By Madeline Thomson
High School Girl: “Wow, Malala Yousafzai is really cool! She’s fighting for girls’ education—go feminism!”
High School Boy: “So would you say you are a feminist?”
High School Girl: “Of course! Aren’t you?”
High School Boy: “Uh, no. So, are you a feminist, or a Femi-Nazi?”
The word Femi-Nazi is used to describe a “feminist” who thinks that women are above men. The word is used by both men and women who often wish to criticize those who are “extreme feminists.” It is effective in discrediting feminists because no one wants to be compared to a Nazi! The term was popularized by Rush Limbaugh in 2010, and has become commonly used both online and in real life. The entire situation that has created the use of this term is filled with some serious misunderstandings and issues.
Firstly, let’s define some terms. A feminist is someone who believes that men and women are equal; a misogynist is someone who believes that men are better than women, and a misandrist is someone who believes that women are better than men. Misandrists are often called “radical feminists,” or Femi-Nazis. Misandrists may also call themselves feminists, but that doesn’t mean that misandrist and feminist are interchangeable terms.
Secondly, let’s address the obvious issue with the term Femi-Nazi: it’s the Nazi part. Femi-Nazi combines the words “Feminist” and “Nazi.” Not only is this a contradiction in terms–as Hitler was vocally anti-feminist–but most significantly, Nazism led to the Holocaust, which was the slaughter of millions of people, whereas Feminism is the fight for gender equality, and does not advocate killing anyone. I talked about this concept to a boy in my class who shall remain nameless, and he told me that I was wrong because “Nazism was a political party, not the Holocaust.” While he was technically correct, it is not in question that the policies enacted under Nazism led directly to the genocide of millions of Jews and other enemies of Nazism. When the word Femi-Nazi is used, the speaker is not calling someone a Feminist Member of the National Socialist German Workers’ Party. They are using a globally stigmatized term to criticize feminism in a cowardly way by comparing it to the thought system that led to the Holocaust. Not only is this offensive to feminists, because their fight is for equality, but it is offensive to Holocaust survivors and victims to casually use the term Nazi to discredit someone or some system of belief that they don’t like.
Finally, the derision of the term “feminist” should stop. If I talk about gender equality to anyone I know, the first question is almost always, “Oh, are you some sort of hardcore feminist?” I usually counter with “Are you not a feminist? Do you not think men and women are equal?” Because if someone believes that men and women are equal, they are in agreement with feminist goals. After posing the question, the response I usually get is “Well, yes I think men and women are equal, but…” There should not be a second part to such a statement if the statement is true. Honestly, I’m tired of people lying about their opinions; just say it. If someone doesn’t believe in gender equality, they should own up to it. Often, the statement isn’t true, and they don’t believe in equality, but they don’t want to deal with the backlash of saying anything of the sort, so they call the other side a name like “Femi-Nazi.” This sort of dramatic name calling is a symptom of the extreme polarization of the political dialogue in our society. If we could drop the name calling, I bet we could find some common ground.