Am I a Bad Feminist?

Let me just start this post by clearing something up… I’m probably not the World’s Best Feminist.

No, really, it’s very kind of you to argue otherwise, but I’m not. I don’t spend my spare time picketing and campaigning, and I’m yet to rescue an oppressed woman from a burning building. I just write a blog. Until recently I’d always assumed that just BEING a feminist was enough. I was sure that at the mere utterance of the words ‘I’m a feminist!’ I’d be ushered into a secret club of strong and understanding women, inspirational ideas, and probably cake. I thought I’d at least get a badge. I hoped that reading about and meeting other feminists would help strengthen and validate my beliefs.

What I didn’t count on was that it would actually leave me questioning everything I believe and don’t believe, and even wondering if I’ve unwittingly entered into a hierarchical structure I didn’t even know existed. I’ve recently started reading more and more feminist literature, and following lots of feminist bloggers. Inevitably I’ve found myself comparing my beliefs to those of many other feminists and, when identifying gaps and discrepancies, have ended up wondering… am I a Bad Feminist?

Let me, like a second-rate local MP, lay out my (quite flaky at present) feminist manifesto.

These are a few things I believe…

  • Women and men should have equal rights.
  • Women should have full control over their own bodies.
  • Women are not objects.
  • Everyday sexism (check out this blog for examples) is a huge impedance to the fight for gender equality.

Still with me? Pretty simple so far, this feminism thing, isn’t it? Now then, these are a few things (which I’ve heard a lot recently) that I don’t believe…

Pink is the root of all evil.

(I’m talking the colour here, not the singer. Although I’m 99% sure she too is not the root of all evil.) I was brought up with pink in my life, but have somehow also managed to secure a job; I’m fairly sure the two aren’t mutually exclusive. To me, pink is just a colour. Just one colour in the lovely rainbow that makes up my wardrobe, home interior and colour-coded spreadsheets.  To me, it bears no more significance than any other colour. Yes, I can see what it represents to some, and I wouldn’t want my (imaginary) daughter’s life choices dictated and restricted by an unrelenting assault of pink sugary fluff.  However, I don’t intend to boycott the colour altogether. Cut it some slack, guys – it’s only red mixed with white!

The word ‘Girl’ is the root of all evil.
Now, I sometimes refer to myself as a ‘girl’. (Hence the blog title). It didn’t occur to me until recently that this was an offensive word in feminist circles. I can of course see why a grown woman might find being referred to as a ‘girl’ highly patronising (in fact, I would be annoyed myself in certain situations) but I’m completely happy to call myself a girl. Does this make me a Bad Feminist? I hope not. I happen to think it’s more reflective of my Peter Pan mindset than anything else. Check back in a few years’ time and this blog might well be called A Matron With Questions.

Razors/Cosmetics/Heels are the root of all evil.
I personally am not averse to a good Gillette-ing, Revlon-ing, or even a KurtGeiger-ing. Clearly the idea of a ‘hairy, man-hating feminist’ is laughably outdated. However, there are many modern feminists who choose not to remove their body hair or wear make-up, and some of these might argue that my stubbled legs and penchant for eyeliner make me a Bad Feminist. However, (to skim the surface of a much deeper argument) practices like shaving my legs or wearing a pair of stilettos are, to me, simply superficial things that I do partly out of habit, and partly because I like the way they make me feel and look. These are not things that I do because I feel like I NEED to. In fact, sometimes I can’t be bothered to shave my legs or wear make-up, so I don’t. My slippers will ALWAYS see more action than my heels. These little habits do not control my life, and I certainly don’t feel enslaved by them.

Nevertheless, some feminists would argue that I only enjoy partaking in these things because I have been taught that they are the RIGHT things to do in order to be accepted as a woman. There is probably some truth in this. I wasn’t born with a razor in my hand and a face full of Rimmel (cracking mental image, there). There is certainly a pretty finite idea of femininity in the media, and it doesn’t include bare faces and hairy legs. I’m sure this hasn’t passed me by. However, I genuinely don’t feel that I would be happier and more liberated if I stopped doing these things. The reality is, I would miss them. Wherever these habits came from, they now bring me some small, superficial form of pleasure.

