I’m a feminist.
And if you’re reading this, you probably are too.
I’m a feminist.
I believe that equality of the sexes is a goal everyone should be working towards, regardless of how we identify, because it affects every single one of us.
But there’s the thing – I also like conforming to these norms sometimes. Scratch that – I like doing the things that are aligned with these norms. Though Feminism is my friend, we sometimes don’t look alike. For instance, I really like make-up. Maybe it’s the theatre artist in me, but I love the feeling of being able to transform your appearance in just a few minutes. I no longer use makeup to hide from my insecurities; rather, I used it because it makes me feel powerful! It’s become a huge part of my self-care routine, as have my morning and nightly skincare routines. I like wearing makeup.
I also like wearing dresses, and finding a really cute bag on sale. I like looking “cute”. I like dressing up in a sundress and sitting in a park, laughing with my friends. I like crushing on someone. I like flirting, and even though it makes me SO anxious (more on that later) I like it when someone thinks that I look pretty. I love baking and cooking, and I actually do enjoy doing laundry. So where does that leave me and my pal, Feminism? Does this, as I thought for so many years, make me a bad feminist?
I used to think that wanting to wear makeup was agreeing with sexist ideals. I used to think that wanting to wear a dress instead of pants, or having really nurturing instincts, being soft-spoken around new people, and all of these things, was like me slamming the door in Feminism’s face. So I decided to stop doing them. It would be like a little social experiment.
When I was at my worst with my anxiety disorder and body dysmorphia – before I was even diagnosed and sought help for my struggles – I tried to fit into this “perfect” image of what I thought I “should” be. Part of what this looked like was conforming to what I thought a “perfect” feminist should be. This meant rejecting anything that was too “girly”. After a while, I realized that I wasn’t letting myself do things that made me happy, because I didn’t want to come across as too feminine. I was afraid of what others would think about me then. As I worked with different mental health professionals, and started to learn the importance of self-care and positive coping strategies, I realized that some of the things I had declared “anti-feminist” were actually the very things that could help me heal.
As I started to recover from my mental health challenges, and I started to really discover who I am and how to care for myself, I realized… feminism means respecting women’s choices no matter what they choose. Shocking, I know. But this is something I hadn’t really thought about before getting more involved with the feminist movement, and starting my internship at Ethereal and Co, a feminist start-up that combats taboos surrounding feminism, sexual health, mental health, and everything in between. It sounds obvious, but I think that a lot of people have the misconception that women who like traditionally “feminine” things are just waiting for you to liberate them and teach them not to. This just isn’t the case. We can’t assume that someone who loves to show her partner that she loves them by making a gourmet meal, someone who absolutely loves “girly” dresses and sparkly makeup, is being “anti-feminist”. I’ve been on both sides of this. I’ve been the person who, unfortunately, thinks “that’s reinforcing gender norms”, when in reality I like a lot of the things that don’t immediately seem to agree with my self-imposed “feminist” label.
Long story short, we can’t have feminism without respecting everyone’s choices. I can love the new highlighter I got at Sephora and also rally with the best of them at a women’s rights march. Because how people choose to live their lives, and how they choose to engage in self-care, doesn’t define their identity as a feminist. Their beliefs and values do.