Have Modern “Feminist” Movements Spurred the Rise of New Anti-Feminist Crusades?

A few months ago, I had the pleasure (if that is what I may call it) of experiencing a rather interesting and spur-of-the-moment encounter with a complete and unabashed random stranger, whom I had anonymously agreed to meet in person off — you guessed it — an anonymous app. The meeting that ensued from this impromptu arrangement certainly could not be considered dull, and although this stranger was a bit of a jarhead, the conversation actually did not at all feel forced. Though each of us came from somewhat different backgrounds and life circumstances, we managed to keep the discussion flowing smoothly — albeit a bit awkwardly, at times — without too much effort, and soon enough, it even became fairly entertaining. As the talk casually revolved around this stranger’s life choices and plans, and my overall career ambitions and defining life goals (if that is what they might be called), an earnest question arose warily on the stranger’s part: “You’re not one of those feminists, are you?” This fateful inquiry was accompanied by a slight grimace on behalf of the inquirer, and was then followed by a momentary pause, during which I tried to quickly and adeptly maneuver myself about the question in such a way as to consider the pros, cons, and most appropriate options at my disposal that would allow me to answer the question satisfactorily. I had the task of simultaneously standing my ground on an important issue while putting the inquiring mind at ease.

Regardless, our conversation continued advancing onward after that episode for quite a while, and all went well. However, in the back of my mind, what ultimately struck me as genuinely problematic regarding that question and the circumstances surrounding it was the fact that simply being a feminist or identifying as one has somehow come to be viewed as an innately bad thing by some people, and I often can’t help but ask “why?” However, with some of the more recent social and political leanings of modern feminism — or perhaps “postfeminists,” as Tong refers to some third-wave thinkers — that I’ve managed to come across in numerous outlets of the media, quite frankly, I can’t really place too much blame upon the stranger’s apprehensive views.

In recent years, it appears that the meaning of feminism has become skewed and distorted, devaluing its true objectives and ambitions; many people are misinterpreting it for what it is not and claiming that it propagates the kinds of beliefs and values that true feminism never even stood for. Feminism seems to have become synonymous with the notorious yet largely unrelated “social justice warrior” (or SJW) trend, which floods sites such as Tumblr and other social media platforms. This is also where the somewhat impudent “special snowflake” terminology seems to originate, but it seems to go more in line with the broader notion of being radically progressive or über liberal to a fault. Some of these so-called feminists/snowflakes/SJWs have set the stage for something that is either regarded as pure trivial comedy or outright hostility and aggression — so much so that, for some of these “feminists,” all males are viewed as the primary enemy, the chief oppressor, and the root of all evil. In their eyes, the patriarchy must be overthrown, the male population worldwide must be vanquished, and thus, a new world order must rise, with females and other genders in charge of the governance, instead.

This is, of course, a pretty extreme example, but if one were to even bother making a quick search on YouTube, countless videos with such a message would pop up as the result. Many people nowadays also view feminism simply as another social/young adult/millennial trend, devoid of any meaning aside from that of some flashy pop culture appeal. They are quick to label themselves as feminists because that’s what “everyone else is doing,” without actually striving to learn about the history of the movement and what the term means. Others are misinformed from the start regarding what feminism really stands for, as well as what the origins of this movement are, due to the sources from which they glean what they believe to be accurate portrayals of feminism and feminist thought. Even throughout Rosemarie Tong’s text, it becomes evident that the various critics of the different offshoots of feminism are very often at odds with each other; the ideologies of feminism have grown to be exceptionally diverse. But in reality, none of this even comes close to capturing or representing the true essence of the meaning of feminism and its beliefs.

Due to all these recent issues and fads, feminism has been getting a bad rap because of the people who continuously misconstrue its message — there is an inherent difference between misandrists and feminists, but at some point, somehow, the lines have been heavily blurred. People now either seem to associate misandrism with feminism, or they are unable to differentiate between the two and disassociate one from the other. That is one major problem, and it is quite harmful to authentic feminism as a whole. People who hate on men yet ardently claim to be feminists are not true feminists. Furthermore, hating men who are of a specific racial demographic, nationality, or ethnicity which automatically makes them more “privileged” than others simply due to their appearance makes the issue even worse. All these sort of “feminists” defeat the purpose of the entire movement from its very origins and expunge it from its core and foundational principles; they only serve to give real feminists a bad name, and this is one point from which much of the divisiveness in today’s society seems to stem.

