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.