“There’s no such thing as a perfect feminist, and I am no exception.” Lena Dunham opened her moving speech at Vareity’s Women of Power luncheon with these words. As a young woman who is passionate about gender equality I am sometimes overwhelmed by the constant pressure to be a perfect feminist. Although this pressure is generally self-inflicted, and I’m sure most other people aren’t paying as much attention to my feminist rants as I think they are. So Lena’s words are a timely reminder (for me at least) that no one is perfect and that’s what makes us all human.
Trigger warning this video contains discussion of rape and sexual assault.
1. Wear Lipstick (or any kind of makeup for that matter)
There is an old argument that a true feminist can’t wear makeup, because doing so is essentially objectification; you are changing yourself for the pleasure of others. I think it’s important to think about this, and about why we wear makeup generally. Not only does society tell us that to appear attractive towards others we must conform to certain rules, but the makers of beauty products derive their profits from telling women that there is something inherently wrong with their bodies and faces. That the only way to fix these flaws is to buy their products. When you start to think about it, it can start to get really depressing, but the important thing is that your ARE thinking about it in the first place, and recognizing the complex range of issues that are tied up to feminism, makeup and capitalism.
The thing I think these arguments miss is the idea of self expression through fashion. You may choose to wear lipstick because that is how you want to express your personality and identity that day. Many people wear makeup for all kinds of reasons that don’t have anything to with appearing attractive to other people. And then of course there’s another idea, who cares if you DO want to appear attractive to other people? In the end it’s your choice, if you want to stop wearing makeup as an act of resistance good on you! But if you want to get dolled up for a night out because it makes you feel good there’s nothing wrong with that, in the end it has little bearing on whether or not you believe that men and women (and people of all genders) should have equal rights in our society.
2. Like Men
Think one of the requirements of being a feminist is hating men? Well it’s definitely not! In fact most feminists believe that feminism benefits men, women and everyone in our society. Men are not the enemy of feminism, the patriarchal structures that power sexism and misogyny are. That means it’s the barriers in society that prevent women from being regarded as equal to men (like the gender pay gap) that feminists are trying to get rid of, not the men themselves. Men can even be feminists! If they are committed to creating an equal society then why wouldn’t we want them to help us make that a reality?
3. Remove your Body Hair
This one is a lot like the makeup thing, in the end it’s your choice to decide what happens to your body. So whether you wax, shave or let your locks grow free it’s really no one else’s business. It’s about what feels comfortable for you. That old stereotype of the hairy-legged feminist is just that – an outdated idea used to place feminists as weird, radical and different. Again though, I think it is important to think about why women remove their body hair in the first place, because if you think about it, it is pretty weird. We spend countless hours and dollars trying to rid our bodies of something that is just naturally there – that almost everyone has. This has a lot to do with an idealized view of femininity and masculinity, that correlates femininity with hairlessness and masculinity with (the right kind of) hairy. I started shaving in high school simply because my friends were doing it, it was seen as a step towards adulthood, so i never questioned it and I’m still doing it albeit a lot less regularly. Again this ‘rite of passage’ is fueled by the beauty industry telling us that our bodies are flawed, something to be ashamed of, but that can be easily fixed for the low price of $12.99 a month for the rest of your life. (Don’t get me started on the price of women’s razors compared to men’s even when they are the exact same product simply coloured pink.) Regardless of whether you remove your body hair or not, it’s important to be aware of the cultural pressures that force us into constantly trying to improve and control our bodies.
4. Consume Questionable Culture
When you’re a feminist simple things like watching TV or listening to music can become excruciatingly painful. You begin to notice every little sexist joke, every sexually violent lyric and every misogynistic plot line, and it gets old fast. Luckily there’s a heap of new feminist TV shows, movies and music being made! But if you want to take a night off and binge watch Modern Family no one’s going to hold it against you. Whether you just want to switch your brain off and watch something mindless, or want to laugh at cheap jokes that’s totally fine. Again it’s just about being able to think critically about the media we consume and the kind of gender stereotypes they’re reinforcing. If you get sick of the same old rigid gender roles try watching one of these fabulous feminist shows: Broad City, The Fall, Parks and Recreation, GIRLS, Adventure Time, Bob’s Burgers, VEEP and Homeland to name a few.
5. Disagree with other Feminists
As one of my favourite feminist babes, Tavi Gevinsen, said “Feminism is not a rulebook, but a discussion, a conversation, a process.” Feminists often disagree about things, just look at pretty much any discussion about feminism on twitter, but that doesn’t mean they’re not working towards the same goal in the end. Feminism can be different for everyone, and so as long as we talk about those differences the movement will continue to evolve and stay relevant to different generations. So don’t be put off if you disagree with something one particular feminist has said, that doesn’t mean everybody who identities as feminist believes the same thing. If your not sure why someone has a particular view try asking them, they might see things from a perspective you haven’t even considered. Let’s keep the conversation going!
In the end you define what feminism means to you, and you get to choose what that looks like in your own life, and I think that’s pretty great.
Georgie is one of the co-founders of Rosie. She is passionate about social justice issues and feminism. She lives in Melbourne with a dog called Murphy and a cat called Worms. Georgie loves music, travelling and getting crafty.