Diaries Magazine

We Need to Stop Calling Feminists Feminazis (The F Word: Let's Talk Feminism and Gender)

Posted on the 03 June 2019 by Sharasekaram @sharasekaram
(This piece first appeared as part of a weekly column for The Sunday Morning)
Rush Limbaugh first used the term “feminazi” in his 1992 book “The Way Things Ought to Be”, defining “obnoxious feminists” as feminazis. The Oxford Dictionary defines a feminazi as “a radical feminist”. Feminazi is commonly used in reference to a person that advocates female dominance and a hatred of men. The word is brought together by the words feminist and Nazi, ironically meaning completely contradictory things. Nazism embodies domination and discrimination of perceived undesirables to the point of extermination. Feminism encapsulates principles of gender equality and advocacy of women’s rights. It is not a clever play on words as the creator intended, but a poorly fashioned buzzword that shows ignorance of simple ideological definitions.
As a woman who identifies and calls herself a feminist publicly – this insult is no stranger to me. It is thrown not only at me, but casually around at many other women and I am yet to see a man who identifies as a feminist be subjected to this. Let that sink in; we use it only on women, not on men who identify as feminists.
Now, what does this say about how we react to women’s voices? For far too long, the fact that we raise our voices has been questioned, threatened, and dismissed. We struggle to get a seat at the table, we struggle to have our sound bites featured, and we are told to lower our eyes and hide our opinions. We are always too loud, too angry, too aggressive, and never right. Men who champion women are celebrated while women who do the same are equated to Nazis. This shows you exactly what patriarchy and misogynistic double standards at play look like.
Retaliating against being branded a feminazi is imperative. If the word is used without meeting visible resistance, the woman against whom it is wielded is wounded and many women who watch this play out in popular discourse are hurt. Women who might have spoken out against gender inequality could now be reluctant to put their head above the parapet due to the consequences. The word can therefore be seen as an effective way to silence women. We need to stop equating feminists to Nazis; it is problematic in so many ways that my mind is boggled that we need to even explain why.
In case we can’t remember – Nazis killed people; in horrible ways – gas chambers, tying the legs of pregnant women together as they went into labour, injections of cancer cells, etc. Claire Cohen once wrote in a piece for The Telegraph: “Stop for a second to think about what it actually means. Do I really have to spell it out? Every time you call someone a feminazi, you’re equating the fight for gender equality – for women to have their fair share, nothing more and nothing less – with mass murder.”
I realize it’s the cool and funny thing to do. That it’s a way to insult and not to be taken literally. Go ahead and dislike feminists. Disagree with their/our opinions, arguments, statements, and viewpoints. Just stop equating them to a group that actually made it their life to eradicate groups of people off this earth in the most horrible ways.
I go back to Cohen who said it better than I ever could: “Hitler was a Nazi. Goebbels was a Nazi. Women who speak up for gender equality are not, and every time they’re called a feminazi, it diminishes the original term’s true meaning. It’s this sort of word we need to handle extra carefully. The next generation will be the first never to meet a Holocaust survivor. For them, Nazism will be something buried in the history books. To ensure it’s not trivialised, we need to stamp out poisonous portmanteaus such as feminazi, right now.”
Claiming that those who challenge gender inequality are feminazis is, arguably, libellous. It is a false statement because feminists are not Nazis, and it could be defamatory because being branded some kind of a crypto-Nazi implies extremist and even homicidal ambitions – precisely why Limbaugh referred to “as many abortions as possible”.
Labelling someone a feminazi publicly castigates and vilifies them and creates public perceptions that are untrue. It renders them at risk of being stigmatised, hated, and unemployable. All of this for daring to contest the abuse of women. Let there be no mistake: A war of words is upon us. It commenced because women spoke out. Now, words are being used against women in an attempt to silence them. Raise your arguments and come meet us on an even playing field.
Futile Justifications

There are those who claim it is valid. One user of the term told me via a Facebook comment thread: “I’ve used it to differentiate between people who know what they’re fighting for (equal rights)/feminists vs. overly-sensitive people who get triggered for everything and just go on a man-bashing and hating spree, seeing victimisation practically everywhere. I think coining it with the term ‘Nazi’ is to indicate intolerance and superiority, which is what’s understood by the term ‘feminazi’ (at least for me). It’s less to do with being able to raise and defend your stance, and more to do with not being able to have a rational conversation or debate without it getting super aggro because they take every topic under the sun way too personally; to the point that it’s basically embarrassing to call them ‘feminists’.”
What I observe through its most popular usage is it has been so loosely thrown around that it’s just become a go-to insult for many people who want a quick shutdown with very little debate engagement. Even with this thought process I would argue this is reducing the word Nazi and what it really means. We can do better. We must. Yes, the term “grammar Nazi” is also used, but we must remember this discussion is happening in a context where historically, women’s rights and standing up for them have been vilified and seen as terrible. Grammar Nazi is not used as an attack and shutdown, and context matters.
If you attack people based on their arguments, what you disagree with, and what they have said, respectfully and for a reason, we will be less likely to run into these issues. We need to ask ourselves – why do we disagree? How do we communicate this? What is the purpose in saying what we say? Much of the use of the term feminazi is to shut down someone without actually engaging their arguments.
I end with reverting back to Cohen one last time, she says it all: “Of course, while I’d argue feminazi is an extreme word that’s entered the mainstream, there are those who will claim that it’s extreme feminism that’s actually becoming the norm. But while a few feminists spend their days attempting to impose their ideology on others, there are millions who don’t. And none of us, when I last checked, were busy herding people into gas chambers.”

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