I am a feminist.
I believe that men and women deserve full legal equality. I believe that the overwhelming majority of differences that can be observed between the genders in this culture are social constructs, and that forcing people into those boxes is harmful to them and to society as a whole.
Unfortunately, when I self-identify as a feminist, I have to defend that identification. I'm called upon to answer for every sexist, bigoted, or ill thought out statement ever made by anyone who's described themselves using that label. I have to clarify, "I'm not like those feminists."
The thing is, I don't like referring to those feminists as feminists at all. People who espouse sexist and gender essentialist views not only fail to fit my definition of feminists, but they are at the polar opposite of what it means to be a feminist.
I've seen feminism defined in any number of ways. Some of them would preclude sexists from the word go, while others would be welcoming. To take one example I see frequently, "the radical notion that women are people," has nothing present to bar sexists from operating under that flag. So long as you hold that view, you're qualified to be a feminist, regardless of how narrowly you define the word "women" and regardless of whether you think anyone other than women are people.
So, how does one address the presence of sexists who claim membership in a movement for social justice and equality? What do you call someone who uses the label of feminist, but doesn't care one whit for equal rights? Do those of us who care about equal rights just stand back and let misandrists sully the name of a legitimately positive social movement?
Which brings me to the title. I've seen individuals flying a false flag of feminism in an attempt to legitimize or deflect criticism of their sexist positions. And I've seen those selfsame misandrists called "feminazis".
The word feminazi was coined by Rush Limbaugh, and he has used it as a pejorative in reference to all major feminist organizations. But I would contend that the meaning has shifted. In every instance I've encountered the word "feminazi" in the wild, it was never being used to refer to the movement as a whole. It has always, in my experience, been a term used to identify individuals who claim to be feminists, but who display sexist attitudes.
And every time I see the term used in response to sexism displayed by the self-identified feminist, the discourse changes. Other feminists act as though their honor has been insulted, and immediately move to set the record straight on what feminism is all about. These feminists clearly and unambiguously state that feminism is about equal rights and treating women as people. And they are right to be offended. The problem is that they're offended by the person who used the word "feminazi" to attack the sexist instead of being offended that the sexist asshole was misrepresenting the movement in the first place.
Even if you believe the word feminazi is as unsalvageable as the word nigger, that doesn't change the fact that there are a lot of sexists of both genders out there. That's sort of why we need feminism in the first place. And when sexists use false claims to be feminists in order to shield themselves from criticism, that is a problem. When those false claims aren't called out, or worse when the people making them are defended, it makes it seem as though we reasonable feminists agree with the toxic views put forward by those individuals.
Now personally, I don't use the term feminazi anymore. I find "misandrist asshole" is usually more than sufficient for the majority of cases. And it keeps the well intentioned feminists in the audience from feeling the need to defend the honor of feminism from me instead of from the sexist jackass misappropriating the label.