Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy
Feminisms are oftentimes confronted with dissonance, resistance, and backlash. Invested in criticizing the cultural and institutional emergence of patriarchy and calls to re-order structures of inequality make feminism threatening to status quo power dynamics. “Women Against Feminism”—a social media phenomenon and space for women to post anti-feminist messages—began gaining notoriety in 2013. By 2015, “Women Against Feminism” expanded to multiple social media platforms, gained thousands of anti-feminist submissions, and received ample support and criticism across news outlets. This study explores “Women Against Feminism” as a potential site of 21st feminist backlash, noting nuanced rhetorical strategies that rely on fearing feminism, declarations of interpersonal and intrapersonal love, and co-opting feminist ideology to propagate anti-feminist narratives. I situate backlash as a communicative phenomenon of perception rather than a clear-cut movement reacting toward a stated goal of progress by a social group. In this way, feminist progress functions as an illusory cultural script where backlash reacts toward the perceived enactment of a feminist goal, rather than (although not excluding) the successful feminist execution of that goal. Thus, this study dually investigates what backlash strategies are used while also uncovering how differing audiences perceive feminism. Finally, I set forth a series of suggestive practical methods for feminist engagement across dissonance and difference.
This dissertation is Open Access and may be downloaded by anyone.