In Defense Of “Angry” Feminists

AskMen really thinks of everything. Its latest tip of the hat to womankind: a column devoted to helping men navigate the murky waters around “angry feminists.” The helpful article — written by a woman! — gives guys four simple tips for dialoguing with feminists of the pissed-off kind. Among the helpful hints: don’t claim to also be a feminist; don’t talk about sex; don’t prove her right (by being a jerk); and simply just don’t bother. Notwithstanding that the article has a very poor definition of what an angry feminist is, these tips tend to reduce frustrated feminists to nothing more than irrational harpies. What, after all, might women have to be pissed off about? Could it be misogyny, sexism and daily objectification? But it also gives men a pass to dismiss any woman who expresses a feminist thought as an “angry feminist.” The better to categorize you, the easier to disregard any and every thing you have to say, am I right?

I know what you’re thinking; yes, there are women out there who are what the author describes — angry women who hate men. These women are often labeled “radical feminists” and lesbian separatists, and their ideologies are rooted in the Second Wave feminist struggle of the 1970s. And yet, rather than dismissing them and their ideas, we should be thanking them.

“Angry” feminists played a valuable role in feminism. As extreme ends of the feminism spectrum, they helped make the feminist center appear moderate and appealing. As radical feminists debated gender theory and the destruction of gender norms, the moderate Second Wave center argued for things like equal pay, child care and equal representation — all things we happily take for granted today. In short, we wouldn’t have many of our Second Wave feminist gains if it weren’t for the threat of a more radicalized feminism waiting in the wings. As the saying goes, “Well-behaved women rarely make history.” Radical feminists understood that in order to fight oppression, women needed to stop doing what they’d been doing for hundreds of years — sublimating themselves to make others feel comfortable.

Even so, the stringent angry and radical archetype is mostly retired these days. Case in point: of the quoted examples of “angry feminists” the author uses to defend her points, three of the five are DEAD. And the two living radical feminists quoted are in their 60s. So unless these guys are hanging around AARP meetings, they’re probably not encountering that many of the “angry” feminist women the author warns of. In fact, the entire discussion of radical feminist ideology — “angry” feminism in AskMen parlance — is adorably passe. This type of feminism hasn’t been particularly prevalent in feminist circles in nearly 40 years.

But that probably won’t stop AskMen’s readers and others from using radical feminism to deride all feminism. Which is perhaps the biggest problem with “angry” feminists. They unwittingly give feminism’s naysayers an object of easy ridicule and scorn. After all, “angry” feminism may not be particularly digestible, but maybe important social movements shouldn’t be. [AskMen]