Our patriarchal society constantly uses certain words to shut women down. Women are called “bitches” or “bossy” while demonstrating assertiveness and leadership skills. We’re a “slut” when we say “yes”, and “friend-zoning” when we say “no”. And when we’re outspoken about feminism? We’re a “feminazi”.
This is an excellent argument-winner I’m hearing more and more lately. What proves your point of view more than comparing a social activist you disagree with to a genocidal racist? Hitler totally wanted access to birth control and safe, legal abortions! It’s a little known fact that the Nazi party walked on Take Back the Night marches and volunteered for shelters for abused women. Advocating gender equality is essentially a war crime, anyway. So why bother having legitimate, thoughtful discourse backed with facts and examples of personal experiences when you can simply hurl this bad boy instead?
In all seriousness, this word is constructed to paint feminists as “extreme”, “violent”, “unreasonable”, and “hateful”. It doesn’t contribute to any kind of conversation. It’s used when the speaker cannot find anything better to say. Name-calling is only ever employed as a last resort. It’s just not good rhetoric. There are plenty of other strategically dismissive words used against women that are designed to put us on the defensive. In August 2012, Helen Lewis expressed on twitter that “The comments on any article on feminism justify feminism.” It’s often referred to as Lewis’ Law. I argue that a word like ‘feminazi’ justifies feminism in the same manner.
It’s also incredibly insensitive in several obvious ways. Although the Holocaust may seem like a piece of ancient past, there are still millions of people it affects today. Verbally diminishing something so devastating only perpetuates further violence and ignorance. The word “Nazi” should be exclusively used for actual Nazis.
This tactic isn’t just used to counter feminism. Ever heard the word “grammarnazi”? It’s just as unkind and inappropriate. Calling someone a “grammarnazi” may show that you are frustrated with them, but it lead anywhere positive. It isn’t a respectful way to approach someone. I’ve heard people call one another “cleaningnazi”, “hygenenazi”, “gamingnazi”, “honor code-nazi”, etc. Imagine how that word feels on the receiving end.
What are your experiences with this kind of insult? How do you respond?
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