Antifeminism is the opposition to feminism. This might include a stance against all or some of the parts of the feminist movement. Feminism emerged during the late 19th century, and thus antifeminism arose following its launch.
Globalization and the ease with which ideas are transferred and shared has resulted in new strains of feminism and antifeminism. The movements began within a highly charged political climate, and continue in this vein. Diversity has become a key feature given changing times, locations and the philosophies of the people submitting to the tenets of either debate.
Feminism clearly precedes its successor, antifeminism, in that the latter is a reaction to the former. The feminist project defines itself by its critique of male supremacy. The idea of hierarchies based on gender, particularly patriarchally or male-dominated, is anathema to feminists. This manifests itself in a movement aimed at liberating women from their place of oppression. Antifeminism is limited to this critique, rather than addressing such concepts as male chauvinism, sexism, misogyny, patriarchy or androcentrism. Further to the ideology of feminism is the concept of men exerting oppressive force on women, with women suffering as a consequence.
Modern feminism finds its roots in the European Enlightenment. One of the earliest writers proposing a feminist view was Mary Wollstonecraft (1757 to 1797) in her 1792 book A Vindication of the Rights of Women. Early works of feminism aimed to vindicate the rights of women by opposing male supremacy. This had social, religious, economic and political ramifications. Wollstonecraft influenced a generation of feminists after her, many of whom associated with other radically affiliated groups such as abolition, free love, communism, transcendentalism, and antimilitarism.
Antifeminism is based on the premise that differences between men and women, as they manifest on all levels, is both desirable and necessary. What is rejected by feminists as inequality in status is not considered negative by antifeminists. Critics claim that the antifeminist manifesto is absolutely clear, whereas feminism, on the other hand, comprises diverse attitudes and approaches to the subject.
Antifeminism repudiates the idea of equality as being preferable. Differences are seen to be positive. Most antifeminists view women as being more nurturing and less aggressive. They argue that women are not suited to aggressive positions and public office. Feminism has at times been criticized for proposing equality to the exclusion of men.
Often prevailing within a religious context, antifeminism has held an appeal to those believing in the inherent differences between male and female and the celebration of that difference. This view has often been set in a stereotypical framework by those holding it up to ridicule, offering a static portrayal of those wishing to uphold the status quo.
In the 1980s, the antifeminist movement gained ground. Susan Marshall has pointed out that this countermovement is neither static nor a single-issue movement. Since the 1970s, antifeminism has attempted to place womanhood in America as a core issue; critics comment that their support of women has been even greater than the women's rights movement's.
From a scholarly perspective, antifeminism is not always studied in as great detail as is feminism. As a countermovement, antifeminism is not addressed in the same way, and has sometimes been bypassed. The social movement of feminism is considered a dynamic, living model, with the countermovement perceived as static and particularistic. Lucinda Marshall, Saltzman Chafetz and Andrea Dworkin are a few of the authors who have presented antifeminist studies, in their writings published in the 1980s and 1990s.
Profeminist sociologist Michael Kimmel writes about antifeminism in his handbook of studies entitled Men and Masculinities (2004). He asserts that the antifeminist's opposition to women's equality is based on the premise of the natural and inevitable occurrence of traditional gender divisions of labor. He also comments on the notion of divinely determined role divisions.
Antifeminists have now claimed that the feminist movement has achieved what it set out to do, but that it now aims at attaining a higher status for women than that of men. Criticism of the disruption of traditional values and the impact on family, sexuality and socio-cultural-political norms by feminism forms a great part of the antifeminist platform. The impact on religious values and beliefs is also brought into question, together with the impact this has on the maintenance or disruption of these traditional values.
The antifeminist movement has achieved most of its success in the United States. A key proponent is the organization Stop ERA, now referred to as the Eagle Forum, established by Phyllis Schlafly in October 1972.