Why feminism is taboo online, and how we can change that

Commentary

It isn’t much of a secret the Internet is not a place for polite political discourse.

I find that the worst of these depraved acropolises is the YouTube comment section. Recently, I caught wind of hype about the adaptation of The Handmaid’s Tale and, Margaret Atwood being one of my favourite authors, I thought I’d check it out.

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The first video I saw, admittedly, was not a good place to start. No spoilers, but it depicted the cruel execution of one of the female characters. Feeling uncharacteristically brave, I ventured into the comments, and one in particular caught my attention for all the wrong reasons. It said that that particular method of execution should be the punishment for all feminists. More disturbing, was the fact the likes on this comment were too high for comfort.

While this may have been an angry troll online, a startling number of people seemed to agree with their statement. So what makes the term feminism so hated that one would even think to write something like that?

A quick Google search of “modern feminist” reveals everything you need to know. You find images of ugly, overweight, rude women who attack traditional family values. From these interpretations, it’s no wonder “feminist” has become such a dirty word online. I’ve even had friends tell me that while they believe in feminist values, they would never identify as one, due to the negativity surrounding the word online.

The Internet’s thoughts about us feminists can be summed up succinctly in a quote from Romeo and Juliet, “Feminist. I hate the word as I hate all women’s activists, hell and thee.” I may be paraphrasing the quote, but you get the picture.

So how is it that we came to the associate feminists with shrew-like bog witches who are fans of Nickelback? The answer lies, as it always seems to these days, with the Internet. My generation, the babies of the Aughts, grew up with this new phenomenon, and we spend an alarming amount of time online, so we are privy to this kind of thing from an early age.

Don’t get me wrong, I believe the Internet is a tremendous social good. It allows us to have access to more information than ever before, and it allows us to connect to people no matter the distance. Most importantly, people from all walks of life can speak up and be heard. But, alas, where there is good, evil shall rise up to ruin everybody else’s good time.

One of the problems with this digital age is that everybody gets to be heard, even the hatemongers. This, unsurprisingly, leads to some hot garbage being spread online. Thus, the image of an atrocious woman, who hates all men on sight, was born, as these women who holds these beliefs now have an entire platform to preach their gospel. However, they label themselves as feminists, and herein lies the origins of feminism’s bad reputation.

 Opponents to these misguided beliefs have since dubbed them “feminazis” as a way to separate themselves from this group. However, this was not enough, as the term feminazi instead allowed the entire women’s rights movement to be irreversibly lumped with these jerks who only break what they intend to fix.

The solution, I believe, is language. Humour me, and try this out. Replace the word “feminazi” with “misandrist,” a term for a person who holds extreme prejudice towards men. Contrary to popular belief on the Internet, feminists are not members of a girls-only club of man-hating hags. Frankly, feminists are concerned about many social issues, such as the injustices towards the LGBT community and women of colour. Particularly in Canada, an outstanding concern is for missing and murdered aboriginal women. Finally, believe it or not, feminists care about men’s issues.

Feminist beliefs include the abolishment of the false ideal that women inherently make better parents, and thus should be favoured in custody cases. Furthermore, women should be required to pay alimony.

If there is ever a war (heaven forbid), and conscription is implemented, women should be drafted alongside men. Feminists also believe more attention should be paid to men’s mental health, as many men suffer in silence for fear of being ridiculed.

One of the most daunting men’s issues is also one of the most concerning for women — sexual assault. According to an article from FiveThirtyEight.com by Kathryn Casteel, Julia Wolfe and Mai Nguyen, out of 100 incidents of sexual assault in 2017, 84 were reported by women and only 16 were reported by men. Therefore, male sexual assault victims are the least likely to report their assaulters, because they are the most likely to be told to “get over it.”

Both men and women have real problems and it is up to feminists to bring light to issues that pertain to each. So, if you are approached by a women who holds a disdain for any of these beliefs, or is dismissive of the idea of masculinity in general, you are not talking to a feminist, nor are you talking to a feminazi. You are talking to a misandrist.

Feminism is a binary — you either are or you aren’t. There is no off-branching fraction of radical feminists who hate men. They are an entirely different group. They are misandrists. Associating the two together harms the credibility of feminist movements such as #MeToo or #Time’sUp, in the same way the KKK claiming to be true Christians harms everything Christianity stands for.

So how do we as a community dispel the dirtiness around the word feminist? Stand up for each other. Guys, stand up for women. Call out your friends on misogynistic rhetoric, but also, ladies, stand up for men. If you hear someone spewing misandrist rhetoric, call them out on it. Make being a misogynist or a misandrist a lonely experience. Make it as lonely as being a fan of Nickelback.

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