As Jessica Valenti succinctly writes in The Guardian, feminists can diet and do a whole bunch of big girl things that won't get their lady licenses suspended because — surprise! — the feminist police isn't a thing. In response to Polly Vernon's new book, Hot Feminist which seems to take a judgey, restrictive view of the F-word, Valenti says: "feminism has never been about making women feel good or supporting everything they do – it’s a political and social movement for equality," so you're on your own when deciding between full bush or Brazilian.
In Vernon's book, the author discusses her desire to adhere to conventional beauty standards and the guilt she feels for being a feminist at the same time. While there's nothing wrong with enjoying certain aesthetic ideals, it's important to ask yourself why you buy into them. You can want to be a ripped size two in full makeup at all times — but don't promote body fascism or sizeism to your friends, or shame your sister for eschewing makeup altogether. I'm of the mind that you can pretty much act however you like if you understand what your motivations are and accept that everyone else's may be very different. Nobody's perfect, so yeah, you can still laugh at that one sexist joke while wearing a hot pink mini-skirt without the femi-cops coming to get ya. Here are six things you can do and absolutely still be a feminist.
1. Wear makeup 24/7
Make up in itself isn't anti-feminist, but the reason why you're wearing make up is what matters. Do you wear makeup only for men because you were socialized to do so, and understand that that conditioning may be a strong one? Do you love designing new looks just to go to work or the grocery store because it's a creative outlet? Or is it something in-between? Although the makeup/no makeup feminism debate will probably never end, let's stop pretending all true feminists go au naturel.
Body fascism sucks, and there is no one way the female body is supposed to look. That said, we all have our physical icons and ideals we emulate. What's anti-feminist is assuming those icons should extend to anyone else but you. Whether it's for weight loss, improved mood, general health, or ethical reasons, what you eat is nobody's business but yours, and it does not define your commitment to feminism.
3. Love men
The "man-hating" feminist stereotype is unbelievably old and tired and yet it's consistently resuscitated for anti-feminist arguments. Misandry does not combat misogyny, and loving men doesn't lessen your feminism. However, being into dudes doesn't mean you have to supplicate to the patriarchy's every directive, either.
4. Enjoy a cat call
I tend to feel unsafe and a bit violated when men approach me on the street, but there have been a few times that my outfit was so outrageous that I smiled at a drooling response or two. You don't have to always be militant — it's incredibly tiring — and sometimes taking an unwarranted "compliment" in public is refusing to give the stranger the agitation and fear they're hoping to invoke.
5. Laugh at a sexist joke
Contrary to popular belief, feminism doesn't exist solely to police your sense of humor. There are so many ways that jokes can skewer hegemonic conceptions of gender and sexuality that sometimes even a sexist joke delivered by the right person can be subversive. On the other hand, sometimes a dumb white guy will say a horribly misogynistic joke and I'll laugh because I just can't help it. The world is a dark place, and cliches are just funny sometimes. I know I'm not betraying the cause by eeking out a giggle.
6. Wear pink
I'm embarrassed that this is even a problem, but prejudice against stereotypically feminine things — like the color pink — is one of the worst forms of misogyny. Adopting conventionally masculine codes does not a feminist make. Mindfully wearing what you wanna wear, acting how you want to act, and eating what you want to eat does not detract from your allegiance to feminism.
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