If you performed a simple Google search on the term “meninism” about ten years ago, you may have been brought to a link that defined it as “a global organization of men that believe in and support the feminist principles of women’s political, social and economic equality” (www.feminist.com, 2001). However, make the same Google search today and you’ll get a very different result. The term has been taken over by men on popular social media outlets such as Twitter and Tumblr and given a meaning that is actually the opposite of its previous definition. Today, meninism is most commonly defined as anti-feminism. Men are using the term to mock feminism and take a stand against it. While some claim it’s being used for satirical purposes, others are taking it seriously. The word meninist could have been used for good, and maintained its original meaning—men looking for equality among genders—but unfortunately it has taken on a misogynistic connotation.
So why the shift in meaning? Most likely it’s due to the lack of education provided for teens about gender equality. Boys and men alike think that it’s okay to make degrading jokes about women because they are painfully unaware of how ignorant they are being about a real and prevalent issue in our society. If gender equality was stressed more and woven into curricula starting in high school, a great amount of this degradation would most likely be avoided. People need to learn what the principles of feminism really are, instead of absorbing social media’s misguided perception of what it means to be a feminist. If social media is the sole means by which teens learn about gender equality, then we have a recipe for misconceptions and disaster.
If feminists believe in equality for women, and meninists believe in “equality for men,” doesn’t everyone believe in the same thing? Equality is equality right? Unfortunately, this is not the case. Meninism plays a totally misogynist role on social media. It is being used to belittle and complain about women. With tweets like “ladies, if you have more followers on instagram than you do on twitter it just means dudes like you better when you stfu” coming from a twitter account followed by over 64 thousand people under the name of @theMeninistTwit (who is probably unaware that a “twit” is a stupid person…ironic), it is clear that these types of toxic messages are widely circulated and supported. It is also clear that meninists hold zero respect for women. It would be great if meninists and feminists were really looking to do the same thing, but unfortunately they’re not.
The most common social media platform that meninism is taking over is Twitter. Type in “#meninism” on twitter and you’ll find a plethora of tweets such as “Why do men have to spend our hard earned money on dates, why can [sic] we get asked out, picked up and fed… I like free food too” or “us men should also get a week out of every month to complain and be taken care of, like girls do on their period.” There are multiple accounts with the sole purpose of promoting meninism by making derogatory comments about women such as @MeninismTweet, @TheMeninism, @FunnyMeninist, and many more, some with over 200 thousand followers. One account, @MeninIstTweetz, is particularly confusing due to the contradictory information on the page. Despite the user’s handle, the bio of the account reads “Chivalry isn’t dead, women’s appreciation is” and the banner picture of the account is a graphic that says “Equality for All.” If this isn’t confusing enough, the tweets from the account are all along the lines of “Ladies, next time a guy has the guts to talk to u, remember he’s not wearing makeup. Also remember what u look like without it” and “women are like parking spots, the good ones are taken and the rest are handicapped.” This further proves that meninists actually have no idea what they are talking about. Do they even know what equality means? Two hundred and forty four thousand people follow these tweets, which means that number of people clearly hold minimal respect for women.
There are even t-shirts with the hashtag meninism being worn by men and, shockingly, women too. What “meninists” don’t realize is that feminists are not women that are looking to hold power over men, but in fact women that are seeking to gain equal rights and privileges to that of their male counterparts. By attacking feminism, meninists undermine the idea that they’re looking for gender equality. It’s not feminists that are the problem: it’s those individuals that are discriminatory towards either gender. A great majority of those participating in the meninist movement are young and impressionable and quite frankly uneducated about feminism. They are willing to jump on the bandwagon of something they really know nothing about.
The Huffington Post recently interviewed the originator of the meninist hashtag, 28-year-old Ti Balogun. In the interview he stated:
Meninism was certainly not created with malicious intent, but obviously was a runaway train since it began. It was loosely intended to be satire, but ironically has created an avenue for discussion and knowledge of the other ideals that we share. Feminism has its place in society. There are clearly women that are oppressed, as are those in varying ethnic groups, as well as people in the LBGT community. All of these groups have faced oppressed and are marginalized classes. The feminist movement, in particular, certainly makes society aware of the disadvantages of women specifically, and is an ideal that should be respected and further evaluated by those with limited knowledge. Further, I personally feel equal pay and maternity leave for my wife are of critical importance to our household.
Ironically, Balogun is a self-described feminist. The meninist movement originated as satire, but it has spiraled out of control. The biggest defense you will see by people supporting this “movement” when questioned is that it’s all a big joke. Even if meninism did start out as “satire”, and a large percentage of the people hash tagging “meninist” on twitter aren’t taking it seriously, it’s still hugely disrespectful to women and feminists. By making these jokes, meninists undermine the importance of feminism. One meninist twitter account’s (@TheMeninism) bio is “obviously sarcasm.” It’s an attempt to antagonize women and see them retaliate. Meninism really takes away from the seriousness of gender equality, even if it is just a “joke” to some. While one may only be able to infer that those that consider themselves meninists probably have a low level of maturity and confidence, it could also be that these men belong to a generation that is uneducated about gender equality.
Meninism is, overall, a term used to degrade women. The usage of the term in this way needs to be eliminated in order to achieve gender equality. Whether intended as a joke or not, the only thing meninism results in is a more divided society among men and women. The ultimate objective of everyone in society should be to reach a point in which men and women can be seen as equal in every aspect. Meninism only thwarts this important goal.