On a good day, it feels like feminism is taking over the world. No longer a phrase to whisper only among your closest friends, plagued by notions of man-hating and visions of burning bras (which didn’t even happen!), it’s positively uncool not to be a feminist right now. Who doesn’t want equality, right?
But despite it being a simple concept – the advocacy of women’s rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes, according to the dictionary – what it means to be a feminist is apparently up for debate. And one of the major talking points is femininity.
It’s true, the patriarchy (the system where men hold power) has imposed certain standards on us. Here in the UK, we’re expected to be hairless, thin, tanned and perfectly preened. Bonus points if we’re quiet and polite, too. It can be time consuming to live up to that and it’s frustrating when boys can just roll out of bed and be ready for the day without any judgements, when we’re expected to spend an age getting ready. I definitely don’t want to know how many hours I’ve spent shaving my legs when men are airing out their hairs to the world with no dramas, that’s for sure.
In response, some women and girls choose to challenge those expectations and avoid things that are typically and traditionally feminine. They might ditch the razor, go makeup-free, wear baggy clothes or cut their hair short. It’s their way of freeing themselves from those pre-set ideals. It’s a valid choice to make and it’s important to have the freedom to express ourselves in alternative ways.
So, what if you’re clued up on the patriarchy, beauty expectations and equality and your vibe is girly? What if you love pink, always have perfectly painted nails, wear makeup everyday and love having long, swishy locks? Does that mean you’re letting the side down? You could be forgiven for thinking that. Some people talk about how being feminine is giving in to beauty standards or letting the side down. They reckon that being girly and liking things like makeup and dresses means you’re not a proper feminist.
But if you give me a second though, I’m just going to pick all of those people up, pop them in a box, tape it up nice and tight and send them out to sea where no one can hear them. Ah, MUCH BETTER.
Those people are wrong. There is no set standard for feminism. You don’t have to look a certain way or shun the things you love to fit the mould. Do you think women and men, girls and boys should have equal rights? Congratulations, you are a feminist! And guess what? There’s no uniform.
If you want to fight for equal pay while wearing a whole load of pink, you do just that. If you want to wear enormous false eyelashes while you defend other girls’ rights to wear no makeup at all, go ahead. If you want to go to a protest wearing high heels, go for it.
Some people feel free without makeup, unhampered without the pressure of perfect eyeliner or flawless foundation. For others though, it’s a fun and creative outlet. It’s a form of expression and, let’s face it, a skill. Makeup can build confidence and make someone feel at home in their own skin just as high heels make some people feel powerful or long hair makes some people feel unstoppable.
Real equality means the freedom to be exactly who you want to be and if the person you want to be happens to be super girly then there’s nothing wrong with that.
In order for feminism to really work, we need to embrace and support every type of girl and woman on the planet, no matter what they look like or where they’re from or what their culture is. A feminist with hair extensions is just as authentic as a feminist with a shaved head and a feminist who wears lipstick is just as valid as a feminist who rejects makeup. So, if someone ever tells you that you’re doing feminism wrong or that you’re not a real feminist because you embrace the girly things in life, do me a favour: tell them they’re wrong and carry on being exactly who you want to be.
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