What is feminism?

I belong to an online feminists group where members post links to articles, topics of discussion, questions, etc. Today someone posted that she had decided that make-up is bad because the industry takes women’s money and then turns around and uses that money to fund ad campaigns that shame women. I have to say, I don’t necessarily disagree with her logic but I also really like my tinted moisturizer and especially the Nice ‘n Easy that covers my gray. I’d have been happy to bypass her post, agreeing to disagree except she followed it up with a question: “How do I encourage fellow feminists to join me without shaming their choices?”

Well, I couldn’t just let that go… so here is my response:

I think it’s fantastic that you’ve made this decision and I encourage you to share your reasons when the topic comes up. But I just can’t advocate making women feel bad for wanting to wear make-up and I don’t know that there’s a way to encourage this type of change without some shaming/defensiveness being involved. I’m in the camp that thinks feminism is about women celebrating the many, many choices they have and trusting that they are intelligent enough to make the best choices for themselves without anyone, even other feminists, needing to protect them from themselves. I rarely wear make-up but I do color my gray and shave my legs. It makes me feel good to do so and I make no apologies for it. Feminism isn’t about changing the way women behave, it’s about demanding respect for the way we choose to behave.

So that’s it. I’m tired of being told that the things I like mean I’m not a feminist, or not feminist enough. I’m tired of the idea that showing cleavage means you don’t support equality. (This one seems the most bizarre to me since the most misogynistic cultures are the ones with the women covered up, not showing skin.) I’m tired of the implication that my choices are wrong or misguided if they don’t support the mainstream or historical ideas of feminism. I’m tired of the pervasive idea that being ‘girly’ is bad. I’m tired of the idea that the only way to be a strong woman is to behave  in historically and/or culturally male ways. I am an intelligent, thoughtful, educated person who is perfectly capable of looking at all of the information and making my own choices. I am also capable of seeing that we are all different and that while women should be able to be CEOs without anyone batting an eye no one should be batting an eye at teachers, nurses or SAHMs either.  I want my daughter to feel good about her wants, needs and desires without worrying that she is setting back “the cause” by choosing a pink dress instead of a navy pant suit. Feminism shouldn’t move women from one stifling stereotype to another, it should set them free to figure out who they are on their own terms.

I would like to take a moment to acknowledge that I realize that men are stifled by stereotypes as well. That is equally bad but wasn’t the focus of this post and trying to squeeze it in didn’t really mesh or make sense in this context. Perhaps in a future post. 🙂


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