1. Someone is tweeting about something unfortunate (to do with women) and (appears to be) pointing out that feminism failed in this instance, or isn't addressing this issue, or may be genuinely sorry that feminism is not present in this instance. (Or something else I'm missing. It's really not clear...)
2. Someone is making a statement either about a thought or action of their's which they feel is not feminist, and is essentially saying; "I'm aware that my actions are sexist or hypocritical, or even misogynist, and I don't care."
It is important to note there are two sub-categories of this: the serious statement and the sarcastic statement. The serious statement is actually condoning a sexist or anti-feminist action or thought.
The sarcastic is making fun of a feminist stereotype, and the person is likely not actually engaging in the thought or action they are tweeting about and/or they do not actually believe it is anti-feminist.
3. Apparently there are some...let's call them men...who feel that their very presence on Twitter is something requiring apologizing to feminists. In other words, they are misogynist and think it's hilarious to point it out.
According to Amanda Marcote of the XX Factor, the hashtag started as a response to people writing "Sorry, feminists" in posts, apologizing for being sexy or enjoying domestic tasks. The creation of the trend by Jezebel authors was an attempt to bring to light the ridiculous feminist stereotypes "that one can't be a sexy feminist. Or a fun feminist. Or an [insert generally positive and/or stereotypically feminine adjective] here".
However, the mocking of feminist stereotypes has become so pervasive in our culture it is difficult to determine when a person is reinforcing a stereotype or making fun of it. Marcote claims that the new trend has been effective in tearing down the notions that feminists "hate fun, hate sex, and hate beauty". I can't help but be skeptical.
If the mocking of feminist stereotypes is as pervasive and confusing as these women argue, then how does making it even more confusing and pervasive by adding feminist women's voices to the mix help society's perception of us? Does it really point out how ridiculous these stereotypes are, or is it only reinforcing them?
It is a valid point that feminist stereotypes do not stem from a place of reason, and so reason is not going to get rid of them. To quote The American Prospect's article on the trend, "Negative stereotypes of feminists have so far proven impervious to reason, humor, excessive amounts of counterevidence, and even paradox. It is not uncommon for anti-feminists to accuse feminists in one breath of being humorless prudes, and then turn around and denounce them for being frivolous sluts". Trying sarcasm via social media is definitely a new tactic to attempt to point out how silly people sound when they use these stereotypes. But are the people we're trying to target getting it?
As a feminist, I certainly see the humor in the posts intended to be sarcastic--but obviously not everyone is viewing the trend in the same manner. This is evidenced by the use of the hashtag by people who believe their actions or thoughts are anti-feminist (whether they are or aren't) and use the hashtag to indicate they don't care. If you argue that regardless of intent, these posts still address the issue in a similar manner to the sarcastic posts, than allow me to point out the individuals who are (insincerely) apologizing for being self-identified misogynists.
I'm fairly confident this was not the authors' intended use.
What are your thoughts about the #SorryFeminists trend? Do you think it's funny? Do you think it's effective?