A co-worker recently told me she does not consider herself a feminist. But as she spoke, it became clear she did in fact believe in most feminist causes. She only took issue with the aggressive nature of some women’s presentation of the facts. Not because she didn’t believe in the equal rights of women. But because she couldn’t relate to the women telling her to be a feminist she needed to quit shaving, find some anger with the patriarchy and denounce her more feminine traits. As the feminist cause enters its umpteenth year, it’s time to put down the pitchforks.
Female empowerment that alienates some women is not going to successfully achieve its aims.
I didn’t always consider myself a feminist. Like many women I’d had one idea of what a feminist would look like and act like. I remember vividly being in a politics lecture during my first year at university as our feminist guest lecturer explained why high heels exist for the sole purpose of arousing men. It was their sound, their shape and the way they make you walk. As a young woman still unsure of her own beliefs, it made me feel ashamed of the things I liked. I tried desperately to exit the lecture hall without her noticing my heeled boots.
In my younger years, I fell for all the traps of my gender.
I allowed myself to act small and take up as little space as possible. I believed the tripe that to enjoy make-up or wear dresses and not want to burn your bra were reasons you could not be a feminist. But as I mature I’m learning from women who, like me, are finding their feet in both categories.
They are feminine feminists.
Jane Fonda, in an essay for Lena Dunham’s Lenny Letter, explained why she was a ‘late bloomer’ when it came to feminism. She writes, “It took me 30 years to get it, but it’s OK to be a late bloomer as long as you don’t miss the flower show.”
And Emma Watson who has stood up for females more than once who reminded me why being anti-men is not the same as feminism.
“I decided I was a feminist and this seemed uncomplicated to me,” she said.
“But my recent research has shown me that feminism has become an unpopular word. Apparently I am among the ranks of women whose expressions are seen as too strong, too aggressive, isolating, anti-men, and unattractive.”
So where does this leave us? It leaves us in the middle of a female revolution which has carried its anger far too long. There are so many fights still to be won from sexual harassment and assault to wage gaps or tampon taxes. But we are stronger as one and we need to end the cycle of judging women for their perceived effect on our cause. Wearing a dress is not anti-feminist. It’s about knowing your worth no matter what type of girl you choose to be.
I no longer find myself shying away from being feminine for fear it will make me weak. My female power is what makes me strong. And I hope soon my co-worker will know she too can make her voice heard.