By Pranav S. Atit - 3/24/2008
It is uncertain as to what anti-feminism is or it can also be said that it is uncertain as to what feminism is. Although, it is ambiguous as to when anti-feminism originated, it originated due to adverse views against feminism. The origin of feminism in turn originated due to the fact that women traditionally had been regarded as inferior to men, physically and intellectually. Both the law and the feminist movement, however, was concretely established when an issue for declaration of independence for women , demanding full legal parity, equal compensation and the right to vote was pressed for in the constitution in 1848, in North America. theology had ordered their subjection. Women could not possess property in their own names, engage in business, or control the disposal of their children or even of their own. The earliest feminist document that can be traced is that by Mary Wollstonecraft’s Vindication of the Rights of Women. There were pleadings of larger opportunities for women by Thomas Hobbes, James Locke, Mary Astell and others before, although they were not concrete enough to be called feminist views. In the French Revolution, liberty, equality and fraternity were demanded to be applied regardless of sex. This movement was then spread to Europe. Women’s demand for higher education, entrance into trades and professions, rights to property, etc., were little by little conceded. It was then in 1946 that a UN Commission on the Status of Women was established to secure equal political, economical and educational opportunities for women. In India, the feminist movement too started in the nineteenth century due to malpractices rendered against women such as sati and feminists like Ram Mohan Roy taking steps to remove these malpractices.
The feminism in this era was, however, restricted to eradicate the suppression of women. The feminist movement achieved its aims and now seeks higher status for women than for men. Then emerged different classes of feminist and thus it lost its basic foundation. Anti- feminist ideas then arose.
It is therefore, important do define anti-feminism to know what the ideology is aims to achieve.
INTERPRETATIONS OF FEMINISM AND ANTI-FEMINISM
Feminism originated as the belief that women should not be disadvantaged by their sex, that they should be recognized as having human dignity equal to that of men, and that they should have the opportunity to live as fulfilling and freely chosen lives as men can.
Feminism comprises a number of social, cultural and political movements, theories and moral philosophies concerned with gender inequalities and discrimination against women. Feminism is also described as an ideology focusing on equality of both sexes.
Modern feminist political activists commonly campaign for a woman's right to bodily integrity and autonomy on matters such as reproductive rights, including the right to abortion, access to contraception and quality prenatal care; for protection from domestic violence; against sexual harassment and rape; for workplace rights, including maternity leave and equal pay; and against other forms of discrimination.3
Feminism is both an intellectual commitment and a political movement that seeks justice for women and the end of sexism in all forms. ...motivated by the quest for social justice, feminist inquiry provides a wide range of perspectives on social, cultural, and political phenomena.
Feminism is divided into liberal feminism, radical feminism, socialist feminism, post-structural feminism, black feminism, third world feminism, secular feminism, post colonial feminism, etc. Feminism has been thus divided into many varieties leaving the term to be misused and the basic purpose of the term being disregarded. While the liberal feminists assert on equality, the radical feminists aim to reconstruct the society. The scope of feminism has been expanded to such an extent that the fundamentals of feminism have been misplaced.
Anti-feminism refers to the opposition to feminism. Anti-feminism is also defined in a negative context as male-chauvinism and therefore sexism, or masculinism. It can also be said that since feminism is interested in women’s rights, anti-feminism is against women’s rights.
We need to take each of the components in detail to analyze if anti-feminism is in fact related to any of them or only an ideology against the negatives of feminism.
ANTI-FEMINISM v. SEXISM OR MALE CHAUVINISM AND MASCULINISM
Sexism is the discrimination against people based on their sex. It includes male and female chauvinism.
Male Chauvinism is an activity indicative of belief in the superiority of men over women.4
Arthur Schopenhauer, a male chauvinist, claimed that "woman is by nature meant to obey."
Anti-feminism has no such ideal. Anti-feminists oppose feminism.
The superiority of men over women is in fact more expounded in theories of feminists showing the sufferings of women.
