The adage for every action there is an equal and opposite reaction applies universally from physics to even culture. According to Merriam-Webster, the word feminazi means an “extreme or militant feminist.” The first known use of the word feminazi was in 1989 from conservative radio talk show host Rush Limbaugh. This word today still carries resonance with a cartoon on YouTube titled “Feminazi–#GlassCeiling” garnering 2.6 million views and another YouTube video, “Feminazi Cringe Compilation Part 1” attracting over 150,000 views. These videos often focus on loud, raving women in confrontational situations, typically with men, as the women’s lunacy is on full display in an attempt to attack the man but then also invisible forces that hold down women across the world. Insidious in these YouTube videos, however, is the exaggeration of what feminism stands for and the dangerous merging of just women in general with feminazis.
For example, in the “#GlassCeiling” video, a cartoon woman is upset that she cannot get a job at an aquarium due to her lack of scientific background, even though the woman insists her social science degree in gender studies should suffice. In the “Cringe Compilation Part 1” video, there is a short clip of a woman confronting a post office worker for stalking her and also a woman at a bookstore upset that Misery, a book by Paul Sheldon (actually the book is by Stephen King but features a fictitious writer Paul Sheldon), is not in stock. It is clear in the eyes of some users of the word, a feminazi is simply any woman who is clueless, sometimes not even about issues regarding feminism since in several videos of the “Cringe Compilation” there is never any mentioning of feminism or any feminist issues whatsoever on display.
A feminazi in the end is portrayed as clueless, which then has the possible effect for people to equate any mentioning of feminism with feminazism and have their instant reaction to feminism be a negative one as opposed to an open-minded one where they can evaluate and consider as opposed to immediately shut down and critique. All of this begs the question of what exactly is going on that this word is used in some online communities. The word has overtones of jealousy and bitterness as more and more males are being left out of the direction of modern society for the most part. Data from the National Center for Education Statistics paints a disconcerting picture early on of isolation and judgment: Boys are 30 percent more likely than girls to drop out of school; When it comes to grades and homework, girls outperform boys in elementary, secondary, high school, college, and even graduate school; Boys are four to five times more likely to be diagnosed with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD); Boys make up two-thirds of the students in special education.
What these statistics reveal is a growing divide between boys and girls in education, the education attainment, and lastly more boys being put in classes where boys are the overwhelming majority. Because boys are being isolated in an education setting, they are allowed to sink into the group’s mindset of women without a compelling voice to counteract that claim. The National Center for Education Statistics finds that according to most recent data, 76% of all public school teachers were females. In some cases, the only voice in the room may be a female teacher’s voice, and that voice is drowned out by prior experiences of antagonism in the boy’s mind. This potential correlation between education level and attitudes towards feminism or its principles is further born out in research by Pew. For people who identify as a Democrat or lean Democrat, the differences in education attainment is quite striking.
Fifty-five percent of people with a high school degree say the country hasn’t gone far enough to giving women equal rights compared to 73% of people with some college and then 81% of people with a bachelor’s or more. What is interesting is when you look at that same question but for people who identify as Republican, the growth is in the opposite direction with the more education a person has predicting the opposite answer, that the country has gone too far in giving women equal rights. That number was 17% for people with a diploma or bachelor’s who are Republicans and then 21% for people with a bachelor’s or more. For women and education, the correlation between education and attitudes towards women’s progress in society follows the same trend as Democrats, with more education predicting stronger feelings of society not going far enough for women’s rights.
These numbers in the end speak to education status as important in understanding attitudes towards feminism. Education might give individuals a more complicated view of a situation and give more attention to finer details within a narrative that might be overlooked with the critical thinking that universities can help develop. At the same time, however, others might contend that universities are the very brainwashing centers of American life and are cultivating radical ideology in its ivory towers. Other reasons for the word’s rise is a belief that feminism targets men specifically or that a woman’s advantages will come at the expense of men. One poll found an eleven point difference between men and women in response to the question: “The feminist movement unfairly blames men for women’s challenges.” In all, 41% of women found that statement to be true compared to 52% of men (Cai and Clement).
This eleven point difference reveals perceptions of being targeted and further contributes to the oversimplification of feminism meaning women good, men bad. The website urbandictionary.com, where users can upload definitions and then those voted positively rise to the top, provides a clear illustration of this point: Feminism used to be about women getting the same rights as men, such as the right to vote and equal pay at work. Now feminism is a movement full of women who seem to think that their ability to push a baby out of their vagina entitles them to bigger and better everything. Practically all the definitions on urbandictionary.com are negative in some way towards feminism, with some like the one quoted underscoring the feeling of threats that feminism means that women deserve more than men, and additionally that feminism has transformed from its origins of equality to now wanting more for women. In The Daily Mail, an article was published titled “Men are the REAL Oppressed Sex Today.”
