Tuesday, October 4, 2011

Still Frustrated

I wrote about this before, albeit briefly, but it's still frustrating me to no end so I shall write about it some more!

I'm tired of being called a "bad feminist," or a "fake feminist," because of the decisions I make and the insecurities I feel as a woman and as a human being. This time people criticized me for planning to wear a sexy outfit for Halloween. First I said I'm going to be sexy jellyfish, which I am, it's a plan I've had for months - to me it's more funny, almost satirical, than a strict adherence to a patriarchal norm - but not everyone saw it that way. They really didn't like it when I even suggested an even "sluttier" Halloween costume, something I wasn't really planning on doing but I thought the idea, the play on words, was pretty funny. No no, I'm a bad feminist for being sexy on Halloween.

It's not as though I'm doing this as any sort of real statement. I'm just having fun. I don't think that everything I do has to be some big feminist action, I don't have to "stick it to the man" every second of every day, it would be exhausting as hell to even try. Sometimes I do wear high heels, I wear sexy panties, I wear pushup bras, I wear makeup, I go through extensive skincare routines trying to make my face look more human and less like the surface of some undiscovered planet. I don't do all of those things all the time, but I don't make a point of keeping such "tools of oppression" at arm's length. There are some things I won't touch, like Cosmo - I might pick up a friend's copy if a cover story really interests me or I'm just really bored, but I can't remember the last time I bought that magazine, or one like it, with the intention of actually reading it instead of cutting it up to make a collage. There are also things I avoided, TV shows like Mad Men and Big Love, then I caved and got addicted to them, knowing that they weren't entirely feminist TV shows but loving them anyway.

I could list a whole lot of things I do, and things I have done, that don't qualify as "feminist" actions. And to me, that's okay. I don't kid myself into thinking that those are empowered choices, because I know they're not, but I don't think they make me the anti-feminist or a "bad feminist" either. Again, not everything I do has to be a statement. I pick my battles, I guess.

The problem is that society has this view of what a feminist is, what a feminist believes (and this assumption goes beyond a belief in gender equality), what a feminist is supposed to love and hate, what a feminist wears, what a feminist eats, how a feminist dates, how a feminist feels about herself - and when a woman who declares herself to be a feminist strays outside the boundaries of that stereotype, she runs the risk of being attacked as a poser or a hypocrite, mostly by non-feminists who know little about what real feminism is. Now, there are some women who really are "fake feminists" like Sarah Palin, but I don't think that choosing to show my knees and cleavage on Halloween (le gasp!) puts me on the same level as her.

Now, when this happens, when I am attacked like that, I know a "good feminist" would defend herself, and take the time to argue and debate and tell people to back the fuck off when all else fails, but I don't always have the energy or the time - I'm a college student, people, my days consist of class, club meetings, homework, errands, trying to stay on top of the housework, and usually falling short in one or more area because I'M NOT SUPERWOMAN; I'm running on chemicals I know are bad for me and will probably make me sick (nothing illegal), but I don't have time to get enough sleep, so excuse me if engaging in a heated, intelligent debate on gender issues isn't always at the top of my priority list - a lot of the time I just let it go. Walk away. Go do something productive, or relaxing if that person really steamed my clams. It's not always worth it. I have one friend in particular whom I've been butting heads with for years over the topic of feminism, and I know he's probably not going to come around anytime soon. Sometimes it really is like talking to a wall, you're not going to get through to everyone.

I think this really links back to what I wrote earlier about us being in a complacent lull or a regressive period rather than a wave. The difference here is legitimacy - First and Second Wave Feminism may not have had sweeping public support, but they did have legitimacy in the public eye as a real social movement. Right now, we don't. We're seen as a joke, an unnecessary "movement" that has served its purpose, a bunch of angry women who complain about everything but aren't getting anything done. And you can direct your criticisms about feminism at me all you want, but I can't rev up the feminist movement single-handedly, or at all really. I'm doing some feminist work on my campus but I don't really have the time or resources to fix things beyond that right now. Someone actually accused me of not caring enough about a particular abortion-related bill because it passed and I wasn't able to stop it. The bill wasn't even passed on my state, it was passed in middle America, what did he want me to do, fly over there and storm the legislature? By myself? I am one very tiny human being with little influence, what do people expect me to do? Excuse me if I haven't changed the world at 22, to do so would be a remarkable, if not completely unrealistic feat. I want to change things for the better, that's why I'm going to school, but give me some time and stop jumping on me when I fail to live up to crazy expectations about what I, as a feminist, am supposed to be doing.

I got a little off topic. This was more of a rant than an intelligent, well-thought out and researched post, I'll admit that. I'm just very, very pissed off these days.


  1. I think the reason for people calling you a "bad feminist" is a problem that plagues us all: Confused definitions. You think being a feminist means one thing, and they think it means something else.

    When people hear "feminist", most of them think "combat boots, short hair, lesbian". Some people think of "advocates against rape", while others think "people who want to give everyone abortions". There’re a million interpretations, but only one that is correct for YOU. It’s up to you to show people what you think "Feminist" means, and what exactly you're fighting for :) I'll be honest, not even I really know what, exactly, you're working towards...


    Or, more likely in this case, people just wanna make fun of you for wearing a slutty Halloween costume. For no reason other than it’s funny. In my opinion, the simplest response to "why are you wearing that IF..." is "Because I want to, and because Fuck You."

  2. then let me clear something up: a feminist is someone concerned with the goal of gender equality. That's it, that's the definition. It's vague and it's broad and it covers all the ways a person can be a feminist.