And this is why Kate Beaton of Hark, A Vagrant is my favorite (full comic, entitled “Straw Feminists in the Closet,” available here).
Straw Man: An informal fallacy based on misrepresentation of a person’s position, wherein the person’s actual position is simply ignored and replaced with a distorted/exaggerated/misconstrued version of said person’s position.
Straw feminism: The “straw man” fallacy, as applied to feminism and feminist positions. Usually embodied by a fictional “feminist” character, who is “hysterical,” “shrill,” “radical,” “illogical,” and, above all things, NOT an accurate representation of feminism/feminists.
Perhaps one of the greatest ironies of the straw feminist fallacy is the fact that the stereotypical embodiment of “feminism” it represents illustrates perfectly the reasons why feminism is still needed. Straw feminism serves to separate “real women” from “feminist women” through the use of traditional sexist stereotypes (see Ophir Shemer’s Feminspire post on this issue for more). It pits men and women against each other and reinforces sexist oppression and gender-essentialism. It also presumes a world in which kyriarchal oppression is non-existent, and feminist claims are situated as “over-reactive” - e.g. feminists are just “looking for things to get mad about.” To quote Melissa McEwan, this notion is absurd for a number of reasons, largely because “misogyny is so pervasive that no one has to look for it. That said reality is even remotely in doubt is laughable, given that any YouTube comments section on any video featuring a woman will be rife with misogynist swill.” Minimization, misrepresentation, and silencing tactics are inherent within every straw feminist argument. See TVtropes for but a few illustrative specimens of this phenomena.
In other words: As long as there are people who react aggressively and defensively to the idea of feminism and substantive equality, feminism will remain necessary.
For additional examples of the application of this fallacy, please see Feminist Frequency’s Tropes v. Women: Straw Feminism video, and also Sady Dole’s review of the Wickerman, which is as hilarious as it is an apropos example of the artifice at issue.