Feminazi: How A Right-Wing Slur Became a Left-Wing Excuse

The long history of comparing feminists to Nazis.

M. K. Fain
Nov 4 · 8 min read
Photo from Wikimedia Commons

The misogynist tradition of comparing feminists to Nazis may have been started by the right by shock-jock Rush Limbaugh but, now, as the right increasingly embraces more and more Nazi ideology, a curious reversal has occurred. The alt-right has switched to insulting feminism for being too “Jewish” while liberal/leftist men’s rights activists had picked up where Limbaugh left off and adopted the Feminist-Nazi comparison for themselves.

The leftist misogynists, though, are taking it a step further. Where Limbaugh simply used the term to belittle, insult, and infuriate feminists — leftists are using it to justify violence against feminists.

How did we get here?

Rush Limbaugh Popularizes “Feminazi”

Although he claimed the term was coined by economics professor Tom Hazlett, Rush Limbaugh was primarily responsible for popularizing it. Appearing first in his 1992 book, The Way Things Ought to Be, Limbaugh defined a “feminazi” as a specific type of feminist: one who is “obsessed with perpetuating a modern-day holocaust: abortion.”

When challenged on his use of the term he regularly insisted that it was only used to refer to a handful of extreme feminists “to whom the most important thing in life is seeing to it that as many abortions as possible are performed.” However, he often used the term to describe entire organizations and assigned the title to women like Gloria Steinem or Anita Hill — women who certainly campaigned for women’s equality, yet could never even remotely fit his narrow definition.

Olga Berrios on Flickr

Soon enough, it became clear that any woman who resisted patriarchy in any way could be considered a feminazi. Entire crowds of women who attempted pro-choice marches or protests were painted with the term, such as in 2004 when he said, “The pro-choice crowd, the feminazis who marched in such rage and anger on Sunday…” in reference to activists working with the Feminist Majority Foundation.

If there’s any question that this term is rooted in misogyny rather than genuine concern for human life, one must look no further than Rush Limbaugh’s other statements on feminism:

“If we are going to pay for your contraceptives, and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it and I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”

and

“Feminism was created to force popular culture to accept ugly women.”

The word as been used to justify the targetting of women who spoke out about sexism in professional environments, just as British Barrister Charlotte Proudman who was called a “feminazi” and professionally blacklisted for calling out a sexist message she received on LinkedIn.

The top-voted Urban Dictionary definition of the term describes a feminazi as a woman who yells at men for holding doors for her, “There’s a big difference between fighting for equal rights and just being a bully.” (It’s worth noting that in this example, the “polite” man immediately calls the woman a “mean bitch” for her objection.)

Others online described the “feminazi” as someone who is “bitter” and sees men as the “enemy”.

The term actually became so popular that in 2013 an internet “law” was determined around it: Godwin’s Feminist Corollary.

Godwin’s law states that:
As an online discussion grows longer, the probability of a comparison involving Nazis or Hitler approaches 1.

Godwin’s feminist corollary reads:
As an online discussion about sexism continues, the probability of a woman who speaks out being called a feminazi approaches 1.

Based on colloquial use of the term, it seems that the “feminazi” label is applied when men feel a woman has stepped too far out of line in demanding her own equality and liberation.

While “feminazi” was initially associated with right-wing trolls, the rise of the alt-right has decreased the distance between right and genuine fascist ideologies — including anti-Semitism, violent xenophobia and racism, and, yes, misogyny.

So, as the alt-right started to abandon the term in favor of the ironic “Jewish Feminist” conspiracy, the left picked up the slack on the Feminist-Nazi comparison.

The Left’s Use of the Feminist-Nazi Comparison to Justify Violence Against Women

Although liberals and leftists have widely decried the use of the term “feminazi”, recognizing it for the misogyny that it is, this has not prevented them from using this comparison to push their own agenda: specifically to excuse the silencing and sometimes violent abuse of women with whom they disagree.

Radical feminists, who aim to end the “root” cause of women’s oppression (patriarchy) are the primary targets of liberal attacks on women. Lesbians are particularly at risk, likely because their denial of sexual access to men is seen as a threat to male dominance.

Women who recognize sex-based oppression (patriarchy), support sex-based rights for women, and aim to end male violence have been given a new name: TERFs.

Like “feminazi”, the term “TERF” is an oxymoron. A Nazi can not be a feminist, because National Socialism was very concerned with controlling women’s bodies and Nazi Germany enacted horrendous acts of violence against women — especially Jewish, Roma, and other “untermensch” (groups deemed sub-human).

Likewise, the term “TERF”, which stands for “Trans-Exclusionary Radical Feminist”, is an oxymoron since feminism includes all females, regardless of how they identify. In fact, it is because of experiences watching girls suffer in a misogynistic culture so much so that they wish to identify out of womanhood that many women turn to radical feminism to find a useful analysis.

Yet, comparing “TERFs” to Nazis has become commonplace. Since leftists have decided it’s okay to use violence when the goal is to “punch a Nazi”, the same extends to violence against women — as long as you can find an excuse to label them a “TERF”.

Screenshots by author

Liberals are willing to call nearly any woman a Nazi for defending women’s rights. For example, The BBC reported in 2018 that after professor Rosa Freedman spoke out in defense of women’s rights she was called a “TERF”, a “Nazi”, told she “should be raped”, and her door was covered in urine. Freedman is Jewish and a survivor of sexual violence.

Liberal men’s rights activists have demonstrated that there is no line they won’t cross — going so far as to vandalize a Vancouver women’s shelter in August with the phrase “KILL TERFs”.

Some leftist men are even so woke as to admit that they are glad “TERFs” exist to provide a group of women they are allowed to insult and abuse:

(source)

The phrases “feminazi” and “TERF” seem to be two sides of the same misogyny coin — one on the right, one of the left. As overall misogyny increases, often in backlash to feminist gains, misogyny in both camps revs up.

I’m not the first one to draw this comparison. Larbac wrote in 2017 in QG Feminista (translated):

“Males literally mobilized to attack a feminist encounter and rape women on the grounds that ‘TERFs are not even people’… Just as in the feminist spring, when the unfortunate term ‘feminazi’ became popular, women are being attacked for fighting the system that has colonized them for years.”

An analysis of Google Search Trends going back to 2004 revealed a strikingly strong correlation between the two terms (r² = .558). For comparison, the terms “TERF” and “radical feminist” have a correlation of only .008 (linear regressions conducted by author).

Screenshot of Google Trends comparison of “feminazi” (blue) vs. “terf” (red)

This striking trend demonstrates how the terms “Feminazi” (blue) and “TERF” (red) serve the same purpose on opposite sides of the aisle — silencing, harassing, and abusing feminists by comparing them to one of the most universally reviled political groups: Nazis.

The Ahistorical and Misogynistic Reality of the Comparison

This shouldn’t need to be said, but as the term “Nazi” has become increasingly watered-down I’m going to say it anyway: Feminists are not like Nazis.

This comparison is not only factually inaccurate but deeply insulting to the women who suffered under Nazi rule. Jen Izaakson wrote in November 2018, on the 80th anniversary of Kristallnacht, about the ahistorical nature of these comparisons:

The branding of feminists as “Nazis” and “fascists” obfuscates the enormous horror of those regimes, cheapens the memory of those lost, and reduces industrialized mass murder to merely recognizing material reality. Industrialized murder has, unsurprisingly, little in common with feminism as a project or any work towards women’s emancipation. It is men who design the violent systems of our planet and it is women who are the greatest victims of those male-organized structures.

Izaakson points out the various ways in which the National Socialist regime was explicitly anti-feminist:

  • Jewish women were targeted for public, sexual humiliation.
  • Lesbians, although excluded from the rule against homosexuality, were still punished and policed for their sexuality. Many entered into “marriages of convience” with gay male friends to avoid suspicion.
  • Prostituted women, who were often used by the SS, were sent to death camps.
  • Women could be found guilty for “anti-social” crimes, such as being drunk outside of the home.
  • Women were considered under the direct control of men, and wives who fell out of favor with their husbands could be simply reported by him for any number of crimes.
  • Jewish, Roma, and other women deemed “impure” were experimented on in an attempt to learn how to create twins to quickly grow the “master race” — resulting in the torture, maiming, traumatization, and death of many of the women involved. Those who survived the procedures were usually gassed to death.

Anyone who attempts to equate feminism, which aims to end male oppression of women, with Nazism is intentionally erasing this history of real violence. While men continue their reign of terror against women, women end up being branded the “violent” ones. This is intentional, as it is used as an excuse for male violence against women (as we see in the Rules of Misogyny).

Misogyny on the right and on the left may come out in different ways. Yet, whether it’s the attempt to outlaw abortion or the attempt to remove sex-based protections for women, the “feminazi”/“Nazi TERF” rhetoric demonstrates that it’s all still the same old misogyny.


M. K. is a feminist writer who has been fired, de-platformed, and attacked for defending women’s rights. Subscribe to get her latest posts directly in your inbox, or consider supporting her writing on Patreon:

4th Wave Feminism

A publication for the next generation of feminists.

M. K. Fain

Written by

M. K. is a feminist writer with a background in grassroots activism and psychology. http://marykatefain.com Support on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/mkfain

4th Wave Feminism

A publication for the next generation of feminists.

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