A SOCIAL media trend #WomenAgainstFeminism is creating controversy overseas, going viral in the US and re-opening debate on how far women have really come.
The movement originated from aTumblr postin which photos have been posted of women holding up signs explaining why they don’t need feminism.
The explanations vary from “I do like being feminine”, “catcalling isn’t rape”, “cooking for my husband is not oppression”, “I love to be sexy for my man”, to “I don’t need something that tells me the actions of a slut are okay”.
Here’s a few posts we found on Twitter:
The reaction to the posts have varied, with many complaining that the women do not understand feminism, while others suggest that some of the comments are a “reasonably fair description of a large, influential, highly visible segment of modern feminism”.
One of the women, Danielle Gieger, complained on Facebook that she had received death threats over her post, which said: “my self worth is not directly tied to the size of my victim complex!”
“I’m stupid because I have a different opinion than you, and you see nothing wrong with that mindset. Typical feminism,” she writes in response to som
A Facebook post on the Women Against Feminism page said: “This page has never claimed to be a movement or organization.”
“The focus of this page is just to post women’s responses to feminism and those photos should speak for themselves.”
Nevertheless, the initiative has seemed to hit a nerve.
Professor Emerita Chilla Bulbeck, of the University of Adelaide, said she was surprised that the opinions had gained so much traction, and that unfortunately, it was based on an “extremely outdated idea of feminism”.
For example, one sign reads: “When I am working in a lab, I don’t want my co-workers to know I’m a woman, I want them to know I’m a SCIENTIST. Also wearing a bra isn’t such a big deal. Just put it on and get over it. If it’s not comfortable, you’re wearing the wrong damn size.”
Like many of the posts it expressed a feminist principle, to be recognised as a scientist, not a woman, but then focused on the “bra-burning” stereotype of feminists.
Prof Bulbeck said that while some women back in the 1970s focused on things like high heels and corsets, few women engaged in stunts like bra-burning, which somehow came to define feminism.
“Wearing bras or not wearing bras, it’s a misunderstanding of what feminists do really care about,” Prof Bulbeck said.
“It’s not where the fight should be.”
Prof Bulbeck said in the late 60s and 70s, when it was illegal to work if you were married and women had to be paid less than men, gender oppression was much more visual.
Nowadays it is more hidden and Prof Bulbeck said many people did not understand the structural disadvantage.
Just last month a global reportreleased by Oxfam found that equal pay for women would not be achieved for another 75 years at the current rate of growth in wage equality.
Prof Bulbeck said there was an idea within Australian society, influenced heavily by US values, that if someone was not doing well then it was their own fault.
“If you’re on the dole, it’s your own fault. If you are Gina Rinehart, then you must have worked hard to get there, which is not true in many cases,” Prof Bulbeck said.
She said this had evolved into the idea today that if women weren’t doing well, it was because of their own incompetence. And if they complained, they were “blaming men”.
“Which is powerful because it works to silence criticism if (a woman) wants to complain about work or relationships.”
This contrasts with past attitudes, when there was a greater understanding among the working class that the system did not favour them and they worked together as part of unions to change this.
“Instead of feeling like a failure, you worked hard to readjust the system.”
Prof Bulbeck said that it was both surprising and sad that women were attacking the feminist movement.
“Where’s all that energy coming from to attack a group that has very little status anymore?
“Instead of attacking the causes and the structures of the inequality, they are attacking other women.
“It goes back to those days of hating the mistress or bitching about the tarts and prudes.”
While she said it was understandable that some women, who were happy to be housewives, would react to the idea that they could only be successful if they got a job, “I think most feminists want the maximum number of choices for women and men as long as this is not hurting anyone else”.
“Prof Bulbeck has identified as a feminist since the mid-1980s and said her “ideal feminist” was someone who understood that there were a lot of structural imbalances, based on gender, sexuality, colour and class, within the system. This “ideal feminist” was also someone who believed in collective action to address the issues more widely, and not just in their own personal lives.
She said the sisterhood was all about “let’s not attack other women” and about “all getting to a better world together”.
“We don’t hate men, remember, most feminists are married to men.”
What should be hated is what some men do to women, “hate that, but don't hate them”.
And it was not about making it somebody’s fault if, for example, they were born a man.
“It’s not your fault ... but you should be aware of that privilege and work to shift that, and that’s what a feminist would like to do.”Be at work if that’s what you want to do, or be at home if that’s what you want to do,” she said.
However, Prof Bulbeck acknowledged that feminism had developed a bad reputation over the years of being “bra-burning, man-hating, ball breaking, excessively aggressive woman of the 1970s”.
A survey done in the 1990s in the US found that more people believed that aliens had visited the country, than believed being called a feminist was a positive description.
While she said she was not attached to the term “feminism”, she still believed in the principles of the movement.
Research she did 10 years ago found young women in Australia thought feminism was not relevant to them because they could “look after themselves”. But she also found that they placed their feminist values within a wider set of social goals.
It’s a position that Prof Bulbeck relates to, these days she is also the secretary of the Greens in Western Australia, and women’s rights sit alongside other social justice issues she is interested in.
Feminism may not yet be dead though. Here's some support from #MenforFeminism: