The ubiquity of the term ‘Feminazi’, in recent public discourse, disturbing crystallises the prevalent opposition to principles of gender equality. The term itself, coined in the 1990s by Rush Limbaugh, is both ignorant and offensive, conflating an ideology aimed at achieving equality, with one universally condemned for its racism, anti-Semitism and homophobia.
The furore surrounding Charlotte Proudman, a barrister who publicly outed a male lawyer who had sent her a sexist comment on the professional network LinkedIn, is demonstrative of the attrition faced by feminists who are deemed as going ‘too far’. The Daily Mail, who labelled her ‘the Feminazi barrister’, has fuelled the barrage of abuse aimed at Proudman, even digging up an irrelevant story of her grandmother, and postulating in one article from where her feminism may have been “spurred”.
What is most puzzling, is that while so many grasp the problem of sexism, so few modify their behaviour accordingly. The male lawyer in this instance, Alexander Carter-Silk, acknowledged his wrongdoing before carrying it out nonetheless: “I appreciate that this is probably horrendously politically incorrect, but that is a stunning picture.” Similarly, Donald Trump’s comments on the face of his only female Republican candidate: “Look at that face! Would anyone vote for that?” Equally, his inappropriate ‘apology’ – “I think she’s got a beautiful face” – reflect a flawed attitude towards sexism in modern public discourse.
Another professional, senior scientific adviser Sir Tim Hunt, made a sexist remark about female scientists, commenting that in the lab “they fall in love with you, and when you criticise them, they cry”, about which his (scientist) wife strongly defended him. While his actions provoked strong castigation, namely his forced resignation from a post at UCL, lamentably, Hunt’s demise is anomalous in a society dominated by voices of sexism.
When the question arises as to whether Proudman was justified in her public censure of Carter-Silk, or whether his comment was as heinously sexist as she claims, the term ‘Feminazi’ is legitimised by some through her ‘authoritarian’ form of feminism.
It would be insensitive to deny that there exists a spectrum of sexist behaviour, ranging from online comments about physical appearance to sexual assault or genital mutilation, however, it would be folly to consequently deny the ‘less significant’ cases any clout. In doing so, the entire feminist cause is undermined, because unless it is all-encompassing, the movement will lack unity or coherence.
Indeed, in the Western world, we must focus on examples of everyday sexism such as that encountered by Proudman, in order to establish a secure basis for more challenging forms of sexism faced in other parts of the world. It is clear that sexism must be dealt with on various levels, from those participating in public discourse, to the people that they canww influence.
Regrettably, the term ‘Feminazi’ abounds, as more and more young women are labelled as such when they eschew ‘traditional’ ideas in lieu of having sex while on a period, or allowing body hair to grow naturally. Remarkably, a comedienne at the Edinburgh fringe, Kirsty Mac, felt inspired to name her show ‘Feminazi’, but this rare ownership of the term will not, and should not prevail.
Feminism should not be alligned with this demeaning term. Ironically, the movement’s war against sexism is most definitely not a Hitlerian Blitzkrieg. Every step in the right direction, like that of Charlotte Proudman’s outing, wins a modest battle in a brutal, protracted war.