Ultimately, the true message of feminism is NOT to turn against men, but to fight for equality — everyone’s equality. Men should not be downtrodden or denigrated because of it; on the contrary, the original aim of all feminism, according to Tong, was ultimately to liberate females from any sort of patriarchal grasp and then proceed to elevate them to the status of males. But (and this is more hypothetical than anything) that was never supposed to be accomplished by simultaneously wiping out males from all facets of society and ridding them of all social influence, while elevating all females onto pedestals and inflating their egos by making them out to be more than what they really are due to the very fact that they are female. Each gender was to be on the same level as the other. Females still need to work to attain wealth, status, education, power, etc., just as males have always had to work for these same assets. However, this does not seem to be the message as of late. 
Therefore, how can one possibly call oneself a feminist if they say that they hate men, all while trying to raise themselves above them, at the same time? It just doesn’t add up…

With all this in mind, the following question begs to be asked, although not necessarily answered — at least, not without some serious and lengthy contemplation beforehand: Have these “alternative” waves of modern “feminism” led to the rise of counter-culture, anti-feminist, and even misogynistic movements — such as Men’s Rights Activists (MRAs) and MGTOW, or “men going their own way?”

As MGTOW is gaining ground and traction, numerous men are finally choosing to “go their own way” because of what they perceive to be “feminism” and the ideals for which it seems to advocate; but really, what they so often see portrayed in the media and all around them is actually just misandrism in disguise. However, this sort of feminism has been viewed by many men as a subliminal means to an end — and that has nothing to do with actual female empowerment. Here, it seems that the goal is to elevate women over men, boost their egos with continuous “empowerment” rhetoric to the point that they feel entitled to only the best kind of man and life possible, and have them believe that they are flawless just the way they are, simply because they were born female. This isn’t really feminism, though. These sort of women often go on to expect nothing but the best and refuse to settle for anything less, but they are often the very ones who are hesitant and even adamant about incorporating some of the values of the various offshoots of the first- and second-wave feminist movements to their advantage (often because they don’t even know what they entail), in order to actually better themselves and make themselves worthy of the best kind of man, if they so desire one. Men are often held to such a standard by women, likewise, as they are expected to go out of their way to transform themselves into the epitome of “Mr. Right,” so it’s only fair. Moreover, many of these same women settle for less with themselves, first and foremost, instead of actually trying their best to live an independent life, make a career for themselves, and become self-sufficient, before going out in desperation to find a man and expecting one to automatically show up on their door-step simply for the sake of their being a “feminist” and a “strong, independent woman.”

Actions speak louder than words, and if such women vehemently assert being strong and self-sufficient, yet have little to show for it aside from misery at being perpetually single and failing at finding a man, then there’s not much of a point in claiming any such thing at all. They just use the guise of modern feminism to lay the blame upon men when they realize that they are not viewed as desirable for some reason, without objectively attempting to get to the root of the problem, which might actually have been within them, all along. Let’s not be fooled — this sort of “feminism” in no way functions as “female empowerment,” but instead, it is female entitlement, plain and simple. Indeed, a lot of MGTOW-ers seem to believe that feminism goes hand-in-hand with making women more entitled and self-righteous. This, in turn, only serves to paint all feminists in the same negative light, which is unfair to those feminists who are actually nothing like that. This is also why some men have come to believe that most females are inherently different by nature — greedy, manipulative, and deceitful. Additionally, they think that women only want men for the resources that they are capable of providing, as if they were cash cows with easy access to money available when needed, while refusing to put in any effort to make a living on their own and to take charge of their own finances; such females have come to be known colloquially as “gold-diggers.”

Here is precisely where the double-standard also comes in: men have always naturally been expected to have their lives together, to have enough resources to serve as the provider in traditional relationships, and to have something to show for all their actions, effort, and work. However, true feminists should realize that if they are on a level playing field with men, they must now be held accountable to these very same standards. Being a female with female genitalia just doesn’t cut it anymore for some folks, especially if women want to be regarded as equals and taken seriously in the workforce. Using sex as bartering power doesn’t necessarily adhere to the values of being a respectable and serious career woman nowadays, so it is no longer a wise idea for those women who rely on that alone to work in their favor, if necessary. Men, too, have the right to want an independent, goal-oriented, and successful woman who actually leads her own life and has something to show for it, without relying on male validation to further herself and her happiness.

Since society’s current version of feminism seems somewhat warped and skewed to the advantage of these sort of “feminists,” it should come as no surprise that it has received backlash from men who feel that it’s degrading — they claim that society has become gynocentric to the extreme and has turned against them. Some claim that now being called a “cis white male” can almost be seen as a liability, and some have taken it so far as to call themselves “meninists,” which goes more in line with MRA ideology (check out the VICE article “This Group of Straight Men Is Swearing Off Women”). Similar to all the “feminists” who are fervent misandrists and generally do not seem to like the whole concept of male existence, these meninists join their own ranks — those of their misogynistic brethren. While some of these claims are quite debatable, to say the least, and a few of these notions might be deemed as quite radical, the MGTOW movement does hold some sensible yet bitter truths to swallow, nevertheless. It urges men to “take the red pill” and to wake up from the socially- and culturally-constructed illusion that relationships are a must, that women are necessary for a man’s happiness, and that all females are sincere, kind, loyal, and caring; it proclaims that being married and having a family are NOT the be-all, end-all, and that is definitely a very fair point worth underscoring. It encourages males to go their own way not only for self-preservation, but also to be able to focus on their own success, happiness, and achievements in life first and foremost, all of which I believe are actually excellent and levelheaded concepts to consider, even for authentic feminists.

