Have you ever heard of feminists being described as “shrill”? I did.
But some criticisms tell us more of the critic than about the subject of the criticism. Take the ad hominem “shrill”, for example. “Shrill has two meaning groups:
1) Emitting a high-pitched sound, and
2) immoderate; strident, marked by great intensity
You tell us some feminists emit a high-pitched sound?
Yes. When women open their mouths, the sound that comes out is likely to have a higher pitch than when men do. (If you do a quick search, you will find that the word is never/ very seldom used against male speech.)
You think feminists are immoderate?
Yes. When we advocate for justice, we cannot say “Oh, being just half the time and unjust the other half is enough.” When we advocate against oppression, we cannot call it okay to oppress at home, but not at work, or to oppress emotionally, but not physically. When justice compromises with injustice, injustice wins.
Feminists are strident and intense?
That comes down to disliking that they passionately, strongly, disagree with you.
To recap: The crime of a “shrill” feminist is that she disagrees with you in a high-pitched voice, and does not compromise on what she sees as just.
The reason “shrill” is criticism is that people do not want women to disagree with them, to feel strongly about something that the critic does not agree about.
Women disagreeing with someone, feeling strongly about a matter, and going all out for their beliefs are is not, in itself, a bad thing. (The subject a particular woman feel strongly about could make it a wonderful or a terrible thing.)
People who make it an insult to be shrill – who cannot stand it when a woman disagree and stand up for her beliefs – are sexists. If not for sexism, words like “shrill” would not exist. Or they will apply to noises made by electronic equipment, not to women.
So, how do you handle a “shrill” feminist? Learn to respect high-pitched voices as much as lower ones, and to respect feminists for their “immoderately” intense commitment to justice and equality.