Uploaded by Rubi Ocadiz


Feminism is the new F-word
Rubí M. Ocádiz Vergara
Abstract: Throughout history, women have failed to recognize themselves in the feminist
movement. Although most of them would agree with the principles of feminism, they do not
like the idea of self-identifying as actual feminists. There are several reasons why this may
happen, among them, prevails one: the fear of being called feminazis. The misconception
of the term has led women to think that if they ever label themselves as feminists, then
they would automatically become man-haters. Thus, this paper aims to explain how radical
feminism has impacted society in such a way that has made people believe that all
feminism holds the same views and how it is considered different from other feminists
Throughout the years, there have always been women who have fought to improve vital
living conditions and who have striven for the acceptance of equal rights. Therefore, it can
be said that feminism has always existed. However, many women around the world still
deny being called feminists and they fail to recognize themselves in the movement for
various reasons. One of them is stereotype surrounding the word itself. The misconception
of the term has led women to think that if the labelled themselves as feminists, they will
automatically be portrayed as man haters and as feminazis.
It is imperative to acknowledge the importance of the Industrial Revolution as a
cornerstone for the feminist movement. It was a fact that certain jobs or tasks with more
social prestige were exclusive for men, whereas women were limited to home chores and
manual labors. One of the biggest changes happening after the Industrial Revolution was
the improvement on the quality of life of women who were able to come closer in equality
to men in areas such as economy and work, and eventually, to all the other areas of social
life. Women even had more free time since technology made housework relatively easier,
which allowed them to organize and expand the movement to many other places as
explained by Aponte (2005).
In that time, many women had crucial roles to achieve women’s rights. In England, Harriet
Taylor Mil advocated for the right to vote in public and political elections in her published
work called “Enfranchisement of Women”. In the United States, Lucy Stone was one of the
first American women who attained an academic degree and established a weekly
publication named “Woman’s Journal”. In addition, Elizabeth Stranton fought for women’s
parenting rights, land ownership, divorce laws and birth control.
According to Gutiérrez and Luengo (2011), other important actions taken by feminists in
history have taken place in two historical moments, the first happening by mid-XX century,
called Modern Feminism and the second happening from the 60s to now, named
Contemporary Feminism.
The former has its roots in the French Revolution and continues to the women’s suffrage
movement, previously mentioned. In this first period, women presented their ideas
regarding justice and democracy, leading to what it would be later known as liberal
feminism which main purpose resides in broadening women’s legal, political and labor
rights, specifically of those of the middle class. Their most important accomplishments
were access to higher education and more employment opportunities, as well as more
active participation of women in government and political life. Women who were part of this
movement became aware that access to education is central to the equality of rights and
opportunities since it allows both, men and women, to stimulate and unlock their own
The latter underlines the fact that society is formed by a system of social classes and
genders, and that the role of women in political organizations should encourage them to
form their own liberation movement. Consequently, in the 80s new trends of feminism
were created as part of the postfeminist movement. Some examples of these trends are
lesbian feminism, psychoanalytic feminism and difference or gender feminism.
Thus, as explained by Martelotte and Rey (2018) there is a need to start talking about
Feminisms and not Feminism as just one movement since there are more and more
experiences and ways in which women see and experience the world and how those can
be explained. This does not mean, however, that there should be conflicts of interest within
the group; on the contrary, it is more what is shared rather than what is different. At the
end, “feminism by definition is the belief that men and women should have equal rights
and opportunities. It is the theory of political, economic and social equality of the sexes” as
explained by Emma Watson in her speech back in 2014 as a Goodwill Ambassador for
U.N. Women. The objective of feminism is, therefore, the equality of rights among people
without focusing on their gender, or as the Mexican anthropologist Marta Lamas would
state, “Feminism fights so that sexual differences do not become social inequality.”
Then, if feminism is essentially the advocacy of the equality of the sexes, why are there so
many women and men who do not identify themselves as feminists? The qualitative
research conducted by psychologists Swirsky and Angelone in 2014 concluded that there
are four potential reasons: the first one is the dichotomy into categories such as feminist
and non-feminist. For instance, there are women who strongly believe in the principles
behind feminism but dislike the label. There appears to be more support for the term
“women’s movement” compared to “feminism” (Hall and Salupo Rodriguez, 2003). Then, it
seems to be a problem with the term “feminism” rather that the objectives of the
The second reason is that contemporary women feel empowered given the shift away from
“traditional” gender roles. They believe that feminism is obsolete because gender
inequalities do not longer exist and even if they do, there is a rational way to explain them.
What they fail to acknowledge is that even when major strides have been made, statistics
indicate otherwise. To illustrate, and as stated in a recent 2018 study, Lynda Laughlin,
chief of the Industry and Occupation Statistics Branch at the U.S. Census Bureau said that
“the gender pay gap continues across the board in almost all occupations. In 2016, median
earnings for women was $40,675, compared with $50,741 for men.” Similarly, 69% of
professional women work in the lower paying fields of education and healthcare, compared
with the 30% of male professionals. Also, women are in charge of only the 25% of publicly
elected positions and spend an average of 11 hours a week in unpaid labor.
