Folks, it is 2014 and I can’t believe I have to say this but…the word “feminazi” has got to go.
I know that someone somewhere will undoubtedly say that there are more important things to worry about, who cares about this word, or that I am overreacting. And maybe I am, but truth be told, I don’t think so. There are two major problems I have with this word: the first is that it perpetuates ridiculous, incorrect stereotypes about the feminist movement, and second, it diminishes the legacy of who the Nazis actually were and what they actually did. As a feminist, and as a Jew, the idea that feminists could or should be compared to Nazis, ever, is both ridiculous and vaguely offensive.
Let’s talk about the impact it has on feminism first, though. I know that most people who use this term are not supporters of feminism, and that I may be preaching to the choir here. But language does matter, and what language like this accomplishes is to say that feminists are aggressive, vicious, terrible, rights-violative people. And this frankly isn’t the case. At best, this term describes a small fraction of the movement, correctly referred to as reactionary feminists, who think that women should become dominant in society and/or hold strong beliefs rooted in misandry. Reactionary feminists, however, are a small minority. There may be feminists who are a little radical, there may be individual feminists who hate men, but the movement as a whole does not hate men, does not seek to dominate men, and only wants things to become equal between men and women.
I understand that this is difficult. Equality is actually perceived as female domination much of the time, at least in our society. We have been socialized to believe that there is adequate representation of women, so even though women make up about 28% of speaking roles in movies, about 16% of corporate board seats, and about 18% of Congress. We know, because it has been repeatedly pointed out, that there are not enough women in Congress, but what people often forget is that we have become so used to this uneven distribution of positions-~-particularly in media, which helps influence people’s recognition of social realities-~-that when the proportions are even, people perceive the group as being dominated by women. Studies have shown that when women are in charge, they are perceived as being bossy and domineering, but when men are in charge they are perceived as being strong and decisive.
All the word “feminazi” does is underscore this idea that equality is in fact a hostile concept, that women already are equal and that wanting more-~-wanting real equality and representation-~-makes us greedy and forceful. This simply isn’t true: the pay gap does exist, women are underrepresented in various situations-~-especially queer women and women of color-~-we still have multiple leaky pipeline career fields, gender-based violence is still rampant, and even things like birth control are considered controversial. Wanting society to address those issues does not make feminists militant, it makes us aware of social realities that are simply uncomfortable to address.
The second thing, though, is that there is nothing about feminism that can be equated to what the Nazis did. I know the Holocaust seems like a distant piece of history, but it actually happened less than a century ago. The last Holocaust survivors are still among us, and their children, who grew up with the knowledge of what their parents lived through, and their grandchildren, who eventually learned the same, are active players in our society. The Nazis killed millions of innocent people-~-approximately 6 million Jews, as well as approximately 11 million Catholics, Roma, Slavs, people with mental disabilities, homosexual people, trans people, and political opponents. They executed a racist and political genocide against multiple groups of people, and the idea that a group of people advocating for equal rights could be equated to a group of people guilty of such an agenda is problematic at best and offensive at worst. Have some respect for the families and communities that were lost, and that lost people they loved, and come up with more creative vocabulary.
I fully understand that not everyone is going to be a supporter of feminism. I know that there are a lot of misconceptions about feminism and what feminists are trying to accomplish. Those are things that feminists need to address. But at the end of the day, we also need to work to eliminate problematic vocabulary, and just as one might call out a friend who makes a rape joke or uses a homophobic or racist slur, we need to consider calling out people who use words like “feminazi”. They’re politically charged and problematic, and it’s time to prune them from our collective vocabularies.
There is nothing wrong with wanting your rights.