It sometimes feels like, in order to be a Good Feminist, I need to unlearn everything I have been taught, and start afresh without any preconceived notions of what it is to be a woman. This is a tempting and intriguing idea. However, it is far from practical – I would even argue that it’s actually pretty impossible. What I propose is something of a middle point…

ASK QUESTIONS! Ask yourself whether you’re putting on heels because you feel like you have to. If you are, take them off; reach for a brogue! Ask yourself whether you would be happier without a face-full of make-up. If you would, let’s get baby-wiping! Question whether you’re painting your room pink and referring to yourself as a girl simply because society has taught you to. If you would be happier not doing these things, cast those (pink, fluffy) shackles aside! After all, unquestioningly following the lead, even when it comes to as positive a cause as feminism, is not the way to find out what’s right for you.

To my mind, feminism is an extremely personal thing. Your reasons for identifying as a feminist might not be exactly the same as the next person’s. The issues that get you worked up might be completely different to those that your neighbour campaigns for. Personally I find that, although most feminists will agree on a few basic principles (see above), some of the more ‘radical’ feminist ideas just don’t resonate with me. Maybe this makes me an Everyday Feminist, as opposed to a militant feminist. Though it’s easy to find connotations of half-bakedness in the word ‘everyday’, I would argue that there is very much a place for feminists like me in the world, and that we’re not Bad Feminists.

In fact, I would argue that, as long as the core beliefs are there, there is no such thing as bad feminism. Many women would be able to identify more easily with an ‘everyday’ feminist like myself than they would a militant feminist. And if this means that feminism is a more accessible cause, and that more women identify as feminists, this can only be a good thing.

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50 comments

  1. unladylikemusings

    You’ve expressed this so well! I struggled with so much of this when I first began to identify with feminism as well. One of my professors, who was all about women’s rights, came to class in heels every day. She was always immaculately dressed and to be honest looked sexy as hell. This confused me at first. How could she so vocally be speaking out for women and yet at the same time participating in, what I saw at the time as, the traps and designs of patriarchy? In the end what I took away from my classes with her are similar to what you have stated above. Feminism is personal. It looks different and is expressed differently by different people. If all feminist looked and acted the same it would be boardering on something else, boring for one, maybe even a cult. Diversity equals accountability. Thank you for this post!

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello – thank you for your lovely comment! I’m so glad my post made some sense – it’s quite a hard point to put across. I bet a lot of what made your professor ‘sexy as hell’ was to do with her confidence and positivity as a woman and a feminist. And this positivity and self-assurance can only come from knowing exactly who you are, and embracing feminism in a way that’s right for you. I know for a fact that if I did everything every feminist suggests, I would not be a happy or positive person. Like you say, it would be a boring and slightly weird world if all feminists were exactly the same, and diversity is definitely a good thing! :)

    • Elo

      You have expressed this exactly the way I would. I don’t believe that I have to dress or act a certain way to be a feminist. I believe in a philosophy – I didn’t join a cult.

      • agirlwithquestions

        Hello Elo! (Enjoyed typing that!) Thank you for taking the time to comment.

        When you put it like that, it’s so straightforward and obvious, isn’t it? Feminism is a set of beliefs, not a life-controlling cult. I’ll remind myself of this fact next time I top up my lipstick! :)

  2. thegreenstudy

    I consider myself to be a fairly crappy feminist, but only because I don’t really know what the definition is these days. I think you have the right idea – not doing things without asking yourself why. Just like any group, feminists fall everywhere on the spectrum and that’s why stereotypes are so damaging. It is dismissive of a majority of a group (the “in-betweeners” or as you say, “everyday” feminists) and causes the group to lose power as a whole.

