Women Against Womyn: First Wave, Second Wave, Third Wave, and Now Three Steps Back

A screenshot from the Women Against Feminism website. (Photo via Creative Commons)

A screenshot from the Women Against Feminism website. (Photo via Creative Commons)

Besides the warm, pumpkin-candle scented aisles of the Hobby Lobby, there’s another new club for self-effacing female enablers of angry white men. Women Against Feminism had, last time I checked, 16,013 followers on Facebook. Its tumblr is constructed of selfies of young women, dressed and posed like ads for DIY escort services, holding up bits of notebook paper on which they’ve scrawled screeds against feminism.

Here are just a few quotes from a compendium of such blinding idiocy and prejudice that it defies description.

Black nail-polished hands hold a notebook over a half-shirt exposing a bellybutton: “I don’t need feminism because I don’t think it’s necessary to belittle and dispose of an entire gender in the name of equality.”

A note is propped against the protuberant cleavage enhanced by a pushup bra under a tank top. “If I’m wearing a top like this I want you to look.”

A woman with two or three lip piercings: “I don’t need feminism because blaming men for your OWN insecurities and mistakes is WRONG & ABSURD.”

These women are slandering the movement that enabled their freedom. They live in a world in which they and their mothers can vote, decide whether or not to work, who and when to marry, and whether and when to have children. That was not the case for women within living memory. They have feminists to thank for that, not Rush Limbaugh’s ideological forebears.

But they do have Mr. Limbaugh and his ilk to thank for the cockamamie ideas they’ve scrawled on notebook paper, to wit:

“I need feminism because if they called it man-hate men wouldn’t help us.”

“I’m tired to be [sic] represented by some hysterical hipster whore.”

“My problem with feminism, is that it’s not just about ‘building women up’, but also ‘cutting men down’.”

“I don’t need feminism because only the weak-minded buy into cults.”

Man-hate. Feminist cult. Hysterical hipster whore. All catchy right-wing radio memes, presented here in pretty cursive, with hearts dotting the I’s.

When I first went online looking for Women Against Feminism, I mistakenly Googled “anti-feminist site” and stumbled across a men’s rights site with the same theme, and eerily, some of the identical claims. The anti-feminist men’s site actually links to the Women Against Feminism site, while also including articles on how sex-hating feminists raised the age of consent for girls to 16 in the Victorian era, thereby limiting male sexual options to this day. The site includes a petition to stop the U.K.’s porn filter and a helpful YouTube class on “How to Date Russian Girls.”

Everything about Women Against Feminism suggests it’s a sock puppet for the aggrieved misogynists and pedophiles of the anti-feminist men’s rights crowd. The main clue is that almost all the women on the site are nubile and posed in ways that fulfill dirty old men’s wildest dreams about pliant young things.

Plenty of older women are against feminism, too, but these particular Women Against Feminism are barely of legal voting age. Someone, somewhere has told these young women that feminists are against sex, against men, and stand for limiting people’s options. And I think we know who.

One of the longest recent comments on the Women Against Feminism Facebook site argues that feminists shouldn’t “tell us” what feminism means.

“None of you can claim to own the true definition of feminism,” the poster, Christian Cueva, wrote to imaginary feminist adversaries. “Everyone here has had negative experiences with feminists and decided to join this page to speak out against it. No one here became anti-feminist without a reason. I’m not interested in what you think feminism really is. Until you actually come to a consensus on the meaning of the word feminism, you don’t own it.”

Turns out Women Against Feminism welcomes feminist-hating men. Mr. Cueva is a man.

If we take Women Against Feminism at their word, that they really are a genuine grassroots groundswell of female opposition to the fight for women’s equality, and not just pretty proxies for pervy right wing radio-addicted men blustering about women who don’t shave their legs and “that whore” Sandra Fluke, then we must give intellectual legitimacy to some of their claims.

It’s not easy, but that’s exactly what self-titled “equality feminist” Cathy Young did in Time last week. Acknowledging that the “anti-feminist rebellion” has its “eye-rolling moments,” she writes: “They make a strong argument that a ‘patriarchy’ that lets women vote, work, attend college, get divorced, run for political office, and own businesses on the same terms as men isn’t quite living up to its label. They also raise valid questions about politicizing personal violence along gender lines; research shows that surprisingly high numbers of men may have been raped, sometimes by women.” Really, Cathy?

The notion that feminism invented the patriarchy is risible on its face, in a country where less than 20 percent of Congress is female, where less than 5 percent of Fortune 500 CEOs are female, where women make 75 cents on the dollar.

If Women Against Feminism is not actually a men’s rights sock puppet, then it’s a vessel for male anger, channeled through young women. Young white men (and the women on Women Against Feminism are, as far as I could tell, 100 percent blanco) are paying a huge price for the collapsing economy, and as women graduate from college in greater numbers, and jobs for men with only high school degrees diminish, the “feminists” get the blame.

For most young women, feminism is less of a bete noir than an “ehh, anyway.” As Lana Del Rey said to Fader recently, “Whenever people bring up feminism, I’m like, God, I’m just not really that interested.”

But it remains low-hanging fruit for right-wingers.

Sociologist Stephanie Coontz wrote in The New York Times this weekend that while the sexes have become more equal, American “society as a whole has become far less, producing especially deep losses for young men.” In 1969, she wrote, three-quarters of 25-year-old men were earning wages that could support a family of four. Ten years ago, it took until age 30 for the same percentage of men to reach that income level. In 1969, only 10 percent of men ages 30 to 35 were still low earners. By 2004, almost a quarter of men in that age range remained low earners.

I’d lay odds that the young Women Against Feminism anti-feminists are the girlfriends and wives of these frustrated young men. Seeking an easy “liberal” target, they pin blame for a gigantic, systemic problem on the women who support and fight for growing gender equality. They fail to understand or choose to ignore the stinking fact that it’s rich powerful greedy white guys in an era of wealth inequality who’ve gamed out the dysfunctional economy for their own benefit and rendered their men under-employed, bitter, and yes, bitching husbands and boyfriends.