The word feminazi has been spreading in the last decades as a way of referring in a somewhat ambiguous way to women who believe in the superiority of their sex over men and who want to impose themselves on men by using totalitarian practices.
So far, and regardless of whether there is anyone worthy of the appellation “feminazi”, this seems to be just another word among the many that have been invented recently, but its existence is not accidental.
The idea to which the word feminazi refers is formed by a set of clichés about feminists. It is a journalistic invention that responds to a smear campaign directed against feminism from conservative political positions. Thus, an attempt has been made to create a discourse in which feminists remain associated with Nazism .
For this they have the invaluable help of stereotypes and heuristic thinking, two elements that are very much taken into account in political propaganda and social psychology .
Beyond individual cases
The meaning of the term feminazi may change from time to time, and what it refers to may exist to a greater extent depending on the context. Are there women who think they are superior to men? Considering the number of people who inhabit planet Earth, it would be risky to say no.
However, before judging the existence of this word positively or negatively, we must take into account that if it is used today, it is very possible that, rather than referring to a specific person, we are referring to a whole political movement… relating it to Nazism. In fact, this word feminazi was devised in the 90s to delegitimize not specific people, but feminism, and the legacy of its meaning is still alive today. Why? Because the word feminazi has its roots in a campaign of discredit towards feminists that is more than 100 years old.
The use of generalizations and clichés is constant in our day-to-day life. Moreover, it is tremendously difficult to detect when we are falling into this type of intellectual slippage because they are part of the realm of heuristic thinking, a mode of thinking that is automatic and requires practically no effort.
Often these stereotypes are due to ignorance or intellectual laziness, but in other cases there are political motivations behind these topics. The case of feminists is a clear example of this.
In Western countries, the feminist movement consolidated itself as a political agent at the end of the 19th century to demand the right to vote for women . This is a demand that today seems so legitimate that its questioning produces immediate repulsion, but a century ago it was something totally revolutionary that set off all the alarms in a stablishment controlled by men. It was at that time that public opinion began to be fed with propaganda against the suffragettes who were demanding equality of vote.
Thus, the United States saw posters and cartoons published in which the feminists of the time are described as cruel women with masculine features, with totalitarian desires whose main aspiration was to subjugate men, something that totally coincides with the (somewhat diffuse) concept of feminazi. All this, let us remember, for campaigning for the right to vote.
A close look at the propaganda pieces that pepper the pro- and anti-feminist debate of the time reveals that the stereotypes associated with the idea of what some people today call “the feminazi” have not changed at all since suffragettes claimed the right to vote in the late 19th and early 20th centuries.
Stereotypes related to the feminazi concept
What is curious is not that feminists were accused of behaving the way men behaved at the time, but that these stereotypes are still in force today, associated with a type of person who is sometimes called a feminazi to denote a mysterious connection with totalitarianism and extermination. Here we can see how the posters from the time of the suffragettes show characteristics that are still present in today’s memes and comic strips.
Ugly and cruel women
To associate ugliness with evil is something so common in propaganda that it is one of the most constant laws in the caricaturization and discrediting of the political rival. Whoever wants to communicate moral turpitude, has enough to do with drawing irregular teeth, big and bulging noses and frowns.
They want to dominate the man
Of course, one attribute that is implicit in the word feminazi is the will to impose oneself on others. However, this cliché has existed long before the invention of the word. One hundred years ago, women suffragettes were described as wanting to take away gender roles and privileges from men, neglecting household chores and, in general, domestic chores.
Today it is not so common to see such paradoxical criticisms of feminism (previously they were accused of doing exactly the same thing as men, although the emphasis was on the unnaturalness of women dominating the relationship), but the assumption that feminists are intolerant and authoritarian is still present.
The accusation of wanting to look like men is common in campaigns against feminism. It is understood that feminists transgress gender roles related to the idea of “the feminine”, and this is also carried to the aesthetic as if it were something negative.
Misuse of sexuality
Traditionally, women have been seen to make similar use of their sexuality to men as manipulators prone to using their body to achieve their own ends. From this perspective, almost any characteristic of women that can be associated with sex and that has nothing to do with the creation of a family is portrayed as belonging to women with a low moral profile, both 100 years ago and today.
It is a logic that is often used to attack feminists, who have a view of female sexuality that goes far beyond the family.
They are feminists because of their hatred of men
Very often, caricaturizations about feminist women refer to the central role that men play in the “conversion” of some women to feminism. In this way, the motivations of women activists are attributed to an inability to relate adequately to men. The feminazi concept fits well with this stereotype, since German National Socialism fed on a totally irrational contempt for some groups labelled as races.
These simple examples are part of a social situation that is much more complex than can be seen in simple caricatures, but they can serve to give us an idea of the context in which the term feminazi appears. Its meaning can be totally different in a few decades, but that does not take away from the fact that it has been put into circulation with a clear political objective in which psychology and a situation of change in favour of women’s rights come into play.