Wearing Makeup And More Stuff You Can Do And Still Be A Feminist
Time to show these boring misconceptions the door.
I’m a feminist but I also really, really enjoy an episode of The Bachelor. Does that make me a bad feminist?
Maybe to some people, but it doesn’t actually make me less of a feminist - and it definitely doesn’t make you any less of one either.
Do you also sometimes feel a tiny bit like you aren’t quite good enough to call yourself a feminist? If yes then you aren’t the only one: this sense of feminist guilt is a biggie, but one which - surprise, surprise - actually has way more to do with patriarchy than perhaps you’d ever considered.
As with most things in life, the quest for gender equality is not an easy one and while on an ideological level you probably believe in feminism (that is by definition the very basic belief in the idea of gender parity), enacting that change in a social system that has such ingrained inequality is, well, really bloody hard sometimes.
Quite simply, the pesky patriarchy doesn’t want to make it easy for you and has a great habit of tearing you down just when you think you’re onto something. One sneaky and particularly insidious way it does this is by making you think that there’s a very strict, very politicised list of attributes you must adhere to in order to be a ‘good feminist’. But guess what? This itself is a big pile of bullsh*t.
No matter what people might try to tell you, your feminism doesn’t have to be perfect. Part of the beauty of being human is that our lives are full of contradictions. Of course we’d all love to be a perfect feminist, if that’s something that could ever even exist (which tbh it can’t because there’s no one singular feminism anyway), but in a society still so dominated by male-privilege and antiquated gender roles, it’s pretty much impossible.
With that in mind, here’s a few things you can still very much do and call yourself a feminist, so you can chuck these common misconceptions right back in someone’s face next time they have the audacity to think they can call you out.
1. Show Off Your Body
Chances are you saw people laying into Emma Watson, a vocal feminist, for that Vanity Fair photo shoot in which she posed wearing an outfit that showed off a portion of her boobs. For some reason, a load of people seem to think that in order to be a feminist, you can’t also believe in showing off your bod, but frankly this is totally missing the point.
As Emma herself said in response to all the criticism she faced: “Feminism is about giving women choice; feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with, it’s about freedom, it’s about liberation, it’s about equality.”
The point is that it’s your body, so surely you should be free to do what you want with it, to show it off or to not, without having other people’s moral values put upon you. A large proportion of women have boobs, so why should we feel shamed for showing them if we want to?
2. Wear makeup and love it
The traditional argument that a true feminist shouldn’t wear makeup stems from the idea that it’s objectification, because you’re changing yourself to please others. And yes, it’s also extremely valid to consider how the beauty industry tells women they need to fix ‘flaws’ in their faces and bodies by buying their products.
However, if we all stopped wearing makeup today, would sexism stop? Obviously not, and there’s absolutely nothing inherently wrong with wearing lipstick if that’s what you want to do; what is problematic is the expectation that women have to do it to appeal to men and a socially constructed idea of femininity.
It’s funny too how it’s always women and non-binary people wondering whether their choices are feminist. If you turn it on its head it proves how ludicrous the fundamental idea is: the equivalent would be telling a man that doing something masculine, like wearing a suit and tie or choosing to trim his beard, means he can’t be a feminist either – something we’re pretty sure they’ve never been accused of.
If you want to wear a badass eyeshadow because you love it and it makes you feel confident then by all means go ahead and own that choice of self-expression. Do it for yourself and don’t let the oppressive system tell you to do it ‘to look sexy’ or shame you because it makes you feel like you look good.
3. Like men
The idea that feminists must hate men is a classic case of missing the point. In fact, most feminists believe that men too can be feminists and that feminism is beneficial to all people of all genders.
Men aren’t the enemy: misogyny, sexism and patriarchy are, and they affect men negatively too. The idea of feminists as angry, hairy-legged man haters is yet another example of people trying to shun feminists as weird, difficult and different. Yawn.
