I'm a feminist, and I like to get dolled up from time to time...
I guess this post can be read as a follow up to "I'm not a feminist, but" where i addressed why some people, even though endorsing feminist values, may not embrace the feminist identity. This post, on the other hand, looks at those of us who do identify as feminists and are no more or less feminist because we look, act, dress, think, fuck, write, a certain way. Still with me? Good.
When i first learned about the women's movement i was enlightening, outraged, empowered. I wanted to stand on the rooftop and shout "DOWN WITH PATRIARCHY!" I also became incredibly conflicted. Was i supporting patriarchy by looking the way i did? With the clothes i wore? With my new found love for bare minerals make up? With my adorable string bikini? Was i supporting a system of patriarchy by flirting? By being sexual, by letting guys buy me drinks, by loving to dance at bars? By wearing lipstick? By being 5'9 and rocking high heels? By occasionally obsessing over my weight? By liking Madonna? Was the very essence of me and all the things i enjoyed a direct result of this system and therefore meaningless, trite, cliché? Even worse, were they (therefore, I) not only existing in, but supporting, oppression, patriarchy, and inequality? My brain almost exploded. Everything i stood for got flipped on its head at which point i cut my hair 12 inches shorter, donated a my more skanky* clothes, and stopped shaving my legs (it was winter anyway ;) ... "Fuck patriarchy!" I thought "and fuck this system that expects me to look, act, think a certain way!" It was my sole intention to do everything opposite than what i was "supposed to" as a woman.
But you know what? I wasn't happy. At all. In fact, not getting to wear my stilettos and flirt made me miserable. I didn't feel any more empowered, just depressed. I needed a different feminism because the one i created for myself didn't work for me at all. The problem was that i didn't realize i was "allowed" to still be me and a feminist.
It took me a while to understand that as long as i thought through where my likes, dislikes, attitudes, beliefs, etc. came from, i was certainly entitled to them. Let me try to explain this.
Is feminist and conventionally pretty compatible? Yes. As long as you realize that your preference for looking this way may have been influenced by media and years of socialization. You recognize that and still want to look the way you do? More power to you. I think Sarah said it best, "My lipstick doesn’t negate my brain cells." Telling me i'm not a feminist because of the way i look is bullshit. You're judging me based on appearance - how is that any better than what patriarchy does in the first place? "The anger that some women are treated differently by society than others based on their looks is a valid anger, but why the hell are feminists directing it at the women who happen to fit the preferred look rather than the system that insists on ranking all of us?" You know what's even more annoying? A main reason this blog is semi-anonymous is because I don't want anyone to know what i look like. I've mentioned before that what i look like isn't the point but now it just annoys me. Would people take me more seriously or less seriously based on my appearance? Would other feminist bloggers respect what i say any more/less based on the way i look? If so, that's bullshit. And as much as i want to share pictures of me from time to time (for example, post my sexy tattooed back), this is exactly why i won't post a photo of me on the blog and that's just annoying, and distracting, because who the fuck cares? But apparently a lot of people do...
Is feminist and sex work compatible? Yes. As long as it empowers you. And you know what pisses me off? When people i respect are renouncing the feminist label because of others who tell them they are "antifeminist." (Who made you the fucking feminism police anyway?)
Is feminist and Obama supporter compatible? Yes. As long as you value what the idea of Hilary Clinton means for women. It isn't any less sexist to support a candidate because she is a woman than it is not to support her because she is one.
Is feminist and stay-at-home mom compatible? Yes. As long as it's a choice you make that works for your family and you made that decision without being pressured or forced.
Is feminist and male compatible? Yes. As long as you don't try to take over the movement ;) Many of my favorite men identify as feminists. Men have a lot to gain through the goals of the women's movement. For one, gender roles negatively impact men as well as women and the rules of masculinity are arguably just as rigid as those of femininity.
Is being a female feminist who is romantically involved with a man compatible? Yes. So is female feminist who is romantically involved with a woman, so is feminist and single... Whoever you're attracted to is cool, and you aren't any more or less feminist for finding men sexy**. Oh and marriage doesn't make you any less of a feminist either.
Is feminist and activism regarding other forms of discrimination compatible? Um... yes? Isn't that the point? Isn't feminism about equality? I didn't really understand how anyone could have thought that writing about Sean Bell distracted from feminism. Fuck that. Racism is absolutely a feminist issue, "just like poverty, homophobia, transphobia, ableism, and much more are feminist issues, simply because these are factors that oppress women on a daily basis and prevent them from living lives freely, safely and to their full potential."
Is feminist and the opposite of all the things above compatible? Yes... with (IMO) the exception of the last because i really think feminism is about equality and needs to focus on all aspects of oppression. Other than that: you can still be feminist and not conventionally beautiful. You can be feminist and not shave your legs. You can be a short feminists, a tall feminist, a skinny feminist, a fat feminist, a no make up feminist, a combat-boot wearing feminist (i feel like a fucking Dr. Seuss book...) My appearance does not determine my level of feminist commitment. Neither do my choices to or not to marry or my sexual orientation. Or whether or not i like porn. Guess what? I can vote for whoever the fuck I want and still identify as a feminist. Whatever.
Moral of the story is stop fucking shaming me for being who i am just because i don't fit into your picture perfect notion of feminism. We need to stop hatin' on each other because that is what's distracting.
And i can already see the "you must not understand intersectionality" bullshit comments i am bound to get (esp. in regards to the conventional beauty piece of all this). I do understand intersectionality. I think about it, talk about it, blog about it and understand how much intersectionality effects all of us. That's just it. All of this bullshit is part of the problem. We, as feminists, need to stop targeting each other and work together towards a common goal. PS, that goal's equality, or at least I always thought it was. So why the fuck are we wasting our time fighting with each other? Wouldn't it be extremely liberating to embrace who we are, not feel guilty for it any longer, work together, and get shit done?
I'll include MY feminism here. Because i've written it out before but it seems even more relevant now: I identify with feminism because of its commitment to social, political, and economic equality for all people. Regarding women specifically, my feminism allows me to: be independent, while depending on those I love; be flirty and "girly" whenever I want, without it compromising how people view my intelligence or sexual freedom; exercise, for me, for my body, for my health and strength, not to fit into conventional beauty; stand firm for what I believe in, and not be called too masculine or bitchy. My feminism does not discount the differences between men and women, but strongly believes that these differences are either a product of, or exaggerated by, socialization. My feminism values men because it values equality. My feminism is anti oppression. It seeks to end the discrimination of people on the basis of sex, age, race, social class, religion, sexual orientation, etc. Oh, and my feminism is always changing, because like the waves of change flow through society and politics, feminism needs to be fluid to reflect the needs of the world.
Ever been told you aren't feminism enough for whatever reason? Get snarky about that bullshit in the comment section ;)
*a word i used then, wouldn't use now
**Update 7/22: Oh no!!!