When women speak about the oppression that has routinely been their lot for centuries and about fighting for equal rights for themselves, some men get terribly agitated. They sneer at and demean the struggles of women as being exaggerated or nonexistent and dismiss feminists as ‘feminazis’. Issues such as women's empowerment, standing up to abuse, the gender pay gap, issues of their safety, seem to infuriate some people quite disproportionately. If you are a person (man or woman) who has used the term feminazi, I really have to ask why!
The word comes from a combination of feminism and Nazism. To conflate the women's liberation movement with a virulent, violent, racist and fascist ideology that killed millions is clearly irrational and smacks of an unreasoning paranoia.
The term ‘feminazi’ was coined by Rush Limbaugh, a person known for his irrational and hostile views towards women, issues related to consent, people of colour, environmental issues and so on. Limbaugh believes that ‘feminazis’ are those whose goal is to “see that there are as many abortions as possible”. This is rank ignorance and is so unreasonable as to be deeply puzzling.
What has happened is, feminazi is now a go-to word for trolls who simply want to shout down and silence women.
The first problem is the assumption that because a woman is a feminist, she is anti men. The distinction between fighting against oppression and fighting against men seems to escape all the men who are resentful and suspicious of feminists. So obviously when a man thinks that a woman is against him, he will view her with hostility and distrust.
Then there is the refusal to accept facts. It is a fact that women are paid less than men in several industries. It is a fact that there is a glass ceiling that exists for women and not for men. It is a fact that women are subjected to abuse far more than men. It is also true that certain laws are skewed in favour of men. It is a fact that the male child is vastly preferred in India. It is a fact that male education is privileged over female education. Men often refuse to acknowledge that these problems exist or try to undermine their severity – because to accept this is to acknowledge their own entrenched privilege.
The problem is that men are used to being right, they are used to being deferred to and they are used to making the decisions even on behalf of the women around them. When women speak their minds, refuse to accept injustice and stand their ground against harassment or sexism, this is unusual and many men simply cannot handle this. A forthright woman who stands up for what she believes in, immediately becomes a harridan, a shrew, or of course a feminazi.
The anger comes from the preceived erosion of the male privilege that men have enjoyed for centuries. The anger is a way to continue subjugation and an attempt to hold on to the privilege.
“Why do women need empowerment? What will they do with the power?”, “There is no such thing as women's oppression – look how they are exempt from certain fees and have seats reserved for them.” These are some of arguments men routinely proffer to excuse their belittling of women’s issues as well as to attack the women who are trying to put forth their point.
We may explain that women don’t want to snatch power away from men; merely want equality, thier own agency and the freedom to be in charge of their own actions and destiny. We may explain that reserved seats and concessions are just some ways to try and redress the balance and bring women on par (I say that the day women can travel by public transport without fearing that they will be groped, we can do away with reserved seats). But these explanations don’t seem to matter to men who, bizarrely, feel victimized by women who speak out for themselves.
If men feel this way, it is important for them to try and empathise with what women live with. Women are routinely expected to be do household chores even when they are working outside the home, they are expected to curtail their activities because there may be predatory men around, they are expected to defer to men and accept the decisions of the men in their lives. Women who marry will leave their house, their name and everything familiar to them to assume a new identity and embrace a new family whom they will be expected to accept, care for and serve regarless of their own feelings.
Do men really not recognize how incredibly unequal the entire male-female equation is? Are men genuinely blind to their own privilege? Or is it just the fact that if you recognize injustice, inequality and discrimination you would feel bound to do something about it; and the best option is to refuse to acknowledge this? Are all those men angry only because they fear their privilege slipping away?
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