Logically, this is why so many men are deciding for themselves — once and for all — that they have had enough of any sort of interaction with women altogether, and they start to view females in a completely new light. For many of them, their past experiences with females have all been the same — largely negative, unpleasant, and disheartening, while they’re still forced to come to terms with the fact that a female might only get with a male for the actual resources he has to offer. So they begin to learn how many modern socio-culturally-shaped relationships actually end up working. Many come to the realization that feminism nowadays is like a double-edged sword: women fight and contend to receive equality when it is most convenient and when it works to their ultimate advantage, but in all other situations when men have “traditionally” been expected to take on the role of the dominant and wealthy provider, catering to a woman’s needs, wants, and wishes, many women draw back and continue to expect that men will follow suit and rise to the occasion, whether it be to pay the entirety of the bill after a meal on the first date, share their hard-earned funds, or lavish them with luxurious gifts and spoil them rotten. Women continue to want and “need” a “real” gentleman, when in reality, society has changed and largely departed from those dated customs of chivalry and devout commitment. Many modern men actually believe that feminism has removed the practicality of and need for male chivalry. They see the majority of women as manipulators who use their “female privilege” as it suits them, and who are out to exploit and get one thing from them, ultimately — and that is their resources, and what they are able to provide for them, so they are learning their lessons the hard way and starting to avoid females entirely.

However, with the more or less progressive ways in which many Westernized societies are now structured, there is really no justification for women to keep acting in such a voracious manner, especially when many of them have such a myriad assortment of tools and opportunities right at their fingertips to become proficient and self-sustaining career women — all with the help of real feminism, of course. The first two waves of feminism have considerably paved the way for modern women and enabled them to get to the point at which they are now. For example, as Tong points out, females such as the highly-influential Suffragists believed women needed suffrage “in order to become men’s equals,” which was their ultimate dream; it would also enable them to change the “systems, structures, and attitudes” that had contributed to their oppression — and even now, that phrase rings true, even for more contemporary waves of feminism. Modern women in Western countries have a plethora of freedoms today — so much so that it’s at a historically unprecedented rate. There is certainly still a ways to go in some aspects that are decidedly relevant and applicable to women everywhere, and these include issues such as equally promoting STEM-related education and career opportunities among males and females, ensuring safe, affordable, and accessible reproductive care for anyone who may need it, and legislating abortion as a simple medical procedure like any other, without allowing the hackneyed issues of morality, ethics, and religion to encroach upon the issues of female bodies and female health for the umpteenth time.

Despite some undeniable delays and setbacks in those and related regards, Western women are still at a significant advantage to those who actually live in exceptionally dominant patriarchal societies and cultures; it could almost be said that Western feminists come from a position of privilege, even, with all the civil rights and liberties that are already available to women in their societies, yet not many of them actually seem to realize it. And many more, still, seem to be exploiting the authentic message of feminism for what it does not actually stand for, focusing on such insignificant and petty issues that it’s almost laughable. In fact — and this especially holds true with third-wave feminists — many modern feminists “fail to recognize the vulnerability and victimization of women far less advantaged than they are,” according to Tong, which is where more of their concerns really should be focused. Additionally, she highlights the important fact that although women in the US and many other developed countries may be more equal and free than they were 25–50 years ago, “women in developing nations live in conditions more oppressive than even those conditions that challenged first-wave US feminists at the turn of the 19th century” (Tong). This glaring contrast can be stressed by the ludicrous nature of some of the complaints modern feminists have for men here in the US; for example, to illustrate this point, in one YouTube video interview of a certain contemporary feminist named Gabby Dunn, she goes on to state how it is always necessary for males to obtain consent from females whenever they are passing them in the street and would like to offer a simple greeting to them, such as saying “hello.” I am not sure what she managed to accomplish with this comical segment, nor am I sure of what sort of “feminism” this could even be considered, apart from evidently making it appear as though today’s feminists have suddenly morphed into fragile, delicate, and easily frightened beings who are constantly harassed by males in every shape and form, and who are also unfit to handle the basic demands of society and daily life. Is this just some sort of temporary regression into the Victorian Era of excessive purity and modesty, or a complete backtracking of the basic ideals of feminism? Aren’t women supposed to be men’s equals? I’m positive women in less privileged countries have far greater everyday challenges to overcome.

