Daring to be femi-nasty
Claudia Lopes talks about when it is time to get femi-nasty
A pop-up on my Facebook earlier this week reminded me of an online conversation I had two years ago with a man whom I can only hope to never have the pleasure of meeting one day. It started off innocently enough. During my daily obsessive scouring of news articles on the internet I came across an article on The Muppet’s ‘Miss Piggy’ amidst the deluge of stories of (not so innocent) drug busts, gang wars, violence against women, missing children, politics and corruption. I must profess that at the time I didn’t recall much about Miss Piggy, having watched her as a child. I remember her having really big beautiful eyes, always dressed-to-the-nines, glamorous, out-spoken and in love with a green frog. But here she was many years later on my screen, receiving an award from Brooklyn Museum’s Elizabeth A. Sackler Center for being a feminist. I was happily bemused by this news until I glanced at the comments section… “shame poor miss piggy; being associated with those feminazi cows must suck”. I should have ignored the comment and moved on but this Nevyn-named-anti-feminazi-miss-piggy-puppet-sympathizer had piqued my curiosity. So what or who exactly are feminazi cows I ask him? It turns out that he makes no real distinction between Feminazis and feminists who are all according to him, and I quote, “slutty little cows and should be eradicated, they are the scum, the lowest form of woman ever to walk the earth.” Uhm….femi-say what now?
I must confess that I had never heard the term before but clearly I must have been living under a rock. The term feminazi was first popularized in the 1990’s by American radio talk-show host Rush Limbaugh who credits the naming of the term to a friend, Professor of Economics, Tom Hazlett. According to Limbaugh, a feminazi is “a feminist to whom the important thing in life is ensuring that as many abortions as possible occur,” his sentiments being targeted at the USA’s abortion-rights movement at the time. The definition has over the last few years expanded and evolved. Dictionary.Com defines the word as referring to “an extreme feminist who believes the option of abortion is essential to the political, social, and economic advancement of women,” while other platforms such as Oxford Dictionaries and Merriam-Webster describes feminazis as a derogatory description of feminists who are “militant” or “radical”. According to feminist stalwart Gloria Steinheim, Limbaugh’s equating of feminism with “nazi-ism” can be referenced back to World War II when, in a push against the feminist movement, Hitler “padlocked the family planning clinics and declared abortion a crime against the state”. This did not end well for those in the feminist movement at the time and it did not bode well for many other women for years to come. Decades later the subject of women’s pro-choice/rights to abortion continues to be central to conversations and debates around the world and in the USA even more so since Trump’s recent inauguration into the presidency – yet another man claiming stake over women’s bodies and their rights. A man, need I remind you, who once said that if you’re famous, you can do anything to women including grabbing them by the pussy.
Now back to our home soil and Nevyn’s incendiary remarks which should have been rightly challenged and scorned but which ended right there. I could not articulate the pure anger, irritation, and disdain that I had for this vile excuse for a human being. He wasn’t directly aiming his comment at me. Yet, because I am a feminist, it is very much directed at me. It is my profession and my life’s purpose. I advocate for women’s rights to be free from violence and abuse, to be free of discrimination, to have the right to choose what happens to her body, to just be free to be whatever she may want to be without fear of repercussions or judgment. But I didn’t respond to him. Instead, I asked a couple of feminist friends for help in “educating” this man. They turned me down…they said, “don’t feed the troll” and so I didn’t, I let him have the final say.
The thing is though, while I have no illusions that anything I or my feminist friends could have said, would have made any difference to this man and his way of thinking, (instead it would probably have the opposite effect), it is these every day little insidious and misogynistic comments that go unchecked that maintain men’s perceptions of women being “lesser than” and which allow the bigger violations, like that of domestic violence, rape and femicide, to take place… or to be shrugged off.
Let me give you another example. A few days prior to reading the article on Miss Piggy, comments to another article had my blood boiling. This article had no element that would warrant happy bemusement but this doesn’t stop some. The article was about a man who had shot his wife dead, the mother to his 14-year old child. There were many comments to the story. Yet they were not a condemnation of the act or bemoaning the loss of a women’s life. Rather, they were about the fact that the journalist had made a grammatical mistake, there was a comma out of place. All hell broke loose. Variations of malevolent sentiment were directed at the journalist. And, believe it or not, for those commenting on the article, the grammatical error was reflective of our failing educational system and an indictment of affirmative action policies. And then there were those who thought they could add some light-hearted banter to the catastrophe. One man asked “Why would a guy shoot his already dead wife?” to which another commentator chimes in, “to make sure she shuts up”. And then another: “How do you know your wife is dead? Sex is the same but the dishes pile up”!
In a country in which violence against women flourishes unabatedly, in which women and children (yes in the plural not singular) are found raped and murdered every single day, in which shelters for abused women are filled to capacity, there is no place for insidious misogynist attitudes such as these. As much as there is no justification for condoning or ignoring women’s rights abuses nor should we condone or ignore the profoundly offensive and demeaning sexist narrative that is expressed every single day, throughout the world whether it be uttered by the Presidents of this world, your next door neighbour, your boyfriend or girlfriend, or an unknown person in cyberspace. So I will continue marching for women’s rights with my fellow feminist sisters and brothers whether in response to some violation of women’s rights in our country or in another. I will remain outraged and enraged every time a woman is disrespected, abused, raped and killed. I will challenge misogynistic ideology and no longer back down; let me challenge that feminazi-hunting-troll and bear the brunt of it if need be. And as “well-behaved women seldom make history” I will be forced to get femi-nasty. Are you brave enough to join me?