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello, and thank you for your comment. I agree – defining feminism can be quite tricky. I think everyone would define feminism in a slightly different way, but like I said in my post, most feminists should agree on a few basic principles. Beyond that, it’s all about what works for you personally. I completely agree that stereotypes are damaging – that’s why I really hope more and more ‘everyday’ feminists will speak out and show that the majority of feminists are positive, relatable, and ‘normal’ women.

  3. Pingback: Feminine Power « Into The Sacred Feminine
  4. lowerarchy

    Hi my friend – thanks for dropping in on my blog. I’ve been fortunate to have some brilliant teachers over the last 30 years and have studied cultural studies, history, gender, human rights, feminisms and various critical discourses. I applaud your honesty and want to say strongly – keep on questioning everything! I say ‘feminisms’ because there is not one but many forms and strands. Feminism is a set of critical approaches – it is a way of making sense of a mad world. There are no easy answers, but without questions we cannot progress, both as individuals and as a species. And feminist analysis and practice are crucial if humanity is to have a future – because most everyone can see the present modes of living are unsustainable.
    Funnily enough – or perhaps because this is important and current – I was going to blog about this today but haven’t had time. I was planning to say it doesn’t matter what you call yourself – what matters is what you say and do. Folk label themselves as all kinds of things and expect others to treat them accordingly – but I’d rather respond to the person not the label.
    Look forward to chatting more…

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello, and thank you for your comment! I totally agree. I love this:

      I say ‘feminisms’ because there is not one but many forms and strands. Feminism is a set of critical approaches – it is a way of making sense of a mad world.

      That’s exactly what I think. It’s liberating to know that there are indeed lots of different types of feminisms, and that you don’t need to change yourself to fit into a certain category or label. I did start to feel bad when I realised my beliefs weren’t quite the same as the most strident or militant feminists, but then I realised that doesn’t make one of us better than the other. It’s great to know someone else feels the same (and you put it so clearly and eloquently too – you put me to shame!) so thank you very much for sharing! :)

      • lowerarchy

        Cheers mate – don’t you dare put yourself down though – your writing was great and I was really impressed (and my partner) Also I’m a lot older so have had time to learn these things :) and I’m a novelist and creative writing teacher – trust me – you write very well – most folk can’t write to save their lives.
        People try to act like they’re more radical but it’s just for show. The coolest feminists don’t do this
        Check out this:
        http://dogsharon.com/2012/02/02/womanifesto/
        If you live somewhere in Europe I’ll send you a novel to read. Regards

      • agirlwithquestions

        Hello again! Thank you so much for your comment. Means a lot coming from such a great writer. Checked out that link – love it! I’m in sunny Cardiff in the UK. Whereabouts are you, may I ask?

      • lowerarchy

        Just as sunny Solihull in the West Midlands. My daughter’s not far from you at the moment – she’s at her boyfriend’s in Newport. Most of the time she’s at Hartpury College in Gloucester doing her last year of a business ans sports management degree – he plays rugby for UWiC. I’m rather Welsh myself – my paternal gran was from Merthyr Tydfil and my mum’s maiden name was Thomas. Also I used to play for Birmingham Welsh RFC!
        I’m a bit of a teacher – English and creative writing and have been doing some courses on creative thinking.
        What are you into?

      • agirlwithquestions

        Ooh, Newport – the next town over! Lots of Welsh blood on your side, then. I moved to Cardiff about eight years ago (did a BA in English Lit here) and love it. Did a bit of music journalism after graduating, and am now working in Communications. The whole point of this blog was to start writing again, so it’s really great to be writing about something I actually feel strongly about. Very cathartic! And great to be able to talk to lovely people like yourself! :) Am actually planning on doing a Creative Writing course at Cardiff Uni in January. Exciting!