The third reason provided by Swirsky and Angelone is that some women may feel
excluded from mainstream feminism for being a minority, which led them to believe that
they do not belong to the group (2011). An example mentioned in said research is that
African Americans are often taught to view feminism as disruptive to their racial identity
and group solidarity. If women of color ever self-identified themselves as feminists, their
non-white peers may reproach them the fact of being “white-washed” by the influence of
White American culture.
The fourth reason why women may not want to be called feminists is the negative
connotations and stereotypes. Labels such as “feminazis”, “man-haters” and “bra-burning
crazies” may lead traditional-minded women to turn away from self-identification even if
they agree with the trends of the feminist movement. This suggests that the connotations
of feminism play a significant role in deciding whether or not a woman self-identifies as
Different reasons have led women to believe all these statements are true; one of them is
certainly the success of a conservative campaign against feminism in the 90s. Professor
Toril Moi (2006) explains how in 1992, the American evangelist and ultra-conservative
political activist, infamously declared, “The feminist agenda is not about equal rights for
women. It is about a socialist, anti-family political movement that encourages women to
leave their husbands, kill their children, practice witchcraft, destroy capitalism and become
Additionally, in that same year the term “feminazi” was popularized for the first time when
Rush Limbaugh said “I prefer to call the most obnoxious feminists what they really are:
feminazis. [A friend of mine] coined the term to describe any female who is intolerant of
any point of view that challenges militant feminism. I often use it to describe women who
are obsessed with perpetuating a modern day holocaust: abortion […] A feminazi is a
woman to whom
o important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed.
Their unspoken reasoning is quite simple. Abortion is the single greatest avenue for
militant women to exercise their quest for power and advance their belief that men aren’t
necessary.” By calling feminists child killers, the theme of the destruction of families is
reinforced and portrays feminists as women full of hate.
This way of thought was even more emphasized when in 1994, Christina Hoff Sommers
one of America´s leading feminists-bashers, claimed that feminists hate men so much that
they also hate women who refuse to hate men. The conservative Cathy Young also
declared in the same year “by focusing on women’s private grievances, feminism not only
promotes a kind of collective narcissism… but it links itself to the myth of female morale
superiority and the demonization of men.”
It is true, nonetheless, that there is an extremist trend originated in the postfeminism called
radical feminism and whose activists have been called feminazis. Carrión (2015) analyzes
that there are three aspects said activists stand for: one, labelling as demonic anything
that represents masculinity and victimizing everything that is feminine; two, hating males
but at the same time wanting to equal them even in biological and physical aspects (which
contradicts their manifesto); and three, exalting everything that is feminine, including bodily
waste and justifying any action, good or bad, coming from a woman.
Among some radical feminists, Valerie Solana stands out by declaring in her SCUM
Manifesto (1967) that “The male is a biological accident: the Y (male) gene is an
incomplete X (female) gene, that is, has an incomplete set of chromosomes. In other
words, the male is an incomplete female, a walking abortion, aborted at the gene stage. To
be male is to be deficient, emotionally limited; maleness is a deficiency disease and males
are emotional cripples.” In addition, another important author, Sheila Jeffreys wrote “when
a woman reaches and orgasm with a man she is only collaborating with the patriarchal
system, eroticizing her own oppression” in her most famous work “The Industrial Vagina”
published in 2009. These examples of radical feminist’s beliefs originated in the
postmodernism about patriarchal oppression and the endless feminine liberation make
women, and men think than their reasoning is beyond important matters, causing the
criticism and boycotting the real purpose of feminism.
Despite the popular belief that feminist dislike men, feminists actually reported lower levels
of hostility toward men than did non-feminist, according to the results of a research
conducted by Anderson, Kanner and Esayegh in 2009. They also found that women in
traditional nations are more resentful of men than women in egalitarian cultures, for what
they view as abuses of power; this suggests that resentment toward men may be linked to
gender inequality, not to feminism per se.
Montesquieu once wrote that the measure of freedom that a society enjoys depends on
the freedom enjoyed by the women in that society. It cannot be denied that society has
evolved for good in the last 30 years, but it is also a fact that there are still major sectors
where the presence of women is still limited. There is seems to be a “glass ceiling” in all
the organizations and hierarchical scales, where the existence of women with equivalent
preparation as their male peers, got smaller. The Kenyan Nobel peace laureate Wangari
Maathai said it right when she stated, “the higher you go, the fewer women there are.” It is
important to promote measures that ensure the visibility of women at all levels. Feminism
should engage in multiculturalism, seek presence in international organizations and be
open to possibility of change.
The challenges ahead are many; present and future feminists should become a political
force able to outline public policies that benefit women. Valcárcel (2002) suggest that they
should offer alternatives for women of all social classes so they can be able to reach their
goals with much less effort, than their predecessors had to make in order to achieve what
they have today. Finally, there is a need to form a sorority that implies solidarity among us.
Feminism is more than a theory or a movement. It is, and has always been, a sum of
rebellions and actions, which many women have been and continue being a part of even
when they have decided to deny their self-identification as feminists.
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