Is Anti-Feminism on the Rise?

How a Burgeoning Movement is Rejecting Feminism for Fallacies

Beyoncé. Getty Images

Recently, I, along with my closest 60,000 friends, saw pop icon Beyoncé in concert at the Georgia Dome in Atlanta. (Oh yeah, Jay Z was there too). It was amazing, truly. While Beyoncé has been a fixture in my iPod for years now, I have not considered myself a stan or anything. But after this concert I do consider myself a more ardent fan.

Part of it was the sheer badassery of the concert. The pyrotechnics, the costumes, the dancing—I felt like I was at the most hype club ever.

One of my favorite moments of the night was when Beyoncé performed her song “Flawless.” The single features a sample of a TED talk by award-winning Nigerian author and feminist advocate Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie. In the clip, Adichie defines the term “feminist” as “the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes.” Her descriptions of feminism in that TED talk and elsewhere are straightforward and accessible and are a compelling counterpoint to the bass-laden beats of Beyoncé’s unapologetic anthem.

During the performance, the words Adichie spoke were flashed on the screen. When the song got to the definition of “feminist,” I started screaming like a banshee. I’ve been to many concerts in my life—my first being Salt n’ Pepa back the day—but I had never, ever heard the word “feminist” being chanted in an arena. Needless to say, I got my entire life.

I begin with this anecdote because it was one of the first things that came to mind when I saw a Buzzfeed article about a group called Women Against Feminist.

In this day and age, when even "King Bey," the most powerful woman in pop, is claiming the title of “feminist,” I think it’s very interesting that some young women have politics more akin to conservative pundit, Phyllis Schlafly.

I’ve taught women’s studies at the college level for years now and, needless to say, I’ve probably heard every anti-feminist argument in the book—many from young women.

So, the claims that these avowed anti-feminists are making are unsurprising. That is not to say, however, that their claims don’t require responses, particularly since much of what they are railing against reveals a deep well of ignorance and misunderstanding.

Now, let’s clear up just a few of the lies, fairytales, and fantasies that these sadly misinformed souls are forwarding.

1. Feminism does not equal that hatred of men, otherwise known as misandry.  As Elizabeth Ballou notes in Bustle, “Nowhere in the foundations of feminism is there an explicit message of hatred against men, or an indication that women are superior to men. That’s called misandry, and it is just as regrettable as racism, sexism, ageism, or any other discriminatory behavior. Of course, there are some women who call themselves feminists and act more like misandrists—just like there are people who identify as Democrats, Republicans, Muslims, or Christians without accurately embodying what those terms actually mean. That doesn’t mean those groups are defined by the outliers.”

2. Feminism does not advocate “special” privileges, but rather strives towards justice: “On much of the site, many posters express that they have never been victims of oppression.

Under a heading like ‘Why I am against feminism,’ the author ties her grievances to the applications of feminism that they currently see in society. She might write that women and men already have equal rights and that feminists are always trying to ‘punish’ men and give themselves ‘special privileges.’ By ‘special privileges,’ does the author mean being able to speak out about sexual harassment in the workplace without fear? And by ‘punishment,” does the author mean stricter legal action about rape on college campuses?” Expecting to work free of harassment or sexual violence is a privilege, it's a human right.

3. Feminism does not a promote the “myth of the gender pay gap.” The gender pay gap is absolutely real: A recent report conducted by the American Association of University Women notes that, “The pay gap hasn’t budged in a decade… In 2012, as in 2002, among full-time, year-round workers, women were paid 77 percent of what men were paid.” The numbers are even more stark turn when race and ethnicity are taken into account.

Take a look at the full report for the depressing details of women’s pay.

4. Feminism does not encourage women to lie about rape. Rape culture is, in fact, a real thing: “Throughout the last 10 years, the National Crime Victimization Survey has reported that approximately 30% of rape survivors report the incident to the police.” That means, approximately 70% of rape survivors do not report their assaults to the police. Furthermore, studies show that “Of those rapes reported to the police (which is 1/3 or less to begin with), only 16% result in prison sentences. Therefore, approximately 5% of the time, a man who rapes ends up in prison, 95% of the time he does not.”

I think it’s fine for women to reject labels, to question the definition of feminism, and to forge their own unique paths. I take issue with the conflation of opinion with facts, however. Reject feminism if you will, but forwarding lies like the pay gap is a myth or that reports of college rapes are inflated are violent untruths that ultimately hurt women. And that is something I hope we can all agree is wrong.