      • lowerarchy

        That’s great – I did my first MA in creative writing and it was a lot of fun.
        If I can ever help just shout – like if you want an opinion on something feel free to ask.
        On a more critical note – not to you but generally – often when people describe themselves as ‘writer’ on blogs they clearly aren’t. Proficiency of language use is impossible to hide and some writing is very poor with no revision or feel for the words used.
        However, you do just fine, so I’ll look forward to reading lots from you in future :)

      • agirlwithquestions

        Thank you so much – that’s a brilliant offer. You might come to regret it! :) I wouldn’t describe myself as a writer (although I’ve had writing-based jobs in the past, and working in Communications is very writing-based, too) but I do love writing. I’m a bit of a perfectionist, and will spend an age trying to think of the perfect way to phrase something. It’s great to be able to do it at my own pace, too, rather than to a deadline. Thanks for the encouragement – I’ll try to do you proud! :)

      • lowerarchy

        Thanks for the nice words (pun intended)
        One has to be something of a perfectionist when writing because the mistakes are stuck there, often for a long time, for everyone to see. When we speak we can say, ‘I didn’t mean that…’ but with writing it’s fixed for ever. And it’s always easier criticising writing than doing it, so wordsmiths have to take extra care.
        But being good with words is so important for the rest of life – I’d hate to be the other way, wouldn’t you?

      • agirlwithquestions

        I completely agree. It’s actually reached a point where, in work, I find myself much happier communicating via email than over the phone. I like having the luxury of time to think about my words, and delete any that come out wrong. Shame I can’t do that over the phone, when I tend to babble and stumble over words. And yes, I completely agree that being good with words is also important in general. I wasn’t great at maths or sciences in school, but I always felt that being good with words helps you to blag your way through most things! :)

  5. Puneet

    There is no such thing as a good/bad feminist nowadays, IMO. In the past, you were a good feminist if you burnt your bra out in the street – no such thing today. I do think, however, the word “feminist” has a bad rap (and for good reason, sometimes), so I am careful to use the word to describe myself. You never know what meaning the person you are talking to attaches to it, you know?

    Sorry I went off on a rant like that — great post! :)

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello Puneet – thank you for the comment! :) I’m glad you agree that there isn’t such thing as a bad feminist. I’ll remember that if/when someone questions my ‘dedication to the cause’! I totally agree that the word ‘feminist’ has awful, negative connotations. It’s such a shame. I’ve always felt quite strongly about issues of gender equality, but I only really started referring to myself as a feminist after reading Caitlin Moran’s book ‘How To Be A Woman’. I can relate so much more to her than I can the more radical feminist writers, and reading her book actually made me feel proud to call myself a feminist. That said, I’m still careful when using the word in certain situations, as I know what conclusions people might jump to!

  6. B

    I kind of expected a badge when I started announcing that I was a feminist or at least realising that there was an inequality that needed to be sorted. I think your post is brilliant; I was much the same. I didn’t really know if I was a feminist or not because I was buying into the bra burning, hair loving type of feminism that stereotypes would have you believe. The truth is that feminism, like you said, is a belief in gender equality and women not being dictated by patriarchal traditions. There is definitely no such thing as bad feminism, anyone that is willing to be more open minded and question things that are usually taken without hesitation, can only be a positive thing.

    By the way, if you ever get sent your feminism cakes/badges/certificates or club membership, can you pass on my name?

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hi B, thank you so much for your comment! :) I’m so glad my post made sense to you and that you agree. Getting comments like this really helps me to realise I’m not alone with this. I think feminism, just like anything else, is evolving. And now that women are that little bit closer to equality (than they were, say, fifty years ago), it’s natural that there are more feminists like you and I and many others, who just don’t relate to the more radical ideas. And yes, if I do stumble upon that elusive feminist cake or badge, you will be the first to know! :)

  7. belljargirl

    Reblogged this on belljargirl and commented:
    agirlwithquestions’ argument is really clear – which is admirable in itself because sometimes it’s so hard to talk about feminism! And on top of that I completely agree with her points. I don’t believe there’s a bad feminism. There’s no rule book – it IS a very personal thing. Which, to me, reinforces the fact that feminism is about choice and people (regardless of sex or gender) breaking free of social conventions and its shackles.

