are built within society, both on a conscious and subconscious level. Feminism critiques Marxist, imperialist and gender systems that (literally or theoretically, depending on your viewpoint) govern society, or western society at least. Helene Cixous notes in her influential The Newly Born Woman that ‘woman is man’s other’ just like there is ‘sun/moon’ and ‘night/day’. The theory of ‘other’ works within the framework of imperialism and patriarchy, and suggests that for there to be a ‘norm’ there must be an ‘other’ which it works against. Therefore the ‘norm’ would be a white, heterosexual man, with the ‘other’ sexes, races and sexualities opposing this and becoming societies ‘others’. While this is a challenging theory, it also appears largely accurate, which is both alarming and disconcerting. In the present day (and since the mid-90s) ‘postfeminism’ has been a popular debate, with Jacinda Read stating ‘postfeminism should not be seen as a rejection of feminism, but as an attempt to reconcile or negotiate the contradictions of the contemporary feminist movement in which feminism is being…appropriated and rejected’ (Read, Feminism, Femininity and the Rape Revenge Cycle, 2000). Therefore ‘postfeminism’ accepts the ‘backlash’ against feminism but likewise attempts to appropriate a new form of positive feminism. Third wave feminism typically accepts women in all spheres, and acknowledges that women can have choices and should celebrate this e.g. ‘stay at home mums’ or ‘single working women’ should be accepted equally. Also, contemporary feminism (and in fact all feminism) works towards equality in gender, and does not strive for women to be ‘better’ than men, but to be equal, and to rid of patriarchy and misogyny. Now, back to Twitter…
The first offensive response I received was this: ‘Why do you think they [women] need it? What rights are they lacking?’
Now getting in to ‘rights’ is a tricky situation and while many women in the western world have the same ‘rights’ as men (legally anyway), let’s not ignore the patriarchy which still governs on a sub-social level. Also, this tweet ignores the horrors women go through in the middle-east where religion dominates their freedom and they are literally repressed. Also, what about the horrifying female genital mutilation in Africa and other parts of the world? This first tweet demonstrates the western world’s ignorance of women’s struggles around the entire globe.
I then went on to discuss how women are a ‘minority’ in managerial roles or high-level positions, in large corporations, in the media, journalism, film and politics. Being a film student I used the fact that there are far few female directors in the industry and this reflects misogynist ideologies. Some people responded with statements like ‘I’ll see a film by a woman when they’re actually any good’, others responded with pictures which stated that 100% of men do jobs such as rubbish collecting or sewage draining, and women complain about lack of jobs in offices and corporations. Valid? I think not – where (what country) does this apply to? What are the actual statistics? Another ‘wonderful’ reply was: ‘all those poor women who don’t have high level positions in the movie studios, how horrible’. By this point my blood was boiling, and I could not believe the misogyny that was being spewed by the tweeters. Another ‘man’ chipped in: ‘women only want fun jobs but un-fun jobs pay the best’. The rhetoric of this anti-feminist comes from the fact that women apparently do ‘fun jobs’ – so prostitution or sex trafficking is fun? Another comment which ignores larger ramifications and social issues. In response to this, another person posted a link to which ‘sex trafficking is very low in the west’. I had no comment apart from the fact that I was so shocked. Finally, a female chipped in, saying: ‘Please tell me what rights etc I do not have because I have a vagina!’ and ‘Because I go and do and get paid equally in a predominantly male field.’ What’s wrong with these tweets? A lot. This woman is the epitome of the ‘anti-feminist’ camp – only using her as an example of why feminism is ‘not needed’, ignoring larger complications, and again using the western world as a staple for ‘anti-feminism’.
Over a day later I then began to receive other messages which personally attacked me and my attitude, like: ‘women whore out for jobs, flirt in interviews, steal jobs from fat/ugly/old women’ and ‘thinking women need help from #pussywhipped males like you is sexist and transparent’. Shameful.
By this point I had given up and was so ashamed and disgusted at the responses I was receiving. So what do these tweets prove about a) patriarchy and b) anti-feminism?
- These tweets inadvertently prove patriarchy and misogyny runs rampant throughout our and other societies, and knows no gender or sex boundaries (evident in the woman who argued with me). The utter sexist and hegemonic comments I was receiving proved the way in which misogyny is blatant and alive, and this is why we need feminism.
- The anti-feminist rhetoric provided in the many tweets I received proves that men and women do not understand the larger social and cultural ramifications that patriarchy has, and that in most cases anti-feminism is based on personal (and selfish) viewpoints, within the western world. Most were not backed up by statistics and resorted to personal attacks or uneducated responses and based opinions on their own self-centred views.
So, overall, this article has set out to prove that we need feminism and it is too easy to say that ‘feminism is all man hating’ or that feminism is ‘not needed’ when it is. I speak for most feminist’s when I say that equality is the goal, and overturning patriarchy is the even harder goal, but we need to keep trying. The tweets I received were shocking and I hope that no woman (or man) has to go through the same misogyny and social blindness. It also highlights the culture of ‘keyboard warriors’ that hide behind Twitter, using it is a platform to express their views and offend others. Hey, even my intellect was attacked: ‘When a film student ***at the University of Leicester*** says you are uneducated…’ and ‘Film studies = Marxism for children with an advanced reading age.’ How mature!
Agree – disagree? Be sure to leave your comments. Just do not be as foolish as these people! If you want to witness the extent of these tweets then go to my Twitter page @ralphhh94. Thanks for reading!
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