Hi everyone! How are you? Are you ready? Let’s talk feminism!
It’s gotten a bad reputation over the years; I know growing up in my family it was certainly a dirty word. Mainstream media tells us that there is no need for feminism anymore, that the battle for gender equality has now been won, men and women are equal, and that’s that. But really, you guys? It’s just not the case.
I mean, a lot people have (completely erroneously) said that racism against African American people is over because “look at Barrack Obama!” We have a black president so that must mean that there are equal opportunities for people of all races to succeed! (sarcasm)
But even by this highly-flawed standard, women in America have not reached the status of men. I heard some pretty devastating facts in the trailer for this awesome new documentary, Miss Representation, which talks about the limited portrayal of women in media. Did you know that women make up 51% of the U.S. population, but only 17% of Congress? That’s just staggering. Or that when you ask children at 7 years old what they want to be when they grow up, an equal number of boys and girls say they want to be president, but when you ask again at age 15, a huge gap emerges between the sexes? Somewhere the message for little girls that you can “be whatever you want to be” is getting limited.
I’m pretty sure I am preaching to the choir here, but all this is to say that the goal of feminism – which is simply equality for men and women, and not ALL MEN MUST DIE, contrary to popular belief – is still far from being realized.
So, I can proudly say that I am a feminist. Now the question is, how does my femme identity inform and relate to my feminist one?
The stereotypes about how feminists behave and appear (the short-haired, make-up free, comfortable-shoe-clad angry woman) are deeply exaggerated in popular culture. But on some level, these over-generalizations do have a basis in reality. In the early days of feminism there was a rejection of the contrived roles for women that were forced upon them; at the time, the only acceptable way to be a woman was to don the heels, curlers, and make-up. So early feminists fought back against these confines, expanding the ways that women were allowed to live, work, and appear. But now I must ask: Does “femme” reinforce the restrictive roles for women that pioneering feminists fought so strongly against?
I say no.
As I wrote about in this earlier post, I see femme as gender play and performance. Feminism works to allow all women the choice to present themselves to the world in the way that is most comfortable for them, and for me, that is femme. Rather than feeling as though I am perpetuating the belief that all women must be feminine, instead I feel as though I am redefining what feminine can look like and mean. I talk about this all the time, but it is worth reiterating: the feminine can be powerful. I find this power through femme.
Additionally, I think that for so long feminism has been afraid of sexy. But sexy can be so empowering in its own way! Just watch Dita von Teese and try to tell me that’s not a woman in control of her life (and her entire audience).
WARNING: THIS VIDEO IS SO NOT SAFE FOR WORK IT’S FUNNY
So do you consider yourself a feminist? Can femme and feminism coexist? Am I a bad feminist for liking my high heels? (please say no I don’t think I can give them up)