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Feminazi is a pejorative term for feminists that was popularized by politically conservative American radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh.

Origin and usage[edit]

Feminazi is a portmanteau of the nouns feminist and Nazi.[1] According to The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang, it refers (pejoratively) to "a committed feminist or a strong-willed woman".[2] The American conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh, who popularized the term,[3][4][5] credited the university professor Thomas Hazlett with coining it.[4][6] Limbaugh began to use the term in 1991.[7]

Limbaugh, who was vocally critical of the feminist movement,[8] stated that the term feminazi refers to "radical feminists" whose goal is "to see that there are as many abortions as possible",[2][4] a small group of "militants"[8] whom he characterized as having a "quest for power" and a "belief that men aren't necessary".[4] Limbaugh distinguished these women from "well-intentioned but misguided people who call themselves 'feminists'".[8] However, the term came to be widely used for feminism as a whole.[9]

The term is used to characterize feminist perspectives as extreme in order to discredit feminist arguments,[10] portraying feminists as bossy, misandric, and hating femininity.[11][better source needed] It has been used in mainstream American discourse to erroneously portray women as hyper-vigilant to perceived sexism.[12]

In Australia, the term gained wider use following the 1995 publication of the book The First Stone, and has been used in popular media to characterize feminists as threatening, "vindictive", and "puritanical".[13]


Limbaugh stated that feminazis, as opposed to mainstream feminists, are those "who are happy about the large number of abortions we have" in the United States. The anti-violence educator Jackson Katz argues that "no such feminists exist", and that feminazi is a "clever term of propaganda" that is intended and used to "[bully] into complicit silence women who might otherwise challenge men's violence".[14] In his book Angry White Men, the sociologist Michael Kimmel says the term is used to attack feminist campaigns for equal pay and safety from rape and domestic violence by associating them with Nazi genocide.[5]

According to Helen Lewis, deputy editor of the New Statesman, "the idea of conflating a liberation movement with Nazism is just deeply ignorant. It’s self-undermining, because it’s so over the top." Laura Bates, the founder of the Everyday Sexism Project, has said that "It’s a desperate attempt to demonise us, and it’s frustrating, because if it wasn’t such an offensive word, you could actually start to embrace it and own it".[15]

Steinem has suggested a boycott of Limbaugh for his use of the term, stating, "Hitler came to power against the strong feminist movement in Germany, padlocked the family planning clinics, and declared abortion a crime against the state—all views that more closely resemble Rush Limbaugh's".[16][17]

According to The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English, Limbaugh used the term "to marginalize any feminist as a hardline, uncompromising manhater",[18] and The New York Times has described it as "one of [Limbaugh's] favorite epithets for supporters of women's rights".[19] Toril Moi writes that Limbaugh's terminology reflects commonplace ideas that feminists "hate men", are "dogmatic, inflexible, and intolerant", and constitute "an extremist, power-hungry minority".[4] The activist Gloria Steinem writes, "I've never met anyone who fits that description [of wanting as many abortions as possible], though [Limbaugh] lavishes it on me among many others".[20]


Limbaugh's words prompted a shift in the public perception of feminism across the American political spectrum starting in the mid-1990s, according to Toril Moi, who writes that Americans came to see feminists as dogmatic and power-hungry women who hate men and who are incapable of challenging their own assumptions; though the term feminazi may have been created to describe a small group of particular feminists, it calcified into a stereotype of all feminists or all women. Moi writes that feminism became "the F-word," a label that women hesitated to claim for themselves lest they be seen as feminazis, even among those who agreed with the goals of feminism.[4]