4. Watch trashy TV shows and follow celeb culture
I’m a feminist yet I sometimes read articles full of tips about how to make my arse look a bit more like Kylie Jenner’s. I’ve even been known to enjoy a Chris Brown song. That doesn’t mean I don’t also know that there are some very problematic elements to both.
Life is a contradiction and even when you’re a feminist, living in a patriarchal world makes it pretty impossible to totally divorce yourself from everything that’s sexist, objectifying, misogynistic and that features out-dated gender roles.
Being critical of popular media and the stereotypes they reinforce is extremely important and the more you think about it, the more you will notice sexually violent lyrics and misogynistic storylines everywhere you look. But we’re all a product of our society and while I love feminist shows like Broad City and Parks & Rec, I’m not going to deny that I also relish switching off after a long day for an episode of two of The Bachelor. I’m not perfect but I’m not apologising for that either.
5. Enjoy doing things that are ‘stereotypical’ of women
Liking fashion and baking doesn’t make you any less of a feminist.
The point of feminism is to look past what is typical and expected of you as a woman to determine what is best for you as an individual and your life opposed to an idealised picture of a life that you feel like people are expecting you, a woman, or you, a man, to aspire to.
6. Have casual sex
Whether you choose to have casual sex or choose not to is and should only ever be up to you: it’s your body and you should feel free to do what you want with it. Shaming people for their choices either way is inherently anti-feminist.
7. Wax and shave whatever you damn please
Body hair, body hair, body hair. The debate is a big one for the feminist community and because the female removal of hair is one rooted in traditional, sexist social expectations of women ‘needing’ to seem attractive to men, it’s understandable that keeping things natural has become a political tool for many to reclaim their bodies from societal convention. And regardless of whether you remove yours or not, it’s important to be aware of the cultural pressures that are always trying to force us to control and ‘improve’ our bodies by altering what the natural ways they exist and function.
Still, like with makeup, it’s up to you to make your own choice and frankly no one has the right to police that choice. In the grand scale of things, choosing to shave your legs has not and will not diminish the feminist cause and saying that it has totally misses the point of the broader cause, which is to free women of feeling pressure to have to justify choices relating to their own bodies.
8. Be pissed off
That image of the angry feminist is a classic way the patriarchy has put those who perhaps quietly agree but who are cautious or new to the ideas off identifying as feminist. At some level we all want to be liked and being the person who is angry and making noise about our beliefs has consistently been made fun of and scorned, ostracising those who do in a bid to try to de-value the point feminism is making.
Of course you don’t have to be vocally pissed off to be a feminist, but it’s also VERY cool with us if you are: don’t know about you but the idea that I and those of my sex will earn less money from doing the same jobs, consistently have less rights and opportunities across the world AND are still made fun of for being annoyed about those facts makes me even more angry.
9. Disagree with other women and feminists
There’s no one rulebook and one of the biggest misconceptions about feminism is that we should all agree and have a singular, united voice all of the time.
As with most ideologies it’s actually way more accurate that depending on our own beliefs and experiences, we will all have different goals and ideas of what a true feminist society might look like. Discussion and disagreement is good: it allows us to progress and grow ideas, and think about them in a way that perhaps actually applies to more women, not just those who share our race, class and culture.
10. Get it wrong sometimes
It’s totally normal to wonder how many of the things you love to do are actually shaped by sexist ideas you’ve been subjected to since you were born, but focusing too much on them can equally mean that you’re overlooking what it is that feminism has left to achieve.
Perhaps instead think more about the broader movement, as really it’s only choices that limit the choices of other people that are damaging and anti-feminist. If you’re doing things for yourself and not to please others, there’s no need to become too preoccupied with a sense of guilt that you’re doing feminism ‘wrong’.
In a world without sexism, we might see a lot less women watching the Kardashians, waxing their bikini lines and putting on lipstick. Or we might not. Either way the point is that we need to stop policing women’s choices about their own lives and their bodies and get on with focusing with practical steps to move towards real gender equality.
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