If you identify yourself as a feminist and wear this badge around proudly in public, chances are, you have been called a “feminazi” at least once in your life. This term is flung about rather liberally on social media on a daily basis, whenever a woman dares to speak up against gender inequality. You will find this word lurking below in the comments of any vocal woman’s tweet or post where she has called out patriarchy or injustice against her gender. It’s a word meant to attack, abuse, and devalue. But above all, it’s a word meant to silence women and trick them into doubting the ideas they advocate.
The Merriam-Webster dictionary describes “feminazi” as “an extreme or militant feminist.” The word itself is a portmanteau of “feminist” and “Nazi.” It is historically linked to the ideology of the Nazi members of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party, a far-right political group that was actively spearheaded by Adolf Hitler between the 1920s and 40s during World War II in Germany. Yes, “feminazi” is a metaphor for that extent of activism, for feminism that is perceived to be as radical as Hitler’s beliefs in racism, antisemitism, segregation, and extermination.
A simpler explanation of it, as used in popular culture, has been made by this gentleman’s tweet: “Feminazi culture is, weeping about your problems instead of solving them.” Or this one: “the feminazi phase is when we start receiving tweets like “marriage is not an achievement.”
“Feminazi” Appropriates The Real Meaning Of Feminism
“Feminazi” has been recognised as a slur, and most commonly used as a substitute for misandry. It first gained wide prominence after Rush Limbaugh, an American conservative talk show host, used it in his 1992 book The Way Things Ought to Be to describe “a woman to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed,” referring to it later as a modern-day “Holocaust.”
But that’s not all. Limbaugh’s tirade against people who campaign for women’s rights ranges from incorrect to outright disrespectful. He has been open about his criticism of the feminist movement, going so far as to say that feminism “was established so as to allow unattractive women easier access to the mainstream of society.”
An examination of Limbaugh’s volatile statements with regard (rather, disregard) to “feminazis,” quickly makes clear how the term isn’t really a condemnation of “unreasonable” radical feminists, but instead seeks to condemn all feminists. The garb of “feminazi” is in fact used to appropriate the real intent of feminism that aims at equality of all genders, that too within very reasonable boundaries.
Feminism Does Not Mean Defending Women Who Commit Wrong
“Feminazi” is an offensive term, and in more ways than one. Firstly, it makes a false equivalence between women who are apparently obsessed with equal rights and Nazi Germans who were highly, highly oppressive and sexist. I mean come on, the irony is literally glaring in this one. And as far as the question of extremism is concerned – sure, it’s a subjective concept. But equality and women emancipation – the foundations of feminist thought – are not. Therefore, calling someone a “feminazi” for raising their voice against gender injustice is unfounded.
Secondly, it detracts heavily from the conversation around women’s equality. People who raise their voices against “feminazis” do so according to convenience. And usually, they justify their cause by pointing out at women who wrong men, commit crimes, or make hate speech. For instance, during the nationwide #MeToo movement, a lot of people decried selective women who were found making false allegations, using it to call the entire movement a big, unnecessary drama by “feminazis.”
But the baseline of the #MeToo movement, or feminism for that matter, isn’t that women can do no wrong. Yes, misandry and misogyny are two sides of the same coin and must be called out. Yes, female criminals too exist and must be held guilty. Feminism seeks to call out everyone – man, woman, queer – who promotes prejudices or bias or hate. “Feminazi” on the other hand, seeks to silence these women who call them out. It’s a term that’s fulfilling no real purpose. And that’s why it needs to go.
Views expressed are the author’s own.