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A straw feminist is the feminist version of the infamous straw man. A straw man is a person who is invented to prop up a point, usually by pulling together threads of the other side's arguments and beliefs, and by misrepresenting statements made by the other side. Often, a straw man is specifically designed to be easily attacked, with the creator leaving gaps in the fictional creation's logic which can be assaulted with ease, thereby “disproving” the points made by the other side.
In the sense of feminism, a straw feminist or strawfeminist is a fictional “feminist” character who is used to make arguments about the feminist movement as a whole. A straw feminist can take a number of forms. She may be referenced in an article criticizing the feminist movement, for example, or she may appear in the form of a sockpuppet, a fake user account used to make inflammatory comments on a message board or blog community.
The typical straw feminist promotes radical ideas: she says that all men are evil, advocates castration for rapists, and makes inflammatory statements which are more representative of the fringe of the feminist movement than of mainstream feminist. She is the “fat, man-hating lesbian” who inhabits the nightmares of conservative commentators, embodying every imaginable stereotype about the feminist movement. The form of feminist represented by the straw feminist is shrill, strident, and often lacking in logic, in sharp contrast with the thoughtful, outspoken, and often very logical face of the feminist movement.
Most feminists are simply trying to create equal rights for women, and to promote respect for women which protects them from de facto sexism as well as de jure issues. They want to see equal pay for equal work, for example, or crackdowns on harassment of women in the street, on public transit, and in the workplace. Real feminists come in a wide range of socioeconomic classes, shapes, sizes, and relationships, just like everyone else.
The straw feminist argument is extremely frustrating for many feminists, partly because many people buy into it. Some women who actually have very feminist ideas are reluctant to call themselves “feminist” because of the negative perception of feminism, and criticisms of the feminist movement, even from informed people, often sound suspiciously like discussions of straw feminism. For example, many people claim that second wave feminism “goes too far,” not realizing that bulk of second wave feminists focused on addressing de facto inequalities which plagued women, not on creating a “womyns utopia” without any men.