is a term applied in general to two subgroups of feminist, the first type being sincere but overly strident in the pursuit of sexual equality, the second of women whose feminism is grounded in misandry
. Both types deserve a little slack.
It is not uncommon for victims of prejuidice in any form to react with their own prejuidice. The daily cascade of small but real slights grates on a person, and politicized individuals often respond with anger. At the same time, all forms of hatred and violence are self-reproducing. The defensiveness and confrontational nature of some feminists angers men and some women who see the response as excessive at best. Such an approach may feel personally rewarding, but is unproductive because it reflects badly on the feminist cause as a whole.
At the same time an equally confrontational response to the feminist generally reinforces her angry world view. If she assumes you're a pig and you act like one, well that won't change her mind. Overt hostility may make her views seem credible to more moderate women. Remember, the term Feminazi is used by sexist men to stereotype and denigrate more reasonable feminists with whom they have a disagreement.
The well-meaning but over zealous feminist is often found among first-generation feminists. It is important to remember that thirty years ago women were supposed to become June Cleaver. Or join a convent. Women were discouraged from becoming scientists, building business or building any serious career outside the home. Many women joined convents because nuns were the only women in society who could have professional careers and be accepted. In essence, women had to sacrifice their sexuality in order to have a career.
I know several professional women who emerged from that period, and they're all tough as nails. They had to be: they put up with insults, snubs and obstacles for years in order to build the life they wanted. They literally shoved their way into the position they wanted, where a more retiring woman might have given up.
A lot of the insults they endured were sexual. They were accused of lesbianism in a homophobic world. Others suggested that what they needed was good sex, and then turned around and accused them of sexlessness. My friend Cathy never dated, because that would have been used to accuse her of not being serious about her career.
This sensitized them to believe that their only percieved value was as breeders. And in a world where female role models outside the convent were all homemakers who tittered over new appliances and fashion, the only women who wielded real power used their sexuality to manipulate. To use their sexuality was anathema, they wanted to be accepted for their skill and productivity. It is for this reason that many first-generation feminists strongly disapprove of pornography and anything else that might be seen to objectify women. If they denigrated Suzy Homemaker it was because they saw the kitchen as a prison they had to fight to escape.
The second generation of feminists, which includes Camille Paglia, Heather Corinna and others didn't have to engage in that shoving match. The first generation had kicked open the doors to the career world. Women had already established businesses, academic careers, and even begun to enter the construction site. At the same time, men had begun to enter more traditionally femine professions, such as nursing. The wage differential has shrunk, yet it still remains. Sexism has not disappeared. But today's issues are more of refining than overturning the existing order.
At the same time, they have not forgotten women's sexual choice began with the birth control pill. Reliable female contraception freed women to explore their own sexuality without the fear of being forced into single parenthood. While the first generation feminists put sex on the back burner, because they wanted to show women could be more than sex objects, the second generation seeks to enjoy the sexual choices now afforded them.
Many women discovered that they wanted to be homemakers. Today the home is no longer a straightjacket, but a choice. As is parenthood. Other women, now empowered in a more conventional sense wanted to explore power in their sexuality. They wanted to be feminine and pretty, to enjoy their femininity rather than hide it like the first generation. The second generation believes it possible to be June Cleaver, Mae West and Grace Hopper at the same time.
I belive the term "Post-Feminism" really applies to the second generation feminists who want to re-make society in a way that is truly gender blind, where men are free to adopt traditionally female roles, and women masculine, according to their talents and inclinations. In essence, they want a world where individual difference is what matters. I consider myself a second-generation feminist.