In the 2010s, there were prominent efforts to re-claim the word feminism from the stereotype of the feminazi. These included a performance at 2014 MTV Video Music Awards in which Beyoncé displayed a large lighted sign of the word feminist, together with a definition of feminism by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie.[21] Feminist news blogs like Jezebel and Feministing reintroduced support for feminism into mainstream journalism.[22]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ "feminazi". Merriam-Webster.
  2. ^ a b Barrett, Grant, ed. (2006). The Oxford Dictionary of American Political Slang. Oxford University Press. p. 105. ISBN 978-0-19-530447-3.
  3. ^ Lacy, Tim (2010). "Limbaugh, Rush". In Chapman, Roger (ed.). Culture Wars: An Encyclopedia of Issues, Viewpoints and Voices, Volume 1. M.E. Sharpe. p. 323. ISBN 978-0-76-561761-3.
  4. ^ a b c d e f Moi, Toril (October 2006). "'I Am Not a Feminist, But...': How Feminism Became the F-Word". PMLA. 121 (5): 1735–1741. doi:10.1632/pmla.2006.121.5.1735. ISSN 0030-8129. JSTOR 25501655. S2CID 145668385. If we wonder what 'militant feminism' is, we learn, at the end of the quotation, that 'militant women' are characterized by their 'quest for power' and their 'belief that men aren't necessary.'
  5. ^ a b Kimmel, Michael (2013). Angry White Men: American Masculinity at the End of an Era. Nation Books. pp. 42–44. ISBN 978-1-56-858696-0.
  6. ^ Limbaugh, Rush H. (1992). The Way Things Ought to be. Pocket Books. p. 193. ISBN 978-0-67-175145-6.
  7. ^ Baker, Bob (1991-01-20). "WHAT'S THE RUSH? : Radio Loudmouth Rush Limbaugh Harangues Feminazis, Environmental Wackos and Commie-Libs While His Ratings Soar". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2021-03-01.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  8. ^ a b c Jamieson, Kathleen H.; Cappella, Joseph N. (2008). Echo Chamber: Rush Limbaugh and the Conservative Media Establishment. Oxford University Press. pp. 102–103. ISBN 978-0-19-974086-4.
  9. ^ Levit, Nancy (1998). The Gender Line: Men, Women, and the Law. NYU Press. p. 127. ISBN 978-0-81-475295-1.
  10. ^ Rodríguez-Darias, Alberto Jonay; Aguilera-Ávila, Laura (2018). "Gender-based harassment in cyberspace. The case of Pikara magazine". Women's Studies International Forum. 66: 63–69. doi:10.1016/j.wsif.2017.10.004. ISSN 1879-243X. Another recurring theme was the notion that the arguments set out in the articles and comments do not correspond to a feminist perspective, but rather to an extremist stance that is aimed at favouring women in a seeming sex war. Expressions such as 'feminazi' or 'misandry' were used to discredit and slander certain arguments in these discursive confrontations.
  11. ^ Bridges, Elizabeth (2015). "Reacting to 'The F-Word': How the Media Shapes Public Reactions to the Feminist Movement". 2015 Honors Council of Illinois Region Student Symposium. 2015 Honors Council of Illinois Region Student Research Symposium, College of DuPage. There is a misguided notion that feminists are loud, bossy women that hate men and all things feminine, causing the image of the 'feminazi' to be created.
  12. ^ Brake, Deborah L. (2007). "Perceiving Subtle Sexism: Mapping the Social-Psychological Forces and Legal Narratives that Obscure Gender Bias". Columbia Journal of Gender and Law. 16 (3): 72, 73 n. 24. OCLC 494260125. SSRN 1169582. The dominant story in mainstream culture is that women and minorities are hyper-vigilant in perceiving bias, to the point of mistakenly perceiving sexism and racism when it does not really exist. Mainstream culture is replete with derogatory references to 'feminazi' women who blame everything on gender [...] [T]he widespread cultural assumption of hyper-vigilance is largely a myth.
  13. ^ Schaffer, Kay (1998). "Scare words: 'Feminism', postmodern consumer culture and the media". Continuum. 12 (3): 321–334. doi:10.1080/10304319809365775. ISSN 1030-4312. [I]n the 1990s [feminism] is aligned with the vindictive, puritanical and punishing new generation of 'feminazis'. They are the ones who employ the sexual harassment laws that their older sisters helped to put in place which threaten to destroy the lives and careers of kindly old men [...] Although ubiquitous in the popular imaginary, they remain an elusive media construct.
  14. ^ Katz, Jackson (2006). The Macho Paradox: Why Some Men Hurt Women and how All Men Can Help. Naperville, Ill.: Sourcebooks. p. 75. ISBN 978-1-40-225376-8.
  15. ^ Williams, Zoe (15 September 2015). "Feminazi: the go-to term for trolls out to silence women". The Guardian.
  16. ^ "Ask Gloria: Excerpts from Q&A's with Gloria Steinem". Feminist.com. October–November 1996.
  17. ^ Kaufman, Michael; Kimmel, Michael (2011). The Guy's Guide to Feminism. Da Capo Press. p. 42. ISBN 978-1-58-005362-4.
  18. ^ Dalzell, Tom; Victor, Terry, eds. (2015). The New Partridge Dictionary of Slang and Unconventional English (2nd ed.). Routledge. ISBN 978-1-317-37251-6.
  19. ^ Seelye, Katherine Q. (December 12, 1994). "Republicans Get a Pep Talk From Rush Limbaugh". The New York Times. p. A16.
  20. ^ Steinem, Gloria (1995). Outrageous Acts and Everyday Rebellions (2nd ed.). New York, N.Y.: Henry Holt and Company. p. xv. ISBN 0-80-504202-4.
  21. ^ Bennett, Jessica (August 26, 2014). "How to Reclaim the F-Word? Just Call Beyoncé". Time. Retrieved August 7, 2020.
  22. ^ Goldberg, Emma (December 8, 2019). "A Farewell to Feministing and the Heyday of Feminist Blogging". The New York Times. Retrieved October 2, 2020.

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