The lead-up to the release of the newest Marvel Studios film “Captain Marvel,” starring Brie Larson as Carol Danvers, was a rough one, but not in the way that one would expect.
In the last couple of weeks, a group of “fans” rallied against the film, and have posted thousands of negative reviews on Rotten Tomatoes as an active effort to lower the “want to see” percentage on the film’s review page. Most of the criticisms revolve around either the fact that this is a superhero film with a female lead or about Larson’s feminist activism, which includes her saying that the film is a “feminist film.” By the definition of a feminist film, i.e. a film that intends to get the audience thinking about equal rights for women, then she would be 100 percent accurate.
This is curious because Wonder Woman, another feminist film by that definition, had little to no backlash on the internet, with a Rotten Tomatoes audience score of 88 percent. There could be multiple factors as to why this is, but the most likely answer was that the creators didn't refer to the film as “feminist”. In fact, two days worth of research couldn't find one person involved with the film that used any derivation of the word “feminism” while promoting the film.
If that’s the case, then it begs the question “How did ‘feminism’ turn into a bad word?"
History of Anti-feminism
Believe it or not, anti-feminists have actively tried to counter-protest since the feminist movement started to gain traction after the Seneca Falls Convention in 1848. The most well-known counter-protest was done during Susan B. Anthony’s trial for illegal voting. The judge on that case, Ward Hunt, made the really odd choice of not allowing the jury to discuss her case and directed them to plead guilty. After Anthony refused to pay her $100 fine, Hunt decided against jailing her. Not because he thought that it would be too much, but because he didn’t want the case to go to the Supreme Court, which could possibly give women full suffrage.
Now one could argue that times have changed since then, but you could also argue that every single move towards equal rights for women was a direct result of the feminist movement. However, every time feminists try to promote positive change, there’s a bunch of people ready to push against it, either from sexist bigots who are afraid of women getting too much power or those who incorrectly think that women already have equal footing with men.
So, if you want an answer to the question “How did ‘feminism’ turn into a bad word,” it’s because people who are against the movement distorted the definition to make it so. One could say that this is an isolated case, but the fact is that counter-protesters distort the meaning of a word with every protest movement, intentionally or not.
An example of this in action would be the Black Lives Matter movement. Their website has stated that the organization does not and will not condone any acts of violence. That hasn’t stopped counter-protesters from taking several violent encounters with the police as proof that the Black Lives Matter movement is a domestic terrorist organization, which is erroneous.
This counter-protest culture that we have in America is dangerous. Women do deserve to be on equal footing with men, racial profiling is a problem in our police force and whether or not the Marvel Cinematic Universe will survive the next year probably won’t be because of a movie that contains feminist themes. But saying that all feminists hate men or that everyone in the Black Lives Matter Movement hates cops are preventing us from having an honest debate about topics that could better the lives of people in America.
Simply put, this needs to stop.