Dear Anti-Feminists, Your Sexism isn’t Rebellious or Original

There is nothing visionary about parroting millennia-old arguments.

Image by Katrina_S from Pixabay

Being a revolutionary has a certain romance about it.

That is why Che Guevara is printed on everything from T-shirts to condoms, and why teenagers want to rebel, wear all black, get piercings and tattoos and tell their parents they are wrong about everything. Questioning the status quo is cool, it makes you slightly ahead of the crowd, a little different. Teenagers need to feel like that — in fact, we all do.

There is something romantic about the underdog taking on the system, it feeds into our feelings that everything is possible, that we can be brave and live epic lives, whatever the odds. It’s why there are more films about Davids than Goliaths, and why it is tempting to see yourself as the underdog, even when all the evidence points to your being in a position of privilege.

Take Donald Trump, a rich, white guy who was elected president on the premise that he was anti-establishment. He was the candidate of the falsely rebellious vote, stemming from exactly the same mindset as the topic of this rant: anti-feminists thinking they are being oh so creative, clever and anti-mainstream by repeating things that have been said since forever.

People who see themselves as rebels can often be Trumps, rather than Ches.

Actors of the sexist backlash see themselves as avant-garde revolutionaries. They feel like they are being original, telling the hard truths about a feminism they perceive to have taken over the world. They fight against Political Correctness, which they brandish as the proof that equality has been achieved, despite all the evidence to the contrary.

They congratulate themselves on being controversial, while supporting the status quo, and being about as cool as an old rich white guy smoking a cigar in a man’s club in the 50s and pinching the waitress’ bottom when she comes to serve him a whiskey. About as rebellious as a drunk uncle at a wedding going off on a racist tangent. And about as original as sexism has ever been: ie, not at all.

Age-Old Rhetoric

If you dissect the nasty comments and counter-arguments, they are really just repeating the same old arguments that have always been used against feminists, again and again. The internet has a wealth of miserable examples, here a just a few from comments on my own articles or things I have come across recently:

  • Argument one: Sexism is natural, men’s brains function differently, it is so mean of you to tell men that their natural being is oppressive. Boy’s will be Boys.

“Why will you not let men desire women the way they naturally desire women? Men are human beings TOO, with minds that think just like yours. Saying “if you think the way you naturally think about women, you’re hurting them” is incredibly oppressive and controlling.” — Response to I Am Not A Porn Category

  • Argument two: you are a hysterical woman, you are being overly emotional about all of this.
  • This masterful mix of 1 & 2: sexual assault is just a natural thing to be dealt with, much like the weather or wild animals. Women should shut up and cope.

“American Indians use to send their lads off for a week or so to learn how to fend for themselves and grow up a bit. This gal goes off to a new city to do much the same, brave a new bold world and learn a few things. The Indian youths and our lads never returned claiming the fires were too hot or the nights too cold, they simply added another notch to their learning skills list and went on. This little one wants to complain that the concierge service was not to her liking. So, either men need to kick up the levels of chaperoning services or this one needs to grow up and enjoy her freedoms (and challenges).”

  • Argument 3: Feminists aren’t real women. This often comes in the form of “feminists are ugly” and their anger is the manifestation of their sexual frustration.

Putting an ugly creature as a representative for most feminists nowadays = 100% accurate — 9gag comment

It’s interesting to note that most feminists end up bitter and alone because they demonize men. After a while the smart ones realize they are in competition with younger women, and older women are just not as desirable. If you are single and in your 30’s on tinder I have got bad news for you ladies, no man wants to marry you. — 9 gag comment

This feminists-aren’t-real-women rhetoric has remained the same since the mid-19th century as a way to discredit feminist movements.

  • Argument 4: You are a woman, you must need some condescension. Here is my unsolicited life advice.

Uh oh, here comes someone who disagrees with you. I’m not inside your group of supporters so brace yourself.

What if I don’t believe that we live in a patriarchy in the first place? What if I don’t believe that women’s problems are any worse then men’s problems? — Response to Dear Sexist Man

  • Variant: I’m not anti-feminist, it’s just that all feminists currently alive are wrong and I also just happen to disagree with every woman, it is an utter coincidence though.
  • Not-really-an-argument-but-maybe-they-just-couldn’t help it: Intermingled into the comments, just a whole lot of pure fresh sexist BS:

“Ass is all women have to offer. Everything else is what they DEMAND — “feed me, care for me, flatter me, tell me I’m amazing, make me the center of your world. If you do, you can touch this ass.”

When you distill it down that way, the ass is all that matters to ME. Everything else is you controlling me. So I see you as a piece of ass that demands a bunch of emotional bullshit before it will let me touch it.” — Response to I Am Not A Porn Category

There is always a backlash

History shows that whenever there is progress on women’s rights, however minimal, there will be a backlash. Susan Faludi detailed this in her 1991 book Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women:

“The anti-feminism backlash has been set off not by women’s achievement of full equality but by the increased possibility that they might win it. It is a pre-emptive strike that stops women long before they reach the finishing line.” ― Susan Faludi, Backlash: The Undeclared War Against American Women

From penalties imposed on childless and unwed women in ancient Rome, the witch burnings of medieval Europe… and, twenty-eight years later, the trolls and anti-feminists of today.

It’s frustrating, considering how small a step we have made. Anti-feminists act like feminism is everywhere, like we have conquered, whereas, in reality, the media has just started talking about the issues at hand, cinema and TV have just started shifting the balance on cultural production, and women still face as much violence and oppression as ever. We are so far from victory, this is just the very first step that might allow things to change.

Luckily, I don’t think even the trolls believe the stuff they write. Why else would they comment anonymously, hidden behind their screens, avatars and anonymous usernames?

People risk a lot to tell hard truths because they believe it to be right. Whistleblowers risk their careers and their freedom, victims of sexual abuse risk their reputation and their safety. As Jessica Valenti writes,

“Consider Christine Blasey Ford — she came forward to tell her story and help the country understand exactly what kind of man Brett Kavanaugh is. Since testifying, she has been unable to return to her job as a professor, has moved multiple times, and pays out of pocket for private security.”

When you are telling the truth, when you believe that what you are saying is important and needs to be heard, you don’t hide unless you absolutely have to. And these guys don’t absolutely have to remain hidden behind their avatars. They don’t risk much, other than angry responses.

Which begs the question, do they actually believe it? Or do they sense that in reality, they are not the rebellion, they are just standing on the wrong side of history, determined to stay there?

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