Your friendly neighbourhood queer feminist here, ready to spill some tea on some common misconceptions about what being a feminist in 2016 actually means. Although there are many sub-sets of feminism, I’ll be discussing genuine advice I’ve been given with regards to my beliefs and my behaviour and boy is it something!
Please note that this piece is for entertainment purposes and so should be taken with a pinch of salt!
#1. “You can’t be a feminist if you wear make-up.”
So some people believe that makeup is a tool that amplifies ‘beauty ideals’ and that by wearing makeup, you are not only compliant with but promoting a patriarchal standard of beauty. I say that this is bullshit. Make-up is a way in which many people choose to express their creativity. The colours, shades, shapes and techniques can be considered an art form and many choose to study these and/or take makeup as a profession. Make-up (like many things) is not solely a ‘woman’s product’ – people of all genders can enjoy makeup and when this assumption is made, you are ignoring a rich, queer history of drag artists and gender-fluidity.
My makeup makes me feel confident and powerful, ready to take on the world. It is a choice I make for myself that emphasises what I consider to be my best assets and it allows me to be artistic in ways that I can’t normally. If you don’t wear makeup then that’s cool but don’t tell me that I shouldn’t wear mine!
#2. “You can’t be a feminist if you’re in a relationship with a cis man.”
This one is ridiculous. Not only does it further encourage the myth that feminism = misandry but it automatically assumes that you couldn’t love a man simply based on his gender. See something wrong there?
I’m a pansexual woman and it just so happens that the person I’ve chosen to be in a relationship with is a cisgender man. He is also a great LGBTQIAP+ ally who is interested in and educated about intersectional feminism and this is part of why we get on so well. On a personal level, he is respectful, kind and listens to my experiences so to tell me that I’m not feminist for being with him makes no sense.
Don’t tar every man with an ‘anti-equality’ brush, it’s hypocritical.
#3. “You can’t be a feminist if you shave/epilate your body hair.”
So the idea of being pro-bodily autonomy is that your body and what you choose do with it is your own. It means that you believe in bodily integrity – that people’s bodies should not be violated in any way by others because of said autonomy. I know that some feminists believe that removing body hair is another patriarchal beauty ideal and I’ve spoken to many who don’t epilate for that reason. I respect that choice completely and I believe that if you want to be fluffy, you should be proud of it!
I personally feel more comfortable with less body hair, especially as I occasionally suffer from hyperhydrosis. The more body hair I have, the more the sweat clings to my body and despite deodorant, it can be quite smelly. It’s easier to stay fresh the less hair I have and when anyone tells me otherwise, I remind them that its my damn body.
#4. “You can’t be a feminist if you care about men’s rights.”
Part of a comic by Rasenth on tumblr.
My definition of feminist is close to that used by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie in We Should All Be Feminists:
feminist: a person who believes in the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes.
I however would change ‘the sexes’ to ‘genders’ as I don’t believe that all inequalities are from within in the gender binary. In fact, I don’t believe in the gender binary at all!
To acknowledge men’s rights in your feminism isn’t to deprioritise women’s rights, as long as you give each their own context and don’t derail the conversation. There are plenty of men who suffer as a result of the kyriarchy, be it because of racism, transphobia, homophobia or poverty. The archaic gender roles that put pressure on men and boys to exert power, exploit those more vulnerable,to be big and to use force ….they’re damaging and dangerous instructions. It is important to speak about these issues if feminism is to achieve true equality but not necessarily to shove them into the same conversation as womens issues.
#5. “You can’t be a feminist if you support sex work.”
This one tends to divide a lot of people so I’m just going to explain why I personally have sex-positive attitudes.
It is incredibly important to promote safe sexual practice. Not just in terms of sexual health but for personal wellbeing and education about consent. Not discussing these topics keeps them taboo and could make it harder for someone who has experienced sexual abuse or violence to speak out about their experiences.
While I do not support a huge portion of the sex industry that globally exploits and traffics women and abuses and violates performers, I am in support of sex workers and pornography and believe firmly in regulation and protection of the related professions. This goes back to the bodily integrity/ bodily autonomy thing because I think that if someone has chosen sex work despite having alternatives and they are kept safe during their work then you don’t have the right to tell them that they shouldn’t be doing it.
In an interview in Elle magazine camgirl and filmmaker Ashley Vex spoke about making about safe, consensual porn with her studio Four Chambers… go and check it out!
I appreciate comments, links and questions on this post but any hateful or discriminatory speech will not be approved.
Discussion and debate are welcomed provided it is structured, respectful and does not target individuals.
Have you ever been told “you’re not a feminist”?
What does your feminism look like?
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If you liked this post, you should check out:
queer bloggers network – Jess, Zoe and I are starting a network for bloggers with LGBTQIAP+ identities!
empowerment playlists – Music to make you feel like you can conquer anything…
my queerness erased – A personal account of pansexual erasure.
why selfies are inherently feminist – I talk about Lindsay Bottos’ art project about self love and selfies.