Lately, Rush Limbaugh has been in the news for calling a young woman a slut because she testified in front of Congress that she should be allowed access to birth control pills and that it should be covered by her insurance. As The Week nicely recaps, Limbaugh said, ”What does that make her?…It makes her a slut, right? It makes her a prostitute. She wants to be paid to have sex. She’s having so much sex she can’t afford contraception. She wants you and me and the taxpayers to pay her to have sex.”
The really interesting thing, though, is that all of this has inspired Limbaugh to bring back one of his old stand-bys – the word Feminazi.
What is a Feminazi?
Of course, our sage online resource, Wikipedia, offers a detailed definition of this word, which Limbaugh kindly introduced back in 1992:
“Limbaugh also stated that the word refers to unspecified women whose goal is to allow as many abortions as possible, saying at one point that there were fewer than 25 “true feminazis” in the U.S. Limbaugh has used the term to refer to members of the National Center for Women and Policing, the Feminist Majority Foundation, the National Organization for Women, and other organizations at the March for Women’s Lives, a large pro-choice demonstration.
As so often happens with words that are deemed catchy, Feminazi eventually became synonymous with any woman who stood up strongly for equal rights. Women asking for equal pay were, with this one word, placed on an equal plane with Valerie Solanas of SCUM Manifesto fame, who wrote that the male race should be eliminated.
Now, according to a blog written by Malia Litman, Limbaugh said on his show:
“So, Ms. Fluke and the rest of you feminazis, here’s the deal: If we are going to pay for your contraceptives and thus pay for you to have sex, we want something for it. And I’ll tell you what it is. We want you to post the videos online so we can all watch.”
Classy. And severely disturbing.
The many, many problems with the word Feminazi
Of course, most people know who the Nazis were. Even the people who claim the Holocaust never happened still have a general idea of what the word “Nazi” means. So, you know that using a word like “Feminazi” is going to carry pretty strong connotations right off the bat. A lot is insinuated. A woman dubbed thusly wants to wipe out all mankind. She is merciless, cruel, heartless, soulless, etc.
Historically, the first problem we have is that the Nazis targeted women during the Holocaust along with so many others, so equating women to the Nazis is historically bunk. But that’s really the least of our problems.
First, the use of the word Feminazi is highly and immediately dismissive. Once a woman is called a Feminazi, it’s going to be difficult for her to get her point across. After all, would you take to heart something said by a person called a Feminazi? The word is a linguistic version of plugging your ears and saying, “I can’t hear you, na na na foo foo.”
Second, the word indicates a sort of infantile view of the world, right? “Oh, you want equal treatment, therefore you hate me.” For most women (I dare say, though I haven’t done a survey) we like men pretty well. Most of ‘em, anyway. It’s just, ya know, if we do the same job, we want to get paid the same amount of money. We want to have the ability to live as we want and not have society refer to us as cat ladies or whatever else people come up with. We’d like to be able to voice our opinions and not be called sluts. That would be rad. But that doesn’t mean we hate men. That doesn’t mean that we think men should board a ship headed towards nowhere.
It’s not just Feminazi
Of course, there are lots of other ways that women get dismissed. “It must be her time of the month” is a common one. “She’s just getting emotional.” You’ve heard these before, I’m sure. The real question though is why this keeps happening, not the what. We know the what, obviously. But why do conversations about equality or, say, the female reproductive system, revert into conversations about how women are being irrational? Is it possible that women sometimes come across as too shrill? Is it possible that too much emotion gets into the conversation because women often are wired that way? Are men really that intimidated?
I’d love to hear your thoughts on this. Speak away!
Image Credit: http://www.flickr.com/photos/cphotos/3181201118/ via Creative Commons