Rigid and unpleasant? More like shaggy and insulated.
Feminism has gone through many incarnations, and has enjoyed various levels of popularity. As women have drawn closer and closer to achieving equality, from a shrinking pay gap to a far more open and pervasive discussion of women’s role in media, it has become something of a fad for girls and women to spurn the label as rigid and unpleasant.
I am one of those girls.
I have been parsing my reaction to what should, one would think, be a positive thing. I am certainly in favour of the things that feminism has achieved, and take full advantage of my equal (or near-equal status) with men.
I certainly wouldn’t go so far as some of my fellow non-feminists and claim that feminists are a group of angry man-haters or uncomfortable lesbians, but I find myself alienated by a culture that delights in being confrontational, often seemingly just for its own sake.
Take, for instance, the aversion to popular grooming methods. Women Against Non-essential Grooming is a blog that often highlights the kind of feminism that I find troubling. Do I think women should feel free to forgo shaving and dieting if they so choose? Yes, I do. I welcome criticism of media portrayals of women, and in a sense I’m glad there are people who are far angrier about these issues than I am, and far more willing to make these things a part of their everyday lives.
But being a female who pretty much wholesale subscribes to traditional beauty standards, I feel judged when I read this website. I feel like these women would consider me a traitor to my gender because I’m not comfortable politicizing my body, or worse, because I actually like wearing some mascara and having hairless legs.
Women, girls and female-identifying people of all descriptions who want to eschew similar practices should be welcome to. But by the same token, I should be allowed to embrace whatever aspects of our male-dominated culture I want to. Especially if I do so as an informed, educated, empowered female who has thought about the options and, having thought about them, still wants to do what the all-powerful men in charge of cosmetics companies want me to do.
One of my biggest problems with modern feminism, even more than its apparent refusal to accept that some women are happy taking two minutes of their day to put makeup on, is its lack of a sense of humour about itself.
I like to laugh at the ridiculousness of life, and oftentimes that involves laughing at things people — including myself — hold dear. When you lose the ability to laugh at yourself you have almost definitely already lost the ability to hear and accept criticism, and that is dangerous. It is especially so for a movement dedicated to improving the human condition, such as feminism.
Reformist movements are bound to be nearly as flawed as the systems they are attempting to change, because both are human by design. It can be tricky to navigate the spectrum of discussion and to decipher when comments are made in good faith and when they are of the “haha women actually suck for real” school, but dismissing any critical or flippant remark as insensitive and unacceptable isn’t the answer.
Whether it’s a woman who wears makeup thinking about why another woman might forgo even deodorant, or a sensitive feminist trying to see the humour in a bleak Louis C.K. joke, the answer lies in challenging each other to see and understand alternative points of view, even ones that we may find abhorrent or completely inappropriate.
photo: The Sheaf