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Antifeminism is broadly defined as opposition to some or all forms of feminism. This opposition has taken various forms across time and cultures. For example, antifeminists in the late 1800s and early 1900s resisted women's suffrage, while antifeminists in the late 20th century opposed the Equal Rights Amendment. Antifeminism may be motivated by the belief that feminist theories of patriarchy and disadvantages suffered by women in society are incorrect or exaggerated; that feminism as a movement encourages misandry and results in harm or oppression of men; or driven by general opposition towards women's rights.
- 1 Definition
- 2 Antifeminist stances
- 3 History
- 4 Organizations
- 5 Causes
- 6 See also
- 7 Further reading
- 8 References
- 9 External links
- That social arrangements among men and women are neither natural nor divinely determined.
- That social arrangements among men and women favor men.
- That there are collective actions that can and should be taken to transform these arrangements into more just and equitable arrangements, such as those in the timelines of woman's suffrage and other rights.
Canadian sociologists Melissa Blais and Francis Dupuis-Déri write that antifeminist thought has primarily taken the form of an extreme version of masculinism, in which "men are in crisis because of the feminization of society". However, in the same article, they also note that "little research has been done on antifeminism whether from the perspective of the sociology of social movements or even of women's studies," indicating that an understanding of what the full range of antifeminist ideology consists of is incomplete.
"Antifeminist" is also used to describe female authors, some of whom define themselves as feminists, based on their opposition to some or all elements of feminist movements. Other feminists label writers such as Camille Paglia, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jean Bethke Elshtain, Katie Roiphe and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese with this term because of their positions regarding oppression and lines of thought within feminism. Daphne Patai and Noreta Koertge argue that the intention of labeling these women "antifeminists" is to silence them and prevent any debate on the state of feminism.
The meaning of antifeminism has varied across time and cultures, and antifeminism attracts both men and women. Some women, for example the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League campaigned against women's suffrage. Emma Goldman, for example, was widely considered antifeminist during her fight against suffragism in the US. Decades later, however, she was heralded as a founder of anarcha-feminism.
Men's studies scholar and feminist Michael Kimmel defines antifeminism as "the opposition to women's equality." He says that antifeminists oppose "women's entry into the public sphere, the re-organization of the private sphere, women's control of their bodies, and women's rights generally." Kimmel further writes that antifeminist argumentation relies on "religious and cultural norms" while proponents of antifeminism advance their cause as a means of "'saving' masculinity from pollution and invasion." He argues that antifeminists consider the "traditional gender division of labor as natural and inevitable, perhaps also divinely sanctioned."
Some antifeminists view feminism as a denial of innate differences between the genders, and an attempt to reprogram people against their biological tendencies. Antifeminists also frequently argue that feminism, despite claiming to espouse equality, ignores rights issues unique to males. Some believe that the feminist movement has achieved its aims and now seeks higher status for women than for men via special rights and exemptions, such as female-only scholarships, affirmative action, and gender quotas.
Some antifeminists have argued that feminism has resulted in changes to society's previous norms relating to sexuality, which they see as detrimental to traditional values or conservative religious beliefs. For example, the ubiquity of casual sex and the decline of marriage are mentioned as negative consequences of feminism. Some of these traditionalists oppose women's entry into the workforce, political office, and the voting process, as well as the lessening of male authority in families. Antifeminists argue that a change of women's roles is a destructive force that endangers the family, or is contrary to religious morals. For example, Paul Gottfried maintains that the change of women's roles "has been a social disaster that continues to take its toll on the family" and contributed to a "descent by increasingly disconnected individuals into social chaos".
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In the 19th century, the centerpiece of antifeminism was opposition to women's suffrage. Opponents of women's entry into institutions of higher learning argued that education was too great a physical burden on women. In Sex in Education: or, a Fair Chance for the Girls (1873), Harvard professor Edward Clarke predicted that if women went to college, their brains would grow bigger and heavier, and their wombs would atrophy. Other antifeminists opposed women's entry into the labor force, or their right to join unions, to sit on juries, or to obtain birth control and control of their sexuality.
