Words By S.

Saturday, 5 May 2007

Confessions of a Budding Feminist.

Filed under: Bitch magazine,Feminism,Personal realizations — S @ 7:13 am

Allow me to paint a pretty little picture for you: One blistering cold winter day, two female friends decide that they have gone far too long apart from each other, and decide to enjoy each others’ company. The two women talk of life, future prospects, foreign travel, vegetarianism, interior decorating, graduating, work, political matters, and… women’s issues.

One woman says to the other that she has been reading this fantastic feminist magazine that is so completely different from other feminist publications and is so completely well-written and compelling that the other young lady absolutely must read it.

One of these women embraces the feminist culture and is proud to proclaim to the world that, “Yes, world, I AM A FEMINIST!” The other woman, not so much.

The other woman, without realizing it, is a proclaimed feminist waiting to happen. This soon-to-be-realized feminist has all the makings of one. She’s rational, opinionated about the treatment of women in today’s society, has somewhat progressive ideas. She fully embraces and understands the plight of women, historically. She has taken full advantage of the work done for women’s suffrage, having been registered to vote since the day she turned 18. But something in her is apprehensive about embracing all things feminist.

You see, for her, the “feminists” she has known have always been the type to not only embrace the notion that they are victims, products of living in a patriarchy; but also have done nothing but complain about the glass ceiling and have attempted to push their false ideals and agendas onto others. For her, these pseudo-feminists have been angry, militant, professors, friends that can’t seem to take even the simplest joke (hey, sometimes that blonde joke is funny), and, well…downright bitches.

This woman, her experience with today’s feminist has been largely negative. From receiving penalties in grades for not conforming to the deeply flawed ideals of a feminist professor to ridicule for shrugging at a “chauvinistic” remark someone may have said, by a feminist friend. She has read the “SCUM Manifesto” and felt her stomach turn from disgust.

The young lady has not only been shunned by the feminists she knows, but has shunned feminists in return. She is not the type to allow herself be pushed around or to let anyone attempt to shove their idealisms down her throat. She has said (more often than not), “Take your ‘oppressive patriarchal society’ and shove it. I’m not a victim and I refuse to act as though I can’t make it in this society. I’m strong, goddamnit, and you’re not going to change me!”

This girl, this woman, did not realize that in refusing to conform and to succumb and to refuse to act as a victim and her determination to make something of herself, in fact, makes her a feminist. It was not until this conversation with the friend of hers in which she read this amazing feminist magazine, that she realized that she just may be a (gasp!) feminist!

The woman in the pretty little picture, that’s me. The magazine, that’s Bitch.

Bitch magazine has compelling, thought provoking, poignant articles about feminism and how women are portrayed and treated in popular culture. It does not attempt to sway with an agenda, it doesn’t expect the reader to embrace every article, and it certainly has a sense of humour. But, most importantly – it’s written by real women telling their stories.

It’s so good, in fact, that I have started a subscription to it.

I received my very first copy of the magazine yesterday. I arrived home to see it waiting for me on my coffee table, and I eagerly curled up on the couch and devoured as much of it as I could.

Of all the articles written in this issue, I think that one of the best is an opinion article entitled: “This is What a Feminist Should Look Like”. And yes, I am going to reproduce it for you, right here (it’s short, so fear not).

This is What A Feminist Should Look Like

By Samhita Mukhopadhyay and Jessica Valenti of Feministing.com

One of the great things about the blogosphere is that it allows for all kinds of feminist voices to be heard – and that those voices don’t always agree. After all, what fun would feminism be if it was all sisterhood and perpetual consensus? (Er, don’t answer that.)

But as important as discourse is in the online feminist world, sometimes a kerfuffle arises that goes above and beyond. The most recent? Feminist policing – bloggers fighting over what makes an “appropriate” feminist.

Jill Filipovic of Feministe got the ball rolling when she did something that – while pretty par for the course in third-wave circles – set the blogosphere aflame. She admitted to the oh-so-terrible sin of being “one of those feminists:” “Yes, I am a ‘fun feminist.’ I wear high heels and I spend too much money on lip gloss and I get Brazilian bikini waxes and I secretly liked Sex and the City, even though I swore I would never, ever admit that on a feminist blog.”

And the floodgates opened. One blog, Molly Saves the Day, argues that by waxing and wearing heels, Jill was “going along with the patriarchy” and being a crappy feminist role model. All of a sudden, the feminist blogosphere was arguing over what a feminist should look like. And that’s not pretty. But to the credit of feminist bloggers, what started as a feminist-policing series of posts transformed into a real discussion of the feminist aesthetic – namely, the question of whether one exists.

Popular blogger Shakespeare’s Sister noted that while “a woman who makes a conscious decision to wear make-up and high heels and remove body hair specifically to be attractive to men is about as antithetical to my personal aesthetic as it gets…the problem is not that there are women who conform to a cultural expectation of ‘perfect womanhood’ imposed on women, but that a cultural expectation of ‘perfect womanhood’ exists in the first place, rendering other expressions of womanhood ‘less than’. ”

Amanda Marcotte from Pandagon wrote, “That our society exploits women’s desire to be attractive to the opposite sex is not the fault of the women that are thus exploited… Criticize the standards, sure. More importantly, criticize the power imbalances that make women have to act for men much more than vice versa. But the purity rituals are stupid.”

And at Feministing, we cursed our way through an analysis: “I am so fucking sick and tired of people telling me how to be an appropriate feminist – or what a feminist looks like. I suppose that all of my feminist work over the past ten years is shit because I shave my underarms?”

Some feminists go for “feminist trappings.” Some don’t. But isn’t the whole point that women should be able to decide for ourselves what our appearance means to our feminism – and if it means anything at all? When we start trying to enforce a strict code of conduct – especially one that includes a dress code! – for “real” feminists, we’re in serious trouble.

As with every bit of literature and information received, take it with a grain of salt. That said, this is one hell of a poignant article, particularly for a woman grappling with her inner-feminist. Though, on some level, everyone knows that it matters fuck all what you look like when it comes to embracing an ideal or life within a sub-culture, but to have the validation and the personal testimonials of, “hey, I’m a feminist and I’m not afraid to embrace my womanhood and looks. And yes, I like to be pampered and look pretty. Got a problem with that?” means a lot, particularly in a forum such as Bitch.



  1. Feminism in it’s corporeal form looks like many different things–there’s not one look.

    It’s not unlike intelligence.
    We can tell a true feminist by words and actions.

    Intelligence will be deduced by what’s said and done.

    Enjoyed the post!

    Comment by lauriekendrick — Sunday, 6 May 2007 @ 8:12 am | Reply

  2. Thank you so much for your comment. I agree wholeheartedly with what you said, and I know that beneath the surface, what really matters is the actions. However, it’s hard to not have issue with attitudes that are held when dealing with people on sociopolitical terms.

    Comment by S — Monday, 7 May 2007 @ 3:17 pm | Reply

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