As in The Second Sex Book5 by the noted feminist, Simone de Beauvoir, it is stated “Now, woman has always been man’s dependant, if not his slave; the two sexes have never shared the world in equality. And even today woman is heavily handicapped, though her situation is beginning to change. Almost nowhere is her legal status the same as man’s, and frequently it is much to her disadvantage. Even when her rights are legally recognized in the abstract, long-standing custom prevents their full expression in the mores”. The author has made a deliberate attempt to show that there is superiority of men over women. She has also expressly stated that women are “heavily handicapped” even in the present world, although actually, women have advanced and are no more dependant on men.
Anti-feminists on the other hand propound that women have advanced in all spheres and share equal status in the world and due to this reason feminism is not required.
The view of anti-feminists that women are not dependant on men and that they share equal status, shows that this ideology is very different from male chauvinism.
Masculinism is associated with men’s rights and seeks to promote them. Masculinism, like anti-feminism, is also a response to feminism, but masculinism gets into concerns of equal child rights and social issues affecting men’s rights.
Masculinism is thus a counterpart of feminism and seeks to empower males in society and redress discrimination against them. Anti-feminists differ from masculists as anti-feminism is an ideology against feminism rather than an advocacy of male rights.
FEMINISM AND WOMEN’S RIGHTS
Feminism is automatically associated with women’s rights and benefit by the people. Women’s rights include physical protection and safety, emotional protection, appreciation for her being a unique human being and the right to express her opinions.
It is clamed that feminism is not against homemakers and is all about choice.
In The Second Sex, 19496 by Simone de Beauvoir it is said “A parasite sucking out the living strength of another organism...the housewife's labor does not even tend toward the creation of anything durable.... Woman's work within the home is not directly useful to society, produces nothing. The housewife is subordinate, secondary, and parasitic. It is for their common welfare that the situation must be altered by prohibiting marriage as a 'career' for woman.”
Feminism is profoundly opposed to traditional conceptions of how families should be organized, since the very existence of full-time homemakers is incompatible with the views of feminism.
Years after the beginning of the modern feminist movement, there is yet an astronomically increased number of single mothers, teenage mothers and women in their 40's struggling with infertility, women are sexualized and coerced into selling themselves, there is also the triple talaq system, deterioration of family values, thus, the women do not have a sense of physical or emotional security. If feminism is a movement for women's rights and for improving the position of women, its ultimate test should be a reality check of women's well-being, security, in which case it has failed.
The foundation that anti-feminism is against women’s rights is because it is automatically assumed that feminism is working toward women’s rights but it is clear that it has not achieved much.
Anti-feminism is, thus, not male chauvinism or masculinism as is generally believed.
Anti-feminists point out that feminists impose tremendous pressure on traditional women by denigrating the role of a traditional housewife.
Anti-feminism as a term is also used by feminists to call others within the group of feminists who do not have the same ideas. Feminism is full of clashes and has misplaced its basic aim of women’s rights.
Anti-feminists point out that feminism has not succeeded in its main goal and has diverted to other interpretations and has also been misused. There have been many cases, recently, of the misuse of the dowry laws under IPC 498A by women using them as a weapon against their husband and his family. Even a three year old child has been arrested as due to these stringent laws7. There are anti-feminist organizations like the Save Indian Family Foundation (SIFF) which work as an advocacy group against the alleged abuses of domestic violence legislation in India, and provide support for men and their families who have suffered intimate partner violence or have been accused of domestic violence themselves.
Antifeminists furthermore point out cases when feminist policies and regulations are detrimental to both female self-esteem and the areas, which such policies are applied to, referring to cases of "special treatment" and lower requirements particularly in physically demanding professions, like military and rescue services. Since women who are hired are trained to handle less demanding tasks, reducing effectiveness of a unit, while still making it impossible to refuse hiring them.
Defining anti-feminism is a tough task like defining any other social ideology as there are always going to be differences of opinions.
Anti-feminism, thus, refers to the opposition against feminism in some or all of its form. As, feminists have failed to achieve their objective and have deviated from it, anti-feminism looks to prevent feminism from spreading its malpractices.
This article first appeared on Global Politician