Mid 20th century
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In 1951, two journalists published Washington Confidential, the novel that sparked the second Red Scare.[dubious ] It claimed that Communist leaders used their men and women to recruit a variety of minorities in the nation's capital, such as females, colored males, and homosexual males. The vast popularity of the book caused such a buzz that the Civil Service Commission had to create a "publicity campaign to improve the image of federal employees" in hopes to save their federal employees from losing their jobs. This ploy failed once the journalists linked feminism to communism in their novel and ultimately reinforced antifeminism by implying that defending the "white, Christian, heterosexual, patriarchal family" was the only way to oppose communism.
Late 20th century
Equal Rights Amendment (ERA)
The Equal Rights Amendment is a perennially proposed amendment to the United States Constitution that would grant equal rights and opportunities to every citizen of the United States, regardless of his or her sex. In 1950 and 1953, ERA was passed by the Senate with a provision known as "the Hayden rider", making it unacceptable to ERA supporters. The Hayden rider was included to keep special protections for women. A new section to the ERA was added, stating: "The provisions of this article shall not be construed to impair any rights, benefits, or exemptions now or hereafter conferred by law upon persons of the female sex." That is, women could keep their existing and future special protections that men did not have. By 1972, the amendment was supported by both major parties and was immensely popular. However, it was defeated in Congress when it failed to get the vote of thirty-eight legislatures by 1982. Supporters of an unaltered ERA rejected the Hayden rider, believing an ERA containing the rider did not provide for equality.
Jerome Himmelstein identified two main theories about the appeal of antifeminism and its role in opposition to the ERA. One theory is that it was a clash between upper-class liberal voters and the older, more conservative lower-class rural voters who often serve as the center for right-wing movements; in other words, this theory identifies particular social classes as more inherently friendly to antifeminism. Another theory holds that women who feel vulnerable and dependent on men are likely to oppose anything that threatens that tenuous stability; under this view, while educated, independent career women may support feminism, housewives who lack such resources are more drawn to antifeminism. Himmelstein, however, says both views are at least partially wrong, arguing that the primary dividing line between feminists and antifeminists is cultural rather than stemming from differences in economic and social status.
Val Burris, meanwhile, says that high-income men opposed the amendment because they would gain the least with it being passed; that those men had the most to lose, since the ratification of the ERA would mean more competition for their jobs and possibly a lowered self-esteem. Because of the support of antifeminism from conservatives and the constant "conservative reactions to liberal social politics," such as the New Deal attacks, the attack on the ERA has been called a "right-wing backlash". Their methods include actions such as "insults proffered in emails or on the telephone, systematic denigration of feminism in the media, Internet disclosure of confidential information (e.g. addresses) on resources for battered women" and more.
After the ERA was rejected, antifeminism grew a new branch: masculinism. Once feminists began suggesting ideas like same-sex marriage, single mother households, and ultimately opposing the root purpose of antifeminism, antifeminists created a division of antifeminism that believes the "masculine identity has been spurned".
Contemporary issues surrounding antifeminism include concerns of fairness in matters of family law, regarding issues like child custody, paternity liability, child support, and concerns of sex or gender inequality in the criminal justice system, such as fairness in sentencing for like crimes.
BBC and Time, among others, have covered the 2014 social media trend "Women Against Feminism." These antifeminists contend that feminism demonizes men (misandry) and that women are not oppressed in 21st century Western countries.
The Guardian and Jezebel have also reported on an increasing number of women and female celebrities rejecting feminism and instead subscribing to humanism. As a response to a pro-feminism speech by Australian Labor Senator Penny Wong, several women who identify as being humanist and antifeminist argued in an article for the Guardian that feminism is a discriminatory ideology and continues to portray women as victims.
In response to the social media trend, modern day feminists also began to upload similar pictures to websites such as Twitter and Tumblr. Most used the same hashtag, "womenagainstfeminism", but instead made satirical and bluntly parodic comments. In November 2014, Time magazine included "feminist" on its annual list of proposed banished words. After initially receiving the majority of votes (51%), a Time editor apologized for including the word in the poll and removed it from the results.
