Feminism is Cancer
Twitter/ @Nero

During a debate at the University of Oregon, a man stands up to speak about the 'Feminism is Cancer' movement. "I had some friends who died of cancer," he says. There's an awkward silence in a room previously bursting with chatter.

"When they died, I thanked god they didn't have feminism." Mic drop. Punchline delivered, he sits down and enjoys the immediate response from the crowd, who whoop and cheer their appreciation.

Welcome to the Feminism Is Cancer movement, started by alt-right darling Milo Yiannopoulos, the Breitbart journalist and entrepreneur-turned agitator who refers to Republican presidential nominee Donald Trump as 'Daddy'.

Yiannopoulos has even run a Feminism is Cancer event as part of his Dangerous Faggot tour of college campuses up and down the US, which draw a huge crowd – most of whom are desperate to offer up their own crowd-pleasing #feminismiscancer story.

His maverick-style debates touch on the importance of free speech and equality – but above all, he's a fervent detractor of feminism who pulls no punches when it comes to sharing his opinion, telling one of his detractors "I don't give a f*ck what you think".

In a recent survey, that Yiannopoulos believes lost him his Twitter verification, he asked people whether they would rather their child had feminism or cancer – 55% of people chose cancer.

Its attention-grabbing hashtag, which has unsurprisingly faced a backlash not only from feminists but also from cancer survivors, who, Yiannopoulos says "can't take a joke", is being shared by a growing number of people on social media.

And it's not just Yiannopoulos fans and stereotypical sexually-frustrated frat boys the movement appeals to; the backlash against modern feminism has its feet firmly planted in the alt-right – and many of them are women.

But the women who use the hashtag #feminismiscancer or shell out $16 on a slogan t-shirt are keen to make it clear that it's modern, third-wave feminism that's the problem, rather than first and second-wave feminism, which they say has benefited society.

Erica Alduino, 25, from Florida, whose Twitter profile describes her as an alt-right American nationalist, explains: "Most third-wave feminists I do come into contact with seem like incredibly privileged women who really don't have a hell of a lot of problems in their life.

Erica feminism is cancer
Erica believes Feminism is Cancer and Trump go hand-in-hand Erica Alduino

"The biggest problem I have with third-wave feminists is that 21st Century American women are possibly the most privileged and well treated women since the beginning of human existence, and they act like they are simply victims.

"These feminists should be rallying around women in other countries of the world where they're treated like second-class citizens. Third-wave feminists have nothing to say about the plights of these downtrodden women and are only concerned with their selfish and misguided needs."

Avid Trump supporter Harper Wendt, 18, echoes Yiannopoulos' sentiments that modern feminism seeks to emasculate men and feels Trump's 'brash to everyone' persona makes him a perfect partner to the movement.

"My mum is a big fan of Milo so she introduced me to him and I completely fell in love with him," she enthuses. "Being a young woman in America, kind of seeing everything fall apart, I just fell in love with everything he has to say and all of his views of politically correct modern feminism.

"I think modern feminists are emasculating men and encouraging women to put men down, which is kind of horrible and it's ruining [men's] drive for success and making them completely unmotivated," she adds.

"I think it's strange that a lot of modern feminists are making being a woman a bad thing and I really enjoy being a woman. I don't want to dress like a man, I don't want to act like a man – I completely embrace my feminine qualities. And I'm really not offended when a door is open for me – it is kind of ridiculous.

"I'm a big Trump supporter. A lot of women say Trump is sexist but I really have noticed he is equally brash with both men and women, he doesn't treat women like wilting flowers which I think is amazing."

Harper feminism is cancer
Trump supporter Harper Wendt uses the hashtag #feminismiscancer Harper Wendt

Given its alt-right roots, it's no surprise many of those tweeting with the #feminismiscancer hashtag are also enthusiastically using the Trump2016 hashtag.

"What has to be understood is that Trump is simply a symptom of what PC culture and third-wave feminists have been pushing on the West since the early 2000's," Erica explains.

"The majority of us don't want what they're forcing on us, we never have wanted it. I do believe that the Feminism is Cancer movement and Trump do go hand in hand because Trump is the voice for many American's expressing how sick and tired we all are of being told lies, and being called racists, misogynists and bigots."

It's a criticism that's been levelled at Trump and his supporters on more than one occasion, and the feminism is cancer group are no strangers to the same controversy, so much so that Yiannopoulos' events draw as many detractors as they do supporters – much, in fact, like a Trump rally.

But they're not all Trump supporters. The Feminism is Cancer movement, despite seemingly aligned with the Trump demographic, appeals to those all along the political spectrum.

Forty-year-old mother-of-four Sarah, from Attleboro, Massachusetts, says feminists are obsessed with painting women as victims.

"It's so wildly out of touch with the reality of any first world country. I keep hearing women can't do this or women can't do that. The only group telling me I can't do something is feminists," she says.

Her preferred choice of candidate this election? Democrat Bernie Sanders.

"I'm personally a left-leaning Bernie supporter and a lot of the people I interact with are left-leaning as well," she adds. "I think anti-feminism can be found in every group along the political spectrum except for the far left obviously. That said, I wouldn't be surprised if most Trump supporters didn't think highly of feminism.

"I think that originally feminists really were fighting the good fight. Today, I just see man-bashing, ignoring problems men face, and pretending women have problems that we so don't have. I think most of the rational women have left feminism and what you're left with is the extremists."

The Feminism is Cancer movement remains unconcerned by its critics, in fact, it seems to welcome discussion – and, as such, Yiannopoulos is invited to US universities by free speech societies, keen to support a person's right to say whatever they wish as opposed to the no-platforming that may await him at UK campuses.

Journalist Julie Bindel, who has dedicated much of her life to campaigning against violence towards women and girls, said during a debate with Yiannopoulos that there was an element of modern feminism that was 'entitled', but the movement is unlikely to find further concessions from the lifelong feminist.

Julie Bindel
Radical feminist Julie Bindel debated against Milo Yiannopoulos on the Feminism is Cancer topic Twitter

"The women who tweet Feminism is Cancer don't mean it," she says. "Milo is an agitator, he is a very privileged man and he is doing it to get a rise.

"The women who go along with it want men's approval. It pays short-term dividends to women; they are the good girls, they will have the doors opened for them and men will cherish them."

And, she adds, there's nothing about the feminist movement that portrays women as victims, quite the opposite. "If men are violent, we (feminists) will challenge them, if men rape women we are the ones who will challenge them and make them pay for their crimes," she says.

"If that's what these women think (that feminism is cancer) we should make sure they are paid 30% less than men; make sure they have no rights unless their father, husband or brothers give them any; they mustn't vote or have legal rights.

"They can go without all the things that feminists have won – then we'll talk."

Read more in our series on Generation Trump.