Feminism Fridays: Am I Still A Feminist?

Guess who’s back. Back again. The renegade master! Bet that went a different direction than y’all were expecting. *cough* Anyway. Apologies for the absence. My raging social life got in the way. It won’t happen again, I promise. 

I’m just going to come out and say it. It’s hard being a 21st Century feminist sometimes. We live in a patriarchy, though we try to combat this. However, patriarchy is, much like many other ruling systems, an ideology. It operates invisibly, as it is so embedded in our minds and our culture.

And then feminism comes along. Feminism is a lens through which we can assess and deconstruct those structures that were put in place by da malez. Feminism lets you see the need for feminism. Yet, much like when you discover that those jokes you never got in The Simpsons were dirty and you feel your childhood indefinitely ruined, feminism can ruin things for you. And rightly so. When the veil of patriarchy is lifted and you see the world for how it actually is, it’s pretty shit.

So, where does that leave us? Us 2016 women have many more luxuries than women before us. With the heavy onset of Third-Wave Feminism, it sort of feels like the list of things we shouldn’t like/enjoy seems to be getting longer. There are so many things that we take part in daily, without thinking, that not only play into the deeply-rooted patriarchy of our society, but that may also be reductive and regressive for us.

There are many things feminists still struggle to correlate. Therefore, I find myself asking the question, am I still a feminist if….

I like fashion?

A few nights ago, the Oscars were on and meme generators everywhere lost one of their most stable memes; Leo and his ever-elusive Oscar. I was watching the Snapchat story of Irish author Louise O’Neill (if you haven’t heard of her, go find her and read her stuff. NOW. And then come back to this post), where she was discussing this. Does it make us less of a feminist if we enjoy shopping and fashion? She argues that no, there’s nothing wrong with it, if you merely comment on the fashion itself, and not the women or men wearing the fashion. I had never thought of it like that before, and I find myself agreeing with her. There are so many times when I look at red carpet pictures, and when I see a dress I don’t like, it’s because “it does nothing for her”, or something along those lines. I admit that, for me, the lines between the dress and the woman wearing it were heavily blurred in my eyes. But to equate a woman and what she wears, is reducing said woman to a piece of fabric. Louise, in her Snapchat story, reminded us of the pressures for women to conform to an ideal beauty. By commenting on the woman’s body shape underneath the expensive gown, I wasn’t talking fashion. I was talking about the woman’s body, and weight, and just perpetuating the un-achieveable, yet standard beauty ideal that has been set for us. Once we realise that fashion does not equal women, but that it equals beautiful pieces of clothes through designers and artists express themselves, dresses too gorgeous to comprehend, or getting your nails done (which is half the reason this post is taking so goddamn long to write), I don’t think it should take away from your stance as a feminist.

I want to be proposed to?

I wrote about this the other day, in honour of Feburary 29th, and I ended up discussing it with two girls the next day in college. Am I still a feminist if I want to be proposed to? In my post, I argued that the general understanding of men being the proposers only enhances the archaic relationship structures that are still in play today. However, I do not begrudge women for not proposing, or even wanting to be proposed to… because I am one of them. Many girls grow up surrounded by the idea of being proposed to by your bae, down on one knee, with a huge rock to weigh down your hand. Can you really blame us? That image was everywhere growing up, and it still is. I still agree with my latest post. Women should be able to propose to her partner if she wishes to, without the need for a specific day every four years. Yet, I don’t feel that, as a feminist, I should propose purely because I am feminist, if I don’t want to. What is important is that we are aware of these constructed gender roles that have remained with us to this day.

I like when my boyfriend is chivalrous?

Much of the feminist movement is about deconstructing the harmful images and gender roles women are placed under. However we can’t deny that men are subject to this too. For almost as long as women have been put under the Madonna/Whore dichotomy, men have been pressured to remain … men. To be masculine, strong, protective, a gentleman. And you know what… I like it when my boyfriend is masculine. I like it when he puts his arm around me, or insists on picking me up from somewhere, or even just generally being manly. I have no shame in that. But does that make me a bad feminist if I enjoy that? For I am celebrating him engaging in the constructed gender roles for his gender, the very thing I fight to change for mine. Am I being totally regressive and reductive by allowing him to be chivalrous to me? By letting him do these things, am I no better than Rapunzel, sitting in her tower? I think the difference is, I do not ask him to do these things. They are merely small things he does that I appreciate, but do not request from him. If I were to force him to pay for dinner, or hold every door open for me, and give out when he doesn’t, that would be a different story. I do not hold him hostage to these ideals, and he knows this. We are in a relationship of equals, and we do not hold each other to any certain standard. (And to be honest, I think he enjoys doing those small things for me, as I enjoy him doing them.)