Founded in the U.S. by Phyllis Schlafly in 1972, Stop ERA, now known as "Eagle Forum", lobbied successfully to block the passage of the Equal Rights Amendment in the U.S. It was also Schlafly who forged links between Stop ERA and other conservative organizations, as well as single-issue groups against abortion, pornography, gun control, and unions. By integrating Stop ERA with the thus-dubbed "new right", she was able to leverage a wider range of technological, organizational and political resources, successfully targeting pro-feminist candidates for defeat.
According to Amherst College sociology professor Jerome L. Himmelstein, antifeminism is rooted in social stigmas against feminism and is thus a purely reactionary movement. Himmelstein identifies two prevailing theories that seek to explain the origins of antifeminism: the first theory, proposed by Himmelstein, is that conservative opposition in the abortion and Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) debates has created a climate of hostility toward the entire feminist movement. The second theory Himmelstein identifies states that the female antifeminists who lead the movement are largely married, low education, and low personal income women who embody the "insecure housewife scenario" and seek to perpetuate their own situation in which women depend on men for fiscal support. However, numerous studies have failed to correlate the aforementioned demographic factors with support for antifeminism, and only religiosity correlates positively with antifeminist alignment. Thus, Himmelstein concludes that antifeminism is a conservative religious reaction against the progress of modern feminism.
University of Illinois at Chicago sociology professor Danielle Giffort argues that the stigma against feminism created by antifeminists has resulted in organizations that practice "implicit feminism", which she defines as the "strategy practiced by feminist activists within organizations that are operating in an anti- and post-feminist environment in which they conceal feminist identities and ideas while emphasizing the more socially acceptable angles of their efforts". Due to the stigma against feminism, some activists may take the principles of feminism as a foundation of thought and teach girls and women independence and self-reliance without explicitly labeling it with the stigmatized brand of feminism. Thus, most women continue to practice feminism in terms of seeking equality and independence for women, yet avoid the label.
Literature about antifeminism
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- Redefining the New Woman, 1920-1963 (Antifeminism in America: A Collection of Readings from the Literature of the Opponents to U.S. Feminism, 1848 to the Present), Howard-Zophy
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- Kampwirth, Karen. 2006. "Resisting the Feminist Threat: Antifeminist Politics in Post-Sandinista Nicaragua" NWSA Journal. Vol. 18, No 2. (Summer). pp. 73–100.
- Kampwirth, Karen. 2003. "Arnoldo Alemán Takes on the NGOs: Antifeminism and the New Populism in Nicaragua" Latin American Politics and Society. Vol. 45. No. 2. (Summer) 2003. pp. 133–158.
- Kampwirth, Karen. 1998. "Feminism, Antifeminism, and Electoral Politics in Post-War Nicaragua and El Salvador" Political Science Quarterly Vol. 113, No. 2. (Summer) pp. 259–279.
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- Kipnis, Laura, The Female Thing: Dirt, Sex, Envy, Vulnerability (Pantheon, 2006).
- Mansbridge, Jane: Why We Lost the ERA, Chicago, University of Chicago Press, 1986
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- Blee, K. (1998). Antifeminism. In W. Mankiller (Ed.), The reader's companion to U.S. Women's history. Boston, MA: Houghton Mifflin.
- "The two major waves of antifeminist activity coincide with the two waves of the women's rights movement: the campaign to secure female suffrage in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, and the feminist movement of the late twentieth century. In both periods, those holding a traditional view of women's place in the home and family tried to advance their cause by joining with other conservative groups to forestall efforts to extend women's rights."
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- "Antifeminism, then, repudiates critiques of male supremacy and resists efforts to eliminate it (often accompanied by dismissal of the idea that change is possible). Note that this definition of antifeminism limits its reference to reactions against critiques of gender-based hierarchies and efforts to relieve the oppression of women."
- Howard, Angela Marie. "Antifeminism." The Oxford Encyclopedia of Women in World History. : Oxford University Press, 2008. Oxford Reference. 2008. Date Accessed 30 Sep. 2015
- "Reform activity that challenged either the subordination of women to men or the patriarchal limitation of women's status provoked an antifeminist response that included an intellectual and political campaign to halt progress toward women's rights and equality."
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