Anti-Suffragette Propaganda and Its Parallel to Today's Anti-Feminist Media

By Hope Taylor

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Women chained with their mouths clamped shut; women serving as an overblown laughingstock; women painted as villains to men’s righteousness. Sounds like the imagery of extreme, barbaric anti-feminist propaganda, right? Actually, it hits home more than you think.

In the age of the suffragettes, women who fought for their right to vote (among other women’s rights) were understandably not too popular with their male counterparts. It seems silly looking back on how men could be so stubborn as to deny women a right as simple as voting.

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Propaganda has been used as a harmful tool to over inflate situations and spread irrational fear into the hearts of its victims. With the suffragette movement, it was no different. Husbands were depicted in worst-possible situations: emasculated and taking care of their own children. If women were to become suffragettes, it would apparently leave men behind to take care of the children and take care of the home, since that’s obviously a fate worse than death. However, the worrying propaganda targeted  women specifically: depicting them as annoying, unfeminine, unintelligent, out of place, unloved, and so on. It seems asinine to demonize women in this way over voting, doesn’t it?

Annoying, unloved, unfeminine, are these not words that describe feminists nowadays?

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The current feminist movement has been nothing short of targeted and stereotyped, labeled as attention-seeking, overemotional, and undesirable to men. Both generations of women were and are often ridiculed by extremists who think they must have been neglected as children and thus adopt a whiny, desperate personality, and that they will never marry or be loved by a man because of their misandrist behavior. Wouldn’t today's anti-feminists love to shut feminists up?

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The image of feminists has not changed in almost a century. Men and women alike have always and will continue to label feminism as unneeded whether they’re fighting for voting rights, abortion rights, equal pay, representation, education, an end to gendered violence, LGBTQ rights, or any of the plethora of other problems women and marginalized people face internationally. While the past is in the past, it is apparent that this is a cycle that continues to ostracize women. It makes many women afraid to identify with the feminist movement in fear of having those visions associated with them. Just as housewives in the 1920’s prided themselves in not being like those deplorable, immature suffragettes, many women today unfortunately stay far away from the current labels associated with feminism in fear of the characterizations have created against them.

While hatred surrounding the feminist movement has shifted out of men’s focus, there still lies rejection and disagreement within the cause: internally. Many women, as they rejected the suffragette movement in the 1920’s, now reject the “agenda” of modern-day feminism and try to separate themselves from the identity. Anti-feminist women, like anti-feminist men, usually learn of feminist ideals from an exaggerated or false source, or absorb the opinions of radically antifem groups, and misinterpret the truth of the feminist movement. The website WomenAgainstFeminism.com details a lot of reasons they are against the movement, such as “[feminists] get offended too easily and make women look crazy,” and “[Feminists] claim to want equality, but expect special treatment” [1]

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What causes this ultimate fear of feminism? What makes the movement seem so banal and unprogressive? It is all  a matter of lack of education, misconception, and cultural masculinity. Just as the idea of suffragette women being away from the home threatened the macho, breadwinning masculine personality of husbands, the idea of modern women continuing to reject their gender roles further threatens the traditional balance between men and women. After lifetimes of men hating, abusing, harassing, and torturing women, the single thought of a woman being aggressively biased, afraid, or apprehensive towards men threatens the idea that women and their ideas must be unchallenged to males. Many anti-feminists have continuously belittled and criticized groups and ideas that are inclusive to women, because we can’t have anything for ourselves, right?

While the suffragette movement was wildly progressive in its own right, the current wave is by far the most inclusive and culturally-changing.  We take on Washington weekly, we create and promote platforms for women of color, abuse victims, the LGBTQ community, disabled women, sex workers, women overseas, and millions of other diverse, amazing women who previous waves have tended to ignore. We change our culture constantly,  break taboos, speak up about unspoken issues, and truly create the largest movement embracing uniqueness and solidarity.