One of the reasons it took me so long to allow myself to call myself a feminist is because of the rather vocal lunatic fringe of feminism. It’s not just those so-called radfems who think that “PIV (penis-in-vagina) sex is ALWAYS rape” or other variants on the idea that men are inherently evil. It’s also because of some women who have a ‘more reasonable stance’ in regards to the male gender, but are limited in what they think the female gender should be allowed to do.
Telling a woman what she can and cannot do in order to be a feminist is just asking women to bow down to yet another form of oppression. How is some feminist telling me I can’t do something I enjoy any different from a man telling me I can’t do something?
You know, my generation (Gods, is that kind of scary coming out of my mouth. It sounds like I’m this crotchety old bat!) grew up with our parents and grandparents telling us that “a lady doesn’t do that” or “don’t do that, it’s not polite” or “If you wear that, you’re going to get raped.” The generation before me (the Baby Boomers) burned their bras not only as a statement of freedom from men, but also freedom from the “shoulds” of other women. And, as a Gen Xer, I STILL had to deal with the “dress codes” at school and at work. I never got a complaint from any man in the offices I worked, but I can tell you that the catty comments and “supervisory warnings” from other women for my attire were rampant throughout my life. It even went to the point of telling me what to do with my body.
I now work from home. The only person I have to consider in regards to my clothing, is my sister. And if I’m meeting a client, I wear business clothing.
But it is just as much enslavement to be told I can’t do something by a feminist as it is to have some man tell me I can’t do something.
Let me give you a few examples:
- Dressing in a sexy way: According to those women, I should never go out of my way to dress in anything that might be considered “sexy.” Why? Because then I’m just feeding into the “rape culture” and “subjugating myself to the male gaze.” By dressing or acting in a sexy way, I am somehow allowing myself to be treated as if I were only a body.Well, ladies, let me tell you something. I dress in a sexy way because it gives me confidence. I dress that way because it helps me accept that even at the size I am, I CAN be a sexy woman. I’m told every day by society that because I’m a fat woman, I shouldn’t ever be allowed to consider myself sexy. For me, it’s actually a feminist act to stand up and be beautiful, instead of hiding in my home in shame over my body. Just because the combined clothing AND attitude that I am beautiful actually does attract the attention of men, does not mean that is why I am doing it. And even that, to me, is a blow to those who think a large woman cannot be and feel sexy.
- Wearing makeup: I rarely wore makeup when I was younger. Why? Because I’ve never been a morning person, and choosing between an extra 1/2 hour or hour of sleep and wearing makeup basically meant I chose sleep. Even when told by supervisors that I should “respect myself enough to put my best face forward” I usually turned around and asked if they said the same thing to men.But, part of the reason I never wore makeup unless I felt the need for a confidence boost is because I wasn’t really taught how to do makeup. A little eyeliner and mascara and I was done. If I put on anything more than that, I looked like a clown (or worse, I would look like Mimi from the Drew Carey Show [shown to the right] or Phyllis Diller [shown to the left]), and I refused to be either of those stereotypes.
It wasn’t until I was much older, and becoming more of myself, and more understanding of myself that I actually went out to look for tutorials on how to put on makeup correctly.
Again, FOR ME, makeup is a statement about myself. It’s about accentuating the parts of myself that I consider to be outstanding. It’s the same reason I wear low-cut shirts, and occasionally even mini-skirts – because it actually accentuates the parts of my body that I am proud of.
And given how much of the “patriarchal culture” looks at people of size, I personally think anything that encourages us to love the body the Divine granted to us is a GOOD THING.
- Some of the feminists out there think I shouldn’t ask my boyfriend’s opinion, or other male friends’ opinions on what clothing I should buy or wear. I have traditionally had far more male friends than female friends, so just like you may have asked your female friends’ opinions on your clothes, so I’ve gone to MY friends, who happen to have been primarily male.And given that they all know I would rather hear the truth than a polite lie, asking them if a certain piece of clothing makes me look fatter than I am usually gets an honest answer, for which I thank them. It’s no different than your gal pals telling you that a certain piece of clothing makes you look hideous.
I always thought that the reasons I didn’t wear sexy clothing all the time, or wear makeup was because I always considered myself more of a tom-boy. It took years of therapy to make me see that the reasons I acted like a tomboy was a protection against rejection from society. It was, in essence, me rejecting society before society could reject me.
But again, I will not exchange the chains of the patriarchy for the chains of feminism.