    A lot of people say to me ‘I don’t really understand feminism’, ‘I don’t know much about feminism’, ‘I haven’t read much feminist theory’. To be honest, neither have I. I’ve read some but I don’t know every feminist thesis under the sun. My feminism comes from within and from the frustration I’ve felt and the experiences I’ve had in the current world. I didn’t sign a contract saying I would promote certain arguments and live a certain way. Feminism isn’t a job with set requirements; it’s a personal journey to make choices rather than blindly following social convention and succumbing to pressures. I can’t tell you what feminism is about. And agirlwithquestions can’t tell you what a bad feminist is, but hopefully we both can help PEOPLE think for themselves and live how they want to. Agirlwithquestions certainly made me think and I’m looking forward to reading more of her blog!

  8. Pingback: Celebrating Womanhood: How I Discovered I Was A Feminist « Unladylike Musings
  9. femmevitale

    This is a great post, and I agree with what you say. To me, it seems the objective of the feminist movement should be focused on securing equal rights under the law and fair and balanced portrayals of women in the media. Feminism should never be about attempting to impose another set of standards on women or just another set of ideas about what women should or should not do.. We’ve had more than enough of that! Questioning everything is a great place to start as we all begin to rethink the past…which is hard to do, as you say, because the patterns of patriarchy have been engrained in us since the beginning! I read Caitlin Moran’s book – and it was helpful as I examine patterns and practices within society and attempt to determine whether or not they are oppressive to women- the general rule is this: do men subject themselves to an equivalent practice for the sake of fitting into or being accepted by society? If the answer is no, then it is likely that that particular expectation placed on women is unjust. I am still sort of testing this idea out in “the real world” but I have found it to be helpful so far. Great thoughts! I really enjoyed reading about your take on feminism.

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello – thanks for the lovely comment. I totally agree that feminism should be outward-facing, i.e. looking at what can be done to make a positive change to the world, rather than inward-facing and governing what other feminists/women should do. Loved Caitlin Moran’s book – she makes such a simple, logical argument about what makes something a feminist issue. Great to hear you agree (and you articulate it so well!) Thanks for taking the time to read and comment! :)

  10. Liza Wolff-Francis

    It sounds like you are a “good” feminist. :) I don’t think there are any strict rules, though people have their opinions and ways to define feminism. Some people believe we have no free choice at all because of the patriarchal system in place and then on the other end, there’s Sarah Palin who claims she’s a “conservative feminist” and will stop at nothing to make abortion illegal. There are so many points to debate and discuss, which is always interesting, but for me the real bottom line is this: I believe women must have the right to make decisions for their selves and their bodies. To not be able to do so, makes women less human. The less human we are made under the law and seen to be within the society, the more at risk we are for violence and the more violence against us goes up. All the other issues are just pieces in that picture of inequality and there’s a lot of pieces- you have to pick your battles.
    Thanks for the post! -Liza Wolff-Francis, Matrifocal Point

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello – thank you for taking the time to comment! :) Glad you don’t think I’m a Bad Feminist!

      I believe women must have the right to make decisions for their selves and their bodies.

      It seems such a simple point, but it’s so important to remember this. People tend to focus too much on other aspects of what feminism means, and forget that, essentially, this really is what it all boils down to. Whether feminists agree on other issues seems insignificant, as long as they agree on that one key point.

  11. feministifythis

    Great post!
    I’ve been thinking quite much about these things myself.

    Ahh, first we have this thing about double standards. As a woman, you’re always wrong, whatever you do. If you don’t wear make-up – you’re ugly and unfeminine in society. But if you wear too much make-up – you’re a whore. If you wear a “standard” amount of make-up – you’re a bad feminist in feminist circles. Whatever you do, someone will piss in your face.

