While not stated quite this bluntly, here’s the question/challenge that appears to be going around within feminist circles these days: What qualifies YOU to be a feminist? Do you:
A) Wear make-up, choose breast augmentation or any other kind of surgery you’d like, twerk, use wrinkle-diminishing cream, wear high heels, low-cut jaw dropping dresses and fake eyelashes and are never, ever seen without your red lipstick?
You are a feminist because: you are doing what you want, what makes you feel powerful and don’t care what anyone else says. It’s your body and your life after all, and you enjoy feeling beautiful, desired and sexy.
Or, do you
B) Wear sweatpants to the grocery store, defiantly keep your birth hair color, just say “no” to slimming pants that help hide your “extra” and padded bras that might give you “extra”, embrace your crows feet and never feel a need to cover a zit with concealer?
You are a feminist because: you are loving yourself just as you are and not falling into the “trap” laid down by Western society and particularly patriarchy.
OK time out. Don’t answer. Let’s take a balloon ride up and look at this from a 10,000-foot level.
Feminism is a movement that was started by women, for women. It was a movement designed at a base level to make sure women have equal rights and equal pay in society. But it’s bigger than that. It is also a movement designed to empower a woman to create the kind of life she wants, to step into her full freedom of expression and to be accepted for who she is, without qualification or condition.
From here, ideas of what feminism is and does are as widely varied as there are people in it (and outside it). Each of us brings our own personal sense of “right” and “wrong” to the table that has been shaped through our own personal life experiences, values, lessons, spiritual outlook, upbringing and more. We all see something different, feel something different and expect something different from and within feminism.
Because of this wide disparate belief system that feeds it, the Feminist movement is not a fixed-point philosophy. Instead it is decentralized, having has as many complex belief systems as there are people involved in it. Naturally then the Movement is fraught with imposed moral systems, hidden personal vendettas, egoic desires, self-righteousness and narcissism that lead to mild disagreement and uncertainty at the least to a cloudy, distorted and twisted sense of its’ deeper purpose at worst.
For a recent example, look to what took place regarding Lena Dunham of the hit HBO show Girls (which I’m sorry to say I have never watched) after her cover shoot on Vogue.
The self-proclaimed Feminist social media website Jezebel, while previously applauding Lena’s independence, portrayed sense of self-worth and positive “real girl” body image, exploded and called her out, asking the public for the release of untouched photos in exchange for $10,000. Why? I think I’ll let you read for yourself, but ultimately it has to do with that somehow Lena had broken an unspoken contract or pledge of feminism held by Jezebel (not necessarily by the whole of feminism) — i.e., if you truly love yourself, and your body, you would never say yes to a photo shoot with Vogue because in the process of allowing them to retouch it you are no longer loving yourself as you are and ultimately you now lose your status as a poster child for feminism…or something like that.
The public response to this request came from another facet of feminism, calling out Jezebel for not allowing Lena to be herself and choose to do a photo shoot and choose to wear the make-up, allow the retouching, etc.
Now it’s natural to get lost in the argument — to find yourself taking sides and examining your own beliefs about feminist “shoulds” and “shouldn’ts”. But in order to truly understand, then we have to come back to our center.
Let’s remember what feminism (and spirituality) is ultimately about: Love, respect and fair treatment. Love for ourselves and our bodies, and respect from others and for others for our personal life choices. This is what we all want — basic, fundamental love and respect wherever we are on our learning curve of being human and particularly being a woman.
Being “feminist” to me means to radically accept one another as we explore, try on, learn from and grow from all of our experiences, without the fear of consequences, judgment and/or exclusion from this or any other group as we continue to raise awareness on issues of inequality and sexism in the workplace, limelight, coffee house and wall street. After all, if we cannot give each other love and acceptance within our own circles of fellow feminists, how can we possibly expect the rest of the world to give it to us? As Gandhi so beautifully said, “Be the change you wish to see in the world!”
So let’s step it up, ladies. The latest arguing that really comes down to “who’s more feminist” is tiring, uninspiring and self-sabotaging. For it to be successful, feminism in its essence has to be Love. Love for the feminine in all its shapes, forms, sizes, and colors, and love for our fellow human beings, men and women. And then we are practicing something so much bigger than feminism. Something that is steeped in spirituality and deeply supported by Spirit.
Oh, and if you want to wear sweatpants, red lipstick, high heels and last night’s broccoli in your teeth while browsing Vogue