Antifeminism is the Political Defence of Woman-HatingPosted: 31 October 2011
We tend to think of antifeminism as a floating concept. We most often use the word to describe things or events that seem independant of human beings- I might say a beauty pageant is antifeminist: the beauty pageant is a real event and the antifeminism exists conceptually . We tend to avoid thinking about antifeminism being to do with real people as political agents- of people being antifeminists, rather than holding an antifeminist view.
Antifeminists are individuals and organisations who attack feminism as a political movement. They want feminism as a movement and feminist women to just go away; but also to increase and compound the oppression of all women in general. They are a political organisation- a movement in and of themselves and they mount conscious attacks motivated by hateful ideologies. They use religious indoctrination, sham science, smear campaigns, jokes and ridicule etc in an organised way. There are many sexist cartoons of feminists. You will recognise her immediately- hairy armpits, dungarees, fat, miserable and shrill. Antifeminists shamelessly target individual feminists and use any personal history, any human flaw, and every worn stereotype to humiliate, threaten or discredit them. Think of the public images of Andrea Dworkin, Germaine Greer, Kate Millett or any other 20th century feminist woman.
Antifeminists have created the media image of us with the intention of damaging our movement. And it’s effective: we turn in circles trying to argue with this pervasive stereotype- feminists can be pretty and thin too!… but you dont have to try to be pretty and thin! You dont have to stop shaving your armpits- you can wear lipstick!… but its ok if you object to lipstick! feminists arent miserable cows!… but we dont have to act happy all the time! And on and on: antifeminists have defined the parameters of the discussion and the rules of debate. They’ve got us on the run. On the run in T-shirts that say This Is What A Feminist Looks Like. Proof that their campaign has worked.
Perhaps it is time we stopped saying to ourselves ‘what can we do about the deeply embedded socio-cultural structures we all operate within?’ And start directly attacking those people, groups and organisations who actively maintain and seek to increase our oppression in any way they can?
They are already attacking us- from religious fundamentalists to the right wing press-this is ideological warfare. Perhaps we should respond in kind?
Our new goal could be to attack antifeminists as much as we attack ‘Patriarchy: The System’ and then our activity can be focussed on something concrete. Its impossible to fight a disembodied concept- The Faceless Oppressor. And detrimental to think of it in that way- as if patriarchy is a floating entity with a mind of its own. Critically, we must also be willing to name the enemy to eachother and to ourselves. So, to clarify, men are the oppressors. Yes the social system of patriarchy and yes men as a class are the oppressors, but also actual physical individual men are responsible. No more They Who Must Not Be Named. Isn’t it mentally exhausting to think of having to fight ‘all men as a class’, when you could just fight ‘Brian who owns my friendly neighbourhood stripclub’? Of course thinking this way is scary: it means we must at some point decide what we ourselves are going to do about it, because it seems possible that we can do something.
People are the machinery which generates patriarchy again and again every minute: each time a man harrasses at you in the street, each time a man buys a woman for sex, each time a sexist joke is made and people laugh, each time someone turns to page three of The Sun, each time your life is restricted by your sex. All of these re-creations of patriarchy are points of intervention- think of it as though patriarchy did not exist until this moment, when it will be brought into existence, and you are here ready to stop it. It is especially important that we practice the kinds of interventions that could be made at these moments and prepare the way actors prepare. What do you say when someone makes a sexist joke? what do you do when you see a woman being harrassed on the street? If its happening now and you’re unprepared its probably too late. If its happening now- this is the moment when patriarchy either gets born again or it does not- what are you going to do about it?
Not all people who live in the patriarchy are innocent pawns going about their daily ives, quietly aquiesing to sexism. Some people are the footsoldiers or the loudspeakers or the bankrollers by choice. Why not directly attack them as much as they attack us and why not use their own methods? What’s wrong with fighting dirty? Find an antifeminist near you and go for the jugular. If we are successful we’ll be able to pick out an antifeminist in a crowd- they will be the ones in T-shirts that say This is what an Anti-Feminist looks like.