In doing research for her new book, Canadian author Lauren McKeon discovered something shocking: people are abandoning feminism at an alarming rate. Now, feminism has always met with resistance from certain groups, even groups consisting of and including women. McKeon’s book F-Bomb: Dispatches from the War on Feminism explains the logic behind women resisting feminism, and what that means at this moment in history.
McKeon identified that two major resisters to feminism were anti-feminists and post-feminists. Anti-feminists see feminism as stripping away what it is to be a woman. They say that modern feminism has cheapened motherhood and femininity, and they call for a return to being wives and mothers and embracing traditional womanhood. This is problematic on a number of levels, because as many feminist writings would point out: womanhood and femininity are both constructs based in sexism. But as McKeon found, this is a commonly-held stance.
Post-feminists (which McKeon groups in as a type of anti-feminist in her book) are less opposed to feminism than they are indifferent to it, or believe it is archaic. Many of the women McKeon talked to thought that the feminist agenda had been completed and so the movement is no longer required. You got your vote and you got your birth control, what more do you want?
As McKeon points out in an article she wrote about her research process: ‘Attacks on reproductive rights were becoming increasingly successful. Backlash simmered against survivors and anti-rape advocates. Gamergate was helping to build a battleground against women in technology. The men’s rights movement and its rhetoric had lurched into the mainstream. ‘ All these things and dozens more point to gender inequality, a clear sign that feminism’s work isn’t over. Plus, you know, Donald Trump.
McKeon describes her initial skepticism when interacting with anti-feminists, but ultimately wrote F-Bomb to share their side, while offering her own commentary. As she writes, ‘isn’t feminism about making the space for more women to be heard?’
She also suggests that perhaps feminism needs a re-branding. It’s become a trend in the past five years or so to plaster ‘FEMINIST’ on things while the real work of the movement is still taboo. It’s cool to throw on a Forever 21 shirt that says ‘Girls just want to have fun-damental rights,’ but it’s not as cool to actually talk about the gender pay gap. That’s why McKeon suggests we need another word to describe this equal rights movement.
She acknowledges the problems there too, because modern feminism builds on centuries of women’s resistance. We can’t discount that history because we can mass produce clothing now.
McKeon says her book is meant to offer another point of view, and then leave the issue open for people to talk about it, and even disagree with her. She’s opening up a conversation, another thing that feminism has been about all along.