    For me – something very important when it comes to feminism is sisterhood. And (female) feminists who complain about others being “bad feminists” and putting other women down do not really exhibit the great spirit of sisterhood. I mean, of course you can question what other people do, but hey, before we do that we should consider it very carefully. Feminists are not a homogeneous group, we’re not a stereotype. You don’t have to free yourself in all ways possible from the social gender “woman” in order to be a good feminist. The important thing is just to realise that it should be a matter of free choice – which it isn’t today. In the modern society, there are lots of norms about gender and if you don’t conform to them, you will most likely suffer in some ways. The norms tell us that a woman should shave her legs – if you do, that’s fine, no one will care (except from a few narrow-minded feminists, perhaps), but if you decide not to shave, there will probably be lots of fuss (provided that your hair-growth is rich and dark like mine). Strangers in the street will give you disgusted looks when you walk by in you’re summer dress. People will stare at your legs, whispering. You will feel like a freaking alien – you might as well be infected by the plague. And that’s the problem. Perhaps that’s why some women who reject the femininity norms gets have a problem accepting other feminists who don’t, because for them, it’s a huge in issue of oppression and sexism in everyday life. And if you’re constantly attacked, you will consequently become defensive.

    But anyway, blaming and shaming others for being bad feminists is wrong. If we’re to fight patriarchy, we got to do it together – women (and men) of all gender expressions. :)

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello – thank you for your comment. You make some really great points.

      Feminists are not a homogeneous group, we’re not a stereotype. You don’t have to free yourself in all ways possible from the social gender “woman” in order to be a good feminist.

      This is so well put. I suppose I’ve kind of felt a pressure to ‘fit in’ with other feminists, but I’m starting to realise it would be completely impossible, as, like you say, we’re not some kind of homogeneous breed!

      CHOICE is such an important word here. I might choose to shave my legs and wear make-up, and I feel that that should be my choice to make. But I also feel, quite passionately, that women should have the choice to not do these things if they would prefer. It’s massively frustrating that women are judged either way and, like you say, it’s sometimes very hard to feel you’re doing something ‘right’ as a woman. I think all you can do is decide what’s right for you, and try not to worry about what other people think, as you can’t please everyone.

      And yes, I completely agree about the idea of sisterhood. Coming together for an important cause makes you feel much less isolated and more powerful. At least I’m finding lots of lovely people via my blog! :)

  12. cherylsconfections

    A book that really helped me understand so much of the contradictions and pitfalls that become clearer once you’ve chosen to identify yourself as a feminist is ‘Full Frontal Feminism’ by Jessica Valenti. She’s the blogger for feministing.com and she had whole chapters devoted to the issues of empowerment vs falling into the patriarchy. You raise a lot of great points and if you ever need some help validating your thoughts, you should check out ‘Full Frontal Feminism’. It’s a great way to learn Feminist theories without reading through a theory book.

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hi – thank you for your comment! I’m actually following Jessica Valenti on Twitter, and find her really interesting and articulate. I have been meaning to check out her book for a while now, but I just have so many other books to get through first! Thanks for the recommendation! :) If you haven’t read ‘How To Be A Woman’ by Caitlin Moran, I’d definitely recommend that, too. Not everyone’s cup of tea, but I loved it.