I don’t see any gender inequality in my world?

In many anti-feminism articles I have read, one of the reasons why the author declares themselves not a feminist, is because they do not see, or have not experienced inequality in their world because of their gender. Which is a round-about way of them burying their head in the sand. Just because you haven’t seen it, does not mean it doesn’t exist. I don’t work, bar two small Christmas jobs, but that doesn’t mean I don’t believe that there isn’t a gender pay gap. My experience may not be the same as someone else’s. It may not be as big, or as traumatic. But that doesn’t take away from me being a feminist. You don’t have to see a dog being cruelly tortured in front of your eyes to know animal cruelty still exists. You can’t ignore the need for something, just because you haven’t had direct experience with it. Just like how there is a strive now to make sure feminism is inclusive, this is a sort of weird opposite of exclusive feminism. By denouncing feminists, you are merely deflecting the problem to other people, because you may not want to deal with it. So while I may have only had the seemingly obligatory ass-grabs in a club, and only yesterday was “fuck you!” yelled at me from a car of teenage boys who drove past me at the bus stop, that doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.

While there are the basic requirements for being a feminist, if we were to begrudge females these small pleasures purely because they are the product of a patriarchal society, the Third-Wave would have very few members. What’s the harm in letting a man open a door for you every once in a while, if he and you know you are in a relationship of equals? These things may be part of the problem, but part of the solution is just breaking down those barriers, and knowing that some things are purely a societal construction. This gives you the freedom to subvert these tendencies, as you know they are constructed, and can be deconstructed, and as a feminist, I hope I will.

 

 

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2 thoughts on “Feminism Fridays: Am I Still A Feminist?

  1. I think one of the most dangerous things we can do is to get caught up in rules and categorizations. A list of things you shouldn’t like as a feminist sounds like a bad idea. In my opinion the key to true equality is not necessarily saying their no differences between men and women, but in seeing those things that women like, or perhaps they way that woman behave as having inherently less value. Or that in general that women have less value. In an equal society even if there are, on averages, differences in likes and behaviors between men and women, if a man were to show such interest in those things, he should not be derided for doing. Just like you should not be derided because you find football interested and derided for that interest because you are infringing on “man territory”. If you like fashion that’s great. If your like for fashion is because you were raised in a somewhat traditional gender role environment then it certainly explains your interest, but doesn’t make you less of a feminist. It seems to me fashion, as an expression of individuality, as an art, as a reflection of society has a place in this world. What doesn’t have a place is the pushing of one body type, of creating an industry where models feel like they have develop eating disorders in order to keep their job. These are things, that as a feminist, you can fight for. I don’t think there is anything inherently wrong with a woman making an independent decision to expose her body in a sexual way or have sex for money. The problem with pornography and prostitution is how woman are seduced into that lifestyle through drugs and the prospect of easy money. Or that many women are forced against their will in the sex trade industry. And that it is often men who are the ones who control the situation and that women have a lack of autonomy. And there is nothing wrong with liking your man to be chivalrous…but what would be nice if there were more women who were chivalrous too, or what he gives in terms of chivalry you give in other ways, like extremely thoughtful gifts for example. But i mean really who doesn’t like to be taken care of or made to feel special? And we all have different ways in which we like our partners to do that. If chivalry is the way that you like a man to impress you, I don’t think there is anything wrong with that as long as you are also trying to impress him in ways that are meaningful as well. Equality doesn’t mean that we necessarily mean we all do the same things as each other. A pound of butter is the same as a pound of salt, even though they are different substances. The scales are still balanced. 🙂

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  2. Thank you for another thought-provoking comment! My post was not a list of things feminists shouldn’t like, as that’s not what those things are. The things I wrote about were things that are traditionally, or have been used to degrade or objectify women, and that is where my struggle comes from. If I like when a man is being chivalrous and a “gentleman”, am I not enjoying and encouraging the same gender roles and stereotypes that women are subjected to? After all, a “gentleman” is a construct based on the notion that women are weak and need help. You’re right that in an equal society all sexes should be able to engage in whatever they want, without fear of being bashed for doing something typically masculine and feminine. I agree that everything has two sides- fashion can be an outlet for some, and a danger-zone for others. What is important, I feel, is to know the differences between what is detrimental and not, and to navigate ourselves through that.

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