The headline alone speaks to the adversarial nature towards feminism, but the article’s content furthers this diatribe: “Full-time working women earn more than men until their mid-30s, when they take time off to have children. (Their choice, incidentally, not a misogynist conspiracy.) By contrast, the most under-performing group of people in our society today are boys and young men. They are more likely to be illiterate, to attempt suicide, to take drugs and to be excluded from mainstream education” (“Men are”). While all those statistics may be true, the article fails to overlook the clash culturally that brought about the attention to feminism: Charlotte Proudman and a picture on LinkedIn. Charlotte Proudman is a lawyer in the United Kingdom who had posted a screen shot of a private message over LinkedIn sent by a senior partner at a law firm. The law firm partner stated in the private message, “I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect but that is a stunning picture.
You definitely win the prize for the best LinkedIn picture I have ever seen.” Proudman posted the message as a screenshot that included the partner’s name and also added her own message over LinkedIn, “The eroticisation of women’s physical appearance is a way of exercising power over women. It silences women’s professional attributes as their physical appearance becomes the subject.” Finally, the law partner responded some days after in an official statement, “Most people post pretty unprofessional pictures on LinkedIn, my comment was aimed at the professional quality of the presentation on LinkedIn, which was unfortunately misinterpreted” (“Barrister Hits”). The incident of Charlotte Proudman was a cultural phenomenon in Great Britain that brought about divided feelings of what is acceptable behavior between acquaintances of men and women and is a compliment just a compliment or something more.
On EBSCOHost, a database for research, the five page results for feminazi provide many opinion pieces regarding this story, many of which include calling Proudman a feminazi. Going back to the original Daily Mail opinion article, the article states, “Her supposed male oppressor has been labelled a sexist dinosaur but, in truth, it is Ms Proudman who is stuck in the ancient past. She is fighting old feminist battles that women of my age fought — and won — decades ago” (“Men are”). This matters because it brings us back to Rush Limbaugh and back to 1989 because Limbaugh had first used the word to describe women “aggressively” attacking societal norms and pushing for more and more expansive reproductive rights, most notably abortion. Readers can see in a roughly 25 year gap the same forces that call out the word feminazi still exist, which is a woman calling into question the way things are. But, the Naziism comes in the perception that a woman challenging how things are done means a woman wanting either more for herself or a woman desiring the restriction and subjugation of a man.
My own experience with a woman’s place in society comes obviously indirectly as a male, but these indirect experiences are important observations as a teacher. As an English teacher, I have seen the typical such as young women dumbing themselves down around young men or a classmate telling another boy, “Are you going to take that?” after a girl had appropriately outwitted the boy with an insult. I have also heard another boy bring up during class discussion words from the boy’s uncle: “My uncle says that women can vote and have a job, what more do they want?” These observations all suggest not so much a balance because a balance would imply a meeting point between two forces, but rather a tight box some girls might feel pressured to be in because of concern of being called names to remind them of their “proper place” in society.
- Cai, Weiyi and Scott Clement. “What Americans Think about Feminism Today.” Washington Post, 27 January 2016, URL. DisgracedWoman. “Feminism.”
- Urban Dictionary, 9 April 2009, URL. “Feminazi.” Merriam-Webster, 2019, URL. “Men are the REAL Oppressed Sex Today.”
- The Daily Mail, Solo Syndication LTD., 12 September 2015, p. 45. EBSCOhost, Accession Number: 109408369. Flashgitz. “Feminazi – #GlassCeiling.” YouTube, 12 April 2015, URL. Memekid. “Feminist Cringe Compilation.”
- YouTube, 24 January 2016, URL. Kuper, Simon and Emma Jacobs. “Why Are Boys Falling Behind at School?” Financial Times, 13 December 2018, URL.
- “Teacher Trends.” National Center for Education Statistics, U.S. Department of Education, n.d., URL. Quinn, Ben.
- “Barrister Hits Out Over Sexist Comment on Her LinkedIn Photo by Legal Expert.” The Guardian, 8 September 2015, URL.
- Horowitz, Juliana Menasce, Kim Parker, and Renee Stepler. “Wide Partisan Gaps in U.S. Over How Far the Country Has Come on Gender Equality.” Pew Research Center, 18 October 2017, URL.