Antifeminism: Definition and Meaning

The term "antifeminism" first appeared in print in the late nineteenth century, just as the term "feminism" was becoming widely accepted. Despite attracting other schools of thought, antifeminism was politically well integrated into the body of European rights. For instance, the "father of anarchism," Pierre-Joseph Proudhon (1809–1865), a Frenchman, exposed himself to be simultaneously sexist, antifeminist, and in favour of male dominance in the middle of the nineteenth century.

The aggressively differentialist rhetoric about the sexes, whose complementary and hierarchical societal roles, in their view, was predetermined by nature and/or divine will, was what brought the antifeminists together. The social order and the destiny of humanity were seen as being at risk from any change. This declinist way of thinking was perpetuated by a strong pessimism.

Meaning of Antifeminism

The word "antifeminism" is also applied to prominent female public figures, some of whom (such as Naomi Wolf, Camille Paglia, and Katie Roiphe) identify as feminists despite opposing some or all components of feminist movements. Other feminists describe authors like Roiphe, Christina Hoff Sommers, Jean Bethke Elshtain, and Elizabeth Fox-Genovese as antifeminism due to their views on oppression and feminism's philosophical strands. Antifeminism appeals to both men and women and has taken on various meanings throughout history and across countries. Women's suffrage was opposed by some women, including those in the Women's National Anti-Suffrage League.

Antifeminism is described as "the opposition to women's equality" by men's studies expert Michael Kimmel. Antifeminists, according to him, are against "women's entry into the public sphere, the reorganisation of the private sphere, women's control of their bodies, and women's rights generally." Kimmel goes on to say that antifeminists promote their cause by relying on "religious and cultural norms," while antifeminist opponents do so by "'saving' masculinity from pollution and invasion." According to him, antifeminists view the "traditional gender division of labour as natural and inevitable, perhaps also divinely sanctioned."

History of Antifeminism in the United States

The antifeminism sentiment is not new. While many other first-wave feminists, such as Elizabeth Cady Stanton, and Susan B. Anthony, pushed for women to be granted the right to vote, a counter-movement that viewed equality as unnatural and dangerous to the status quo formed. (Interestingly, proponents of anti-marriage equality use much of the same language today.) Around 1870, a euphemistically titled pro-family movement fought against divorce in an effort to protect "traditional" family values.

An early antifeminist organization was the National League for the Protection of the Family, formerly known as the Divorce Reform League. Men and women of both sexes took part in the movement. Many female opponents of suffrage believed that being able to vote would force them to support political parties and limit their ability to carry out civic and social obligations.

Antifeminism experienced a resurgence in response to second-wave feminism. The Equal Rights Amendment (ERA), which intended to formally provide women with civil rights, sparked a significant portion of the countermovement. Phyllis Schlafly, a well-known Republican antifeminist, launched the "STOP ERA" campaign (Stop Taking Our Privileges), claiming that the Equal Rights Amendment would eliminate privileges women currently enjoy because of their gender, such as "dependent wife" benefits under Social Security and exemption from the draught.

Due to Schlafly's involvement in the countermovement, five states decided not to ratify the ERA, which may have contributed to the ERA's close defeat. With the emergence of the religious right, many antifeminist ideologies and behaviours evolved. Some individuals became involved in the cause as a result of the opposition to Roe v. Wade, which gave women the right to an abortion.

Today’s Antifeminism

At this time, opponents of the feminist movement are still reacting negatively. Recent years have seen a rise in the number of men's rights activists, a branch of the men's liberation movement, who promote anti-modern feminism messaging and contend that men are devalued by women's empowerment.

Anti-woman movements at the grassroots level have also found ground online. In the Women Against Feminism (#womenagainstfeminism) movement, anti-feminist women share photos of themselves carrying cards that explain why they disagree with contemporary feminism.

Antifeminism Around the World Leadership

Around the world, mainstream politics now contain anti-feminist language and viewpoints. For instance, President Trump has frequently expressed antifeminist views, reducing women to their appearances, making light of sexual assault, and outright dismissing the idea of feminism. Other foreign leaders who have expressed antifeminist opinions have been profiled by The Washington Post.

For example, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan asserted that being a mother is the ideal situation for women, adding, "You cannot explain this to feminists because they don't accept the concept of motherhood."

Meanwhile, in order to further a patriarchal culture and a vehemently conservative agenda, Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has come under fire for multiple violations of human rights, has appointed female anti-feminists to numerous federal positions.


Specific legislative proposals for women's rights, such as the ability to vote, access to education, property rights, and birth control, were rejected by antifeminists. Further, antifeminists recurrently opposed the abortion rights movement; they also opposed the Equal Rights Amendment in the middle and late 20th century, in the United States. However, antifeminism in the twenty-first century has occasionally been a component in violent, far-right extremist crimes.

Frequently Asked Question

Q1. Who is the biggest feminist in India?

Ans. The first school for girls in the subcontinent was founded by Savitribai Phule (1831–1917). Stri Purush Tulana by activist Tarabai Shinde (1850–1910) is regarded as the first modern Indian feminist book. Pandita Ramabai (1858–1922) was a social reformer and advocate for women's suffrage in British India.

Q2. What was the first example of an antifeminist movement?

Ans. Originally known as the Divorce Reform League, the National League for the Protection of the Family was a pioneering antifeminist organisation. Men and women of both sexes took part in the movement.

Q3. What is anti-sexist?

Ans. Anti-sexist policies are those that are opposed to or designed to discourage sexism (defined as behaviours based on the idea that members of one sex are less clever, able, etc. than members of the other sex). The group aspires to be both anti-sexist and anti-racist.

Q4. Which country has the most feminists?

Ans. Sweden. In terms of self-described feminists, Sweden is at the top of the list with 46% of its female population agreeing. Sweden's equal opportunities in employment, healthcare, and a long list of social safety safeguards are regarded as the gold standard of gender parity.

Updated on: 08-May-2023


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