I don’t know how to be a feminist. There. I said it. I don’t know what a feminist looks like. I don’t know how a feminist acts. I don’t know what to care about and what to stop caring about. I know there are no exacts or answers and that this is a gray area, but I still feel like, at any given moment, I’m not enough or too much of a feminist.
I love wearing makeup, putting on a stylish outfit, and being noticed for it. I’ll take a compliment from seriously anyone and I’ll internalize that shit and I’ll get a skip in my step the rest of the day from it. I dye my hair blonde. And I get eyelash extensions. And I get my nails done regularly. I care about how I look and I like looking good and I also like being attractive to the opposite sex and I like being noticed for how I look. Does this make me less of a feminist? Am I being graded?
Because, sometimes I feel like we’re being graded on our level of feminism, where we fall on the scale.
I’m married, but I didn’t change my last name. Does this make me a good feminist? Does anyone care? Do I even care?
Do I fail at feminism if I cook my husband dinner a couple nights a week? Conversely, do I win at feminism because he does the laundry and cleans our apartment? Feminism has made me inept at my own relationship, pushing myself out of traditional gender roles even if it’s inauthentic. Fuck, I want to clean my home sometimes and I don’t want to feel like I’m setting the feminist movement back.
Many times, feminism feels like a fear-mongering system and I say that as an actual self-proclaimed feminist! There is feminist-approved television, movies, magazines, blogs, and the like. I’ve found myself seeing sexism everywhere I go, not just because it’s prevalent, but because I expect to see it. I haven’t worked at a traditional company in a while, but I sure as hell know that I’d have to work on going into the interview expecting to get paid what I’m worth, not to be lowballed because I’m a woman.
Yes, there is true inequality that exists. But, sometimes we need to own up to our culpability in the matter. If we expect inequality, we will get that. If we expect to get paid less because we’re women, we will. If we expect to be called bossy and bitchy, we will be. I’ve been a leader and president of my company and I’ve never experienced the kind of discrimination I’ve been taught to expect, because, unlike most people, I challenge these assumptions and expectations and get down to my own truth on the matter.
Although, on the surface, feminism is about choice and being able to live whatever life you want without being judged for it, it certainly doesn’t feel like that. Go to any site that writes about feminism and mostly it’s pointing out ways in which women are “failing” or “championing” feminism, and I can honestly say that sometimes I fall into the failing category and sometimes I fall into the championing category and am I supposed to feel shame about these things? I’m a self-aware, conscious, thoughtful woman who could not be more passionate about female equality, but sometimes I don’t live up to what kind of feminist I should be. This fact doesn’t make me rethink my own views on my life; it makes me rethink the view of feminists and what they’re teaching women about what it means to be one.
If I like a movie or TV show that is deemed unfit for a feminist, does that make me a bad feminist? Why are there so many rules? Wasn’t feminism born out of a desire for freedom and equality?
I don’t feel very free. And, I don’t feel very equal, most especially to my female counterparts.
But then again, I don’t even know what it looks like to be a feminist. I know I want to be one. I know that I should be one. I know that I care deeply about women’s rights.
But I also know that, am I being a good feminist, if I’m constantly calling out other women for their “un-feminist” choices? If, instead of trying to make myself better, I’m focused on where everyone else is falling short. Because that’s what I see lots of self-proclaimed feminists doing, from publishing untouched photos of Lena Dunham to picking apart every single bit of entertainment to show where it doesn’t add up to their view of feminism.
It’s confusing. And it doesn’t feel like progress.
Pointing fingers and blaming is no better than perpetuating a broken system of gender equality. Most people don’t know how to do better because there are so few examples. We can’t even have honest discussions about feminism, allow for creative thought, or allow for the artistic expression of different variations of femininity and masculinity.
Even this piece, where I have no answers and I’m venting a frustration, will probably attract so many vicious comments, but all I’m trying to do is figure it out. To figure out feminism, not someone else’s definition of feminism, but the kind that instills hope in people, not hate, not a sort of grading system that everyone is failing at.