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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

On Being A Pretty Feminist.

While checking my usual round of social media outlets each morning while the kids work on breakfast and I try to drink my coffee while it's still even slightly hot, I saw this little bit of intrigue challenging my synapses to fire earlier than usual:
click photo for link to article pictured
And it was mostly this comment, only like the third in the string at the time, that made me sigh deeply:

And take to the Twitters, because UGHUGHUGH:


And then I bitched a bunch to Kyle about how I HATE this argument when it comes to feminism because it's a big part of who I am and WHY CAN'T WE ALL JUST GET ALONG and he nodded as he wrangled children away from each other and I realized, while sympathetic because we are actually a very gender-ambiguous couple (and family), he's still a dude and he just doesn't quite get it.

So.

Here's my thing: it's taken me 28.5 years to be okay with my appearance, my body, my weight, my face, and my personality. It has taken 28.5 years for me to stop valuing myself based on how men treat me in the public sphere; by how many cat calls and hey mamas and other forms of street harassment I can collect in an outing (and that I can now identify it as much instead of a "compliment"); by how many heads do or do not turn while I am out at a bar or club or dinner or the mall or the park or the mother effing waiting room at the doctor's office. It has taken me 28.5 years to be able to look in a mirror and see what I like and to recognize that no amount of self-depreciation and shaky modesty and protestations to the contrary are going to change the face that my genetic code came together in such a way that renders me conventionally attractive, and it has taken me 28.5 years to not only be okay with that, but to take pride in it.

There, I said it.

I have more than my fair share of attributes which combined allow me to fit into the hegemonic ideals of beauty and attractiveness, some of which may even be enviable (long legs are much more of a pain in the ass than you may realize, ladies) and I not only practice displaying those attributes in a more traditional manner, I enjoy the decidedly feminine experiences that accompany achieving and exemplifying my natural physical make up.

BUT that in no way makes me a bad feminist, and here's why.

I do not practice the exploits I do -- such as interests in fashion, cosmetics, hair styling, and my undying love of footwear -- to participate in the misogynistic culture that would like to render me nothing more than an object to look at through a heterosexual(-normative) male lens. 

BECAUSE AFTER 28.5 YEARS, I FINALLY KNOW I AM NOT AN OBJECT.

And that, ladies, is the key to freedom.

Now that I do not partake in the rigors of beauty for the benefit of the men around me (and in the general populous) but because it makes me happy to do so, I am free from patriarchy telling me what the eff I should look like. I can wear what I want where I want around whomever I want and I refuse to be shamed or chided about my appearance -- by men or by women.

And since I now know that I am not an object for men to do with as they please, I absolutely refuse to let other women attack my interests and self-indulgent behaviors simply because they do not find them to be feminist enough, or assume that my participation in them means that I wholeheartedly hand myself over to the patriarchal (and impossible) standards of mainstream beauty.

No, there are two ways to fight a battle: from the outside, and from the inside.

Case in point: Gloria Steinem was a Playboy bunny. Yes, she did it as an expose and endured more than a lifetime's fair share of sexism and misogyny while there, but you know what? You don't get into the Playboy empire by your willingness to corrupt it. You get it because, to someone's standards, you're pretty. And she wasn't faking it just to prove a point -- the lady was hot as hell (still is) and not only did she know it, she used the fact to her advantage and to bring clout to her political beliefs.

I understand the arguments that would claim that I only crave participation in beauty and fashion because the desire to cater to a male lens has been ingrained in me since I was first swaddled in a pink blanket and that my proclamations of being a feminist while taking an hour to get ready to go somewhere are completely contradictory, but you know what, we all find our empowerment in different places. I feel the strongest, most confident, and honestly my goddamn best when I'm in five inch stilettos and a short skirt because I know not only that I look good (and am mother effing tall), but that I need no one else's approval but my own to be fully and intelligently present in any given situation. And I will be just as strong in my convictions as a feminist while standing there as I would be at home, unshowered for three days without a lick of makeup within reach, if not more so because I will feel empowered by my ability to hold a presence in a space like that with both my brains and my beauty.

So to those feminists that want to shame women who participate in mainstream standards of beauty and self-maintenance, food for thought. The last thing we need -- and the thing most true patriarchal organizations most hope for -- is for the movement to fall apart from the inside; for discursive arguments about effing makeup and who is more feminist than who based on their thoughts about things like effing makeup to tear us apart while we tear each other down in some sort of epic pissing battle that essentially could boil down to deciding someone's more of a woman than another because she has a bigger uterus.

That's stupid.

As long as we're fighting each other, we're not dealing with the real issues out there, like the fact that the government very really is stealing our right to pick our own reproductive journeys, or that rape victims are still being openly and legally shamed (and even punished) for naming their accusers, or a litany of other issues that could really use the effort and conviction of stance that is otherwise being wasted on who wears how much mascara when and how that reflects upon her personal politics.

I'm 28.5 years old, 5'7.5" and 155 lbs with a 35.5" inseam, a love of all things shiny, sparkly, and glittery, a shoe collection, and I am a gender-identified queer woman, wife, and stay-at-home-mother.

But above all else, I am, and always will be, a feminist. 

And I refuse to let you take that away from me because of how I choose to look.