Ok, so lets get it all out there… Yes, I am a feminist. I am also a wife of three years and a lover of fashion. I am 24 years old and rarely leave the house without make-up. Perhaps you could call me a superficial feminist? …Or am I just putting myself down now?
Feminism is tricky to define, even most feminists struggle to agree on what it constitutes. I am relatively new to the concept, the history and the continuous battle. At my age, life as a woman seemed easy enough; education, contraception and ‘having a voice’ were a given. I think I was, as many other girls are still doing, walking around blind. The shear amount of naked female flesh in newspapers and on billboards sanitised my awareness to accept this as simply ‘one of those things’.
In the summer of 2007 I came across a book that I could, dramatically, say Changed My Life. Reading ‘Female Chauvinistic Pigs’ by Ariel Levy was like wiping grubby fingerprints off my glasses. Suddenly everything became clear and I became, not angry, but shocked I suppose. Suddenly everywhere I looked there was an injustice, there was an elephant in the room and no one else wanted to be aware of it. I guess life is ‘easier’ if you are not.
Levy’s book was controversial because she accused members of the female sex of objectifying other women and themselves. In effect doing patriarchy’s job for it. I started actually seeing all these naked girls in advertisements and on magazines, wearing T-shirts labelling themselves Porn stars, in clubs kissing other girls while the boys watched, and on television crying because their lack of bosom was ruining their lives. I may get the evil eye but I found it embarrassing to be female. I wanted to separate myself from this, but perhaps this is where the problem began? Women do not support each other enough. I found it fascinating when I worked in retail. In a changing room so much is shared, it was my job to help women pick out an outfit that she would love, and so she revealed what she wanted, where she was going and why. She told me she was conscious of her arms but loved her legs; we deliberated on whether it was suitable to wear black to a wedding, or on how short was still suitable at a certain age… We complimented each other and laughed before it was back onto the street to the stony silence and that elusive competiveness. I am aware that women bonding through shopping is probably an unfortunate example, but one that stayed with me, and the part of retail that I miss the most. We should praise each other more and not doll ourselves up to the specifications, or for the approvals, of men.
No doubt you will be offended by that last comment and insistent that you dress to please yourself. You probably do. Although many people present themselves in the same way because society is dictating what is considered attractive. I do not exclude myself completely from this assumption. I would like to be slimmer, to have tanned skin and long straight hair. I shave or wax regularly and dress to ‘flatter’ my body shape... And I have the cheek to call myself a feminist? Well, yes. Despite considering myself to be a feminist and having come across several women and men who consider themselves to be also, I still have the awful stereotypical connotation of what a Feminist looks like and would rather not be associated with that. See, I’m shallow- but not proud! I said ‘perhaps you could call me a superficial feminist’, but perhaps you wouldn’t call me a feminist at all? I would attempt a spiel about how we live in such a visual society, but that is a bit of a bollocks excuse isn’t it really. My, actually rather testosterone-proud, husband even dabs on a bit of make-up from time- to –time, so making the most of ones appearances shouldn’t be in line with your feminist morals! Although I do fear that this frustratingly unchanging face of feminism may scare people off like it did in the late seventies!