  13. Pingback: “Am I a Bad Feminist?”: A shared view! | notbadforagirl
  14. jackr541986

    Thanks for the above. It’s always interesting to read the views of feminists who wish to ponder the aims of the contemporary feminist project. Having said that, I would like to offer a (respectfully) critical point on the vision of feminism you outline. It strikes me that while, of course, the colour pink, high heels, and so forth, are not necessarily the emblems of patriarchal oppression that feminism once considered them to be, they still retain a certain oppressive efficacy which, hopefully, I can explain through reference to an old anecdote: Neils Bohr, the famous physicist once invited a friend round to his house. As they approached the door, the friend noticed a horse shoe, upturned, hanging on the door (as is well known, this is a symbol of good luck). He remarked: “How can you, a man of science and reason, believe that a horse shoe will bring you good luck?” Neils Bohr replied: “of course, you are quite right, as a man of science, I don’t believe in such things, However, I am told that it works even if you don’t believe!”
    This anecdote provides an insight into the predicament of feminism today. Of course, most women are fully aware of the ways in which certain colours, items of clothing, shaving, and so forth, can be mobilised toward to oppression/objectification of women under patriarchy. However, I contend that it is precisely this awareness that allows them to continue wearing pink and shaving, albeit with a certain critical distance to these practices. To be clear: it is precisely by viewing leg shaving, the colour pink, and so forth as purely superficial activities with no real bearing on notions of feminity that patriarchal oppression functions today. Contemporary patriarchy does not function (primarily) through 50s style open misogyny (office bum-slapping, strict limitations on career opportunities, etc), it functions by dictating the neutral background of women’s social activity, the very practices which enable women to ‘feel comfortable’, ‘look attractive’, etc. I would propose (here you’ll have to correct me if I’m exaggerating) that many women feel less secure/confident if they went out (to work, to a bar) without having shaved their body hair and applied make-up. I take this as a signal that the mandate to wear make-up has been internalized by these women. As far as I’m aware, most polite people don’t draw attention to a lack of make up – if a women does not feel confident without make-up it is not necessarily because of any external pressure, it is, so to speak, from the inside. This inner compulsion, which is subjectively experienced as a superficial, harmless activity, is the mode in which patriarchal ideology affects women today. The cliche of the bra-burning, hairy feminist has long lost its appeal for contemporary women, but I reject the idea that this means pinkness/make-up/designer clothes/heels have ceased to function as instruments of ideology. It is precisely insofar as women hold shaving etc to be a superficial activities (they don’t feel excessively oppressed by the need to apply make-up and shave) that they have been able to reconcile themselves with these activities and this is how patriarchy continues to assert itself.

    Does this mean you are a bad feminist? Of course, the answer is absolutely not. Self-identification as a feminist must be a step in the right direction as long as it comes with some critical interrogation of pinkness/heels and other issues. I’m not sure what a ‘bad feminist’ would be (although maybe Sex in the City provides an image of feminism gone awry) and I’m not sure I have the right to say anyway. All I know is that ‘good feminism’ must be a feminism that continues to think critically about women’s position in society and the patriarchal/ideological pressures upon them.

    • agirlwithquestions

      Hello! Thank you for taking the time to write such a thought-provoking comment. It’s always interesting to hear other points of view.

      I reject the idea that this means pinkness/make-up/designer clothes/heels have ceased to function as instruments of ideology

      I certainly don’t disagree that these things still retain a certain ideology. As I said in my post:

      Some feminists would argue that I only enjoy partaking in these things (make-up, shaving, etc.) because I have been taught that they are the RIGHT things to do in order to be accepted as a woman. There is probably some truth in this… There is certainly a pretty finite idea of femininity in the media, and it doesn’t include bare faces and hairy legs. I’m sure this hasn’t passed me by.

      By this I mean that, I do accept that these things (make-up, shaving) aren’t natural, but rather are taught. I accept that I have grown up to believe they are normal, everyday and meaningless, when in fact there is a deeper meaning behind them, and an element of control or oppression.

      However, I also argued that:

      It sometimes feels like, in order to be a Good Feminist, I need to unlearn everything I have been taught, and start afresh without any preconceived notions of what it is to be a woman. This is a tempting and intriguing idea. However, it is far from practical – I would even argue that it’s actually pretty impossible.

      Here I argue that, yes, I can see that my love of make-up, etc., is ingrained rather than innate. However, many things in life are deeply ingrained, and it is impossible to completely unlearn everything I have been taught. Furthermore, on balance, of all the things I feel pose a problem to me as a woman, these are the ‘lesser evils’. I suppose my use of the word ‘superficial’ could have implied that these things are completely arbitrary and meaningless, but actually I refer to them as such simply because I see them as the smaller, less problematic issues – not in general, but for me personally. In my next post (hopefully later this week), I will be discussing one of the aspects of sexism that impacts on me most directly and significantly. Something that I feel is a far bigger issue.

      As you said:

      All I know is that ‘good feminism’ must be a feminism that continues to think critically about women’s position in society and the patriarchal/ideological pressures upon them

      This is what I aim for. I might not be as strident or certain as some, but I hope by continuing to question things, I am at least taking a step in the right direction.

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