It’s worth noting that many contemporary societies possess values, norms, and ideologies quite different from the societies of yesteryear, which were much more heavily patriarchal and male-dominated. This, in and of itself, is actually a very good thing. Females should be free to make decisions for themselves, and they should be free to break away from traditional socially-constructed gender roles and standards — as should males. Females shouldn’t be required to settle down and start a family, and many can lead enjoyable, fulfilling, and self-sustaining lives independently, just as well. Many more just need to come to that breakthrough realization. Males have every right to do the same, and it seems to have often been more acceptable for them to do so, although many still seem to be eager to settle down with women, all red-pill rhetoric notwithstanding. Regardless, most individuals living in Western societies have choices and freedoms regarding the lifestyle they want to live. Indeed, with these sort of advantageous contemporary values, women have the kind of power they have never experienced before: they can now employ these principles to their benefit to be able to “go their own way,” as well. While they should refrain from engaging in the sort of misandry typically found amongst many modern “feminists” and try to circumvent the hostility displayed by some MGTOW-ers, they are free to essentially live the kind of lives they may want to make for themselves. Especially for those who don’t want a man in the picture, this arrangement can work out very well.

Of course, however, this is where discord arises, as this is a concept that even many authentic feminists and some MGTOW “red-pillers” alike seem to resent, ironically. It’s not even really that apparent whether many women would actually be open to embracing such a lifestyle. As previously mentioned, many females often desire equality when it works in their favor — they want a level of independence similar to that of men, but at the same time, they also want to find and keep a man as a sort of back-up provider who would be willing to help fund their carefree lifestyles, in addition to one who would be willing to help them out financially in the long run, take care of them physically and emotionally, and perhaps even settle down with them once they’re ready for it. Many women, even as feminists, seem to want the best of both worlds — they wish for independence and wealth, but they also hunger for marriage, stability, and access to resources, which naturally stem from innate biological drives.

Furthermore, while many males who have taken the MGTOW route seem resolute and content with their decision, quite a number of women seem to behave counterintuitively, bashing men while actually secretly craving their attention and hoping to get married at some point. However, “cherry-picking” the right kind of equality that works best for females is one of the areas in which feminism, in general, is often criticized and eventually appears to backfire. Males — in many societies — are still often expected to adhere to some baseline of socially-constructed standards, regardless. There are expectations for them to be met. But those who are fervidly against feminism argue that women are often let off the hook in this regard, due to how feminism has often positioned them within society. It doesn’t appear fair whenever they are at an advantage simply due to female privilege, and I would say that could be considered one of feminism’s greatest downfalls to this day: the failure of ensuring genuine equality between the genders in the long run, after so much effort has been put into attaining it, in the first place. Someone almost always seems to get the short end of the stick, no matter the circumstances.

Looking back again, I can see why the stranger with whom I’d met up was that apprehensive regarding my position on this issue. Many things are assumed right from the get-go about someone who boldly states that they are a feminist, even before anyone has had a chance to actually get to know the feminist as a character and a person. Now, being a feminist has also taken on a whole new meaning in society — or rather, an entire array of different meanings, depending on who you ask. And while such judgement isn’t necessarily justified nor pleasant, it seems largely inevitable now. Misinformation about the movement, what it encompasses, and what it strives for has become very easy to spread — and even easier to believe, especially when there are so many sources out there spouting contradictory information. One can never really know if they’ve run into the kind of feminist who claims to be a “feminist,” yet shamelessly judges everyone else around them, gets offended at the slightest mention of any “inappropriate” or politically-incorrect content, and slanders all males, or the kind of feminist who is realistic, open-minded, and reasonable, and who doesn’t believe that gender or any other such arbitrary factors determine whether or not someone is genuinely a good person.

Nevertheless, in this day and age, I don’t think that there is just one rigid, unyielding, and inflexible definition of a feminist and what it means to be one. Especially as time goes on and social movements continue fading in and out of popularity and relevance, we are likely to keep seeing new movements, campaigns, causes, and crusades unfold before us. Undoubtedly, there are some general guidelines and core values vital to the actual unadulterated movement of feminism, and they are feasible and can apply to everyone, because, theoretically, practically anyone can be an authentic feminist. It’s just that far from everyone embraces these values, either due to personal convictions or stark disillusionment with what it’s actually begun to represent, and not everyone wants to be classified as a feminist, including ardent MGTOW-ers and other like-minded groups who have begun to see feminism as synonymous with misandry and female entitlement. Otherwise, beyond that baseline, it’s ultimately up to each individual to decide for themselves and to transform themselves into the best version of the feminist that they can be, if that is what they truly desire.