'Cuz yet another anti-feminist, this time Rush Limbaugh, has declared that feminism may be "dead."
His evidence is a Super Scientific article in the conservative Washington Times, which cites a poll of Internet users stating that 28% of Americans identified as feminists. Nevermind that 57% of respondents would identify as feminist when presented with the "dictionary definition" of the term, today I want to observe how this declaring of feminism to be "dead" happens from time to time and perhaps infer some lessons from it all.
The claim about feminism being dead is never, first and foremost, a reflection of reality.
That seems weird to have to say, but I think maybe some anti-feminists don't really.... get that? Or, do people exist who actually believe that Rush Limbaugh, or any anti-feminist, has the power to erase feminism, let alone actual feminists who actually live in the real world, from existence just by saying it aloud?
The claim about feminism being dead is a fantasy. A wish. A dream. Nothing more. And purveyors of it seem to be unwilling or incapable of distinguishing between reality and their own imaginations.
Yeah yeah yeah, who cares, I know. It's just Rush Being Rush.
However, whether we like it not, he and his viewpoint are influential. Rush has certainly done much to stigmatize feminism and feminists, I agree with him there as he proudly boasted about it, with his long history of using his large platform to feed into white (especially) male (especially) anger, entitlement, and false sense of victimhood. His audience and small-time bloggers take their cues from him. Take, for instance, the Christian male blogger who doesn't actually know anything about feminism, but who loves referring us as "hairy-legged feministas" and "abortion lustists."
The Illusory Superiority with which he influences is, of course, so typical of anti-feminsts that it's not even all that fascinating (indeed, why women might be fans of his, let alone married to him, fascinates me much more than Rush himself or his rhetoric does). But alas, I do enjoy pointing out the self-indulgent, cartoonish stereotypes about feminists that anti-feminists like Rush continually draw. It's like, hmmm, whenever they talk about feminism, what hodge-podge will they throw at the wall to see what sticks?
So, the first lesson here is that the way a person characterizes (or generalizes about) feminism is a good indicator, to me, of their knowledge of the field.
In his latest screed on feminism, for instance, Rush shows how he oh so truly has his finger on the pulse of modern feminism by citing "bra-burners," referencing Gloria Steinem, and fantasizing about How Very Angry they/we must be about this poll.
What next, is he going to call us lesbians who worship Valeria Solanas? I mean, the nuance is just so lacking, his rhetoric so unserious, and yet, such a man is one we are supposed to take seriously as having insight into the ups and downs of feminism these days?
Ha ha ha, okay.
I've said it before and I'll say it again, the biggest failing of many anti-feminists isn't that they critique feminism or think it's stupid, it's that they don't bother to understand or learn about feminism well enough to render adequate critiques of it in the first place.
I mean, from whence did Rush even glean his knowledge about feminism? Which feminist texts has he read? Which feminist blogs does he read? Which feminists does he regularly engage, so he can be kept honest in his "counter"-arguments? Can he find anything redeeming about any aspect of feminism, or is the entirety of it so very threatening to him that he has to lazily and wholesale dismiss the entire field?
His comments, not only this latest but also his previous, about feminism, suggest to me that his "knowledge" about feminism is incredibly superficial, not nuanced, and largely caricatured. As much anti-feminist commentary is, I'll add.
I've been in or seen so many conversations with anti-feminists who will casually offer a mansplanation along the lines of, "Feminists who believe in gender rolls [sic] would probably call me patriarchist, or whatever." So, I guess another lesson here is that it can be somewhat productive to directly call the ignorance, so at least the ignorance is highlighted.
For, when I've asked such folks to elaborate upon their knowledge base regarding actual feminist works, as opposed to MRA interpretations of such works or Wikipedia summaries, such folks are often stopped in their tracks (*cricket cricket cricket*).
Lastly, when we consider this Illusory Superiority and the nonchalant way that ignorant people nonetheless feel so entitled and competent to dismiss an entire field and get away with it, it becomes apparent how truly privileged and rewarded the anti-feminist viewpoint is. Like, people - men and women alike - have built really successful careers out of doing it.
Indeed, while feminists are oft accused of Just Making Shit Up in pursuit of social engineering, political correctness, and turning men into arch villains, those accusations actually start to look a lot like an enormously successful bit of unexamined projection on the part of many anti-feminists.
Related: So, You Want To Teach the Lady Feminists?