2013 served us feminists well; Wendy Davis, the return of Kathleen Hanna, Beyonce’s new album, Goldieblox, Malala, Orange is the New Black; this list could go on for a while.
Yet even with these joys and accomplishments, we still have a long way to go when it comes to achieving the overall feminist goal: equality. It comes in different shapes and colors, but in the end, equality and acceptance is the gold star on all of our women cards.
In order to get there, we need to not only encourage those around us to hear our opinions, to listen and understand, but to also seal the gaps that divide the feminist community and deal with the flaws that engulf our culture.
By now you are probably asking: what the hell do you have to say, millennial? And that is one of the issues addressed in this piece I conjured up while exploring the cesspool of social media. I am no professor, I am no war survivor, I am no successful artist, but I am a woman.
So, here are some tips, from one feminist to another.
1: Stop Sexualizing Feminism
“Sexy feminism” is the ultimate oxymoron. It’s defeating the whole point and satisfying the male gaze. Feminism doesn’t need to be attractive, pink, glittery, and waxed. More importantly, it doesn’t need to be childlike.
Feminists can be those things, out of their own want and personal satisfaction, but don’t sell feminism like it’s Girl Scouts cookies. The more we sexualize feminism, the less it will be taken seriously as a movement and instead thought of as an accessory.
While on the subject, labeling things as “feminist” that aren’t feminist is another complete failure that continues to blur the lines of what is considered feminist. We shouldn’t smack the label of “feminism” onto something in order to allow ourselves the right to do it. We should allow ourselves the right to do it because we are feminists. Example: Twerking isn’t feminism. Twerking is dancing. It’s a dance done by women. Those women are feminist.
Or they’re not feminists and they just want to dance, so leave them alone.
2: Consider the Economics of Feminism
It’s easy to be a feminist if you have money. I’ve seen too many women, of all ages, shamed for not being true feminists or not being active in the feminist world and it’s because their income is poverty level.
It’s hard to be a feminist when you worry about how to feed your family for the week, or you have to put your kids in daycare in order to slave at your minimum-wage job, or you don’t leave your abusive spouse because you are trapped in penury.
Feminism is thought of, or perceived, as a privileged woman’s opinion, at least in the media’s perception. We never ask the vox populi their thoughts on feminism, but instead the celebrities, the politicians, and the wealthy.
Independent woman who are financially stable can speak out and attack misogynistic views without the threat of chagrin, especially if they have money haloing their image. Most women don’t have access to such a liberty.
The divide between rich white women and everyone else is a serious feminist issue that has been pushed under the rug. The whole #solidarityisforwhitewomen commotion from last August continued to divide us, waging a war between classes and races, but the flaw was revealed and now hopefully, in this coming year, will be addressed. This doesn’t need to be a Marie Antoinette stint where feminist-poverty rises up and beheads feminist-wealth, but rather, just steps down from the soapbox and instead listens.
The modern voices of feminism, the ones who have access to speak out about feminist views and opinions, come from a place of privilege. It’s still a great thing that these issues are being vocalized, but we never seen a contrary side. For instance, I am pleased that Girls is a TV show that has brought awareness to modern women and the issues (some of them) we deal with daily and allowing them to eat their cupcakes. Great. Set Girls in South Side Chicago, Steubenville, or India, and then get back to me about the plight of feminism and young women’s lives and roles in modern society.
Ultimately, we lack in diversity in the feminist communities and it’s our own fault. Allow others to speak. Incorporate other perspectives. We should band together, not clique with our own kind like a heard of preppy sheep.
3: Support Women
Maybe it’s in our DNA, maybe it’s just because we’ve all been brainwashed by the media, maybe it’s all of those 90s teen movies, but there is a constant tension between women; a competition to be better, prettier, sexier, smarter, and more APPEALING (yes, yes I’m going to say it) to men.
We shouldn’t have to fight over a man like Meryl Streep and Goldie Hawn in Death Becomes Her. They literally DIE because of Bruce Willis (yuck) and their unhealthy craving for youth, beauty, and all things plastic.
The whole “real women” argument needs a good slap in the face too, as it continues to create emotional friction between women. Be skinny, be average, be curvy, be hairless, be hairy; we all have vaginas, support your fellow vaginas. The more you side with criticizing the appearance of women, the more you drag everyone back in 1950s perfectionist hell.
That girl you absolutely despise for some reason, get over it. She has been through just as much nonsense as you and either has a mutual hatred for you or for some other chick. It’s not worth the misery. We can’t all be Betty White and have everyone love us. Harvest your energy that you waste on hatred, criticism, shaming, and apply it towards something that needs to be changed or to just better yourself in the end.
4: Be the Strong Woman
And stop saying “sorry.” Seriously. Stop. Even if you don’t consider yourself a feminist, stop apologizing for anything “feminine” that you do. We can giggle and be girly and eat ice cream and kick ass and not need to apologize for any of it; especially your opinions.
If something pisses you off and you speak out, you are doing your gender a service. Don’t apologize for letting your intelligence take a stand over your appearance. We don’t need to make our views and opinions gentle in order to be accepted and heard. We should be aggressive and feel angry about the world and society’s deficiencies. We are humans, nevertheless, and our emotions are meant to be communicated.
Which brings me to my final point
5: Speak Out/Act Out
In public, in your home, at the beach, trolling online, wherever. If something misogynistic or sexist occurs, towards you or someone else, speak out. Report it. Don’t allow it. Utilize your powers. The more we vocalize and shame those who put down women the more people will realize what is actually happening in our society and wake up from their daydream. Even if it is something minor, a moment or a joke or a comment, lash out. Don’t laugh. Don’t let it slide off. Don’t silence yourself in fear of being considered a “bitch.”
I’ll end with a little story from a few months ago. I attended a punk show in Chicago with some girlfriends. We wanted to wear our trashy red lipstick and cheetah print cardigans and drink PBR and mosh. It’s how we unleash a lot of our angst and have a good ol’ boping time.
And it was dandy for the most part, until at the height of the show when my friend’s dress was unzipped and her breasts were exposed. A pile of men and boys crushed us as they pushed their way to the front of the pit. Without hesitation, we wrapped our arms around our friend and nudged our way through the tight crowd of sweaty show-goers. In the process, we had to whack people out of the way, which resulted in being punched in the eye when all I tried to do was protect my vulnerable friend.
A group of women who lingered in the back of the crowd, too trepidatious (or too punk) to join the swarm of hair whipping, saw our struggles and reached out to help us, shoving people out of our way and getting us to safety.
Regardless of the fear that suffocated us, and my swollen cheek, we smiled; elated with the act of kindness from one group of women, total strangers, to another.
It reinstalled hope not only in the ways of feminism, but in humanism; if we all reach out and help others get through struggles, whether physical, mental, financial, or emotional, and bring them to safety we can all go to sleep at night knowing that we can still connect with other humans beings and maintain a world where that’s the most important goal in life.
So, cheers to 2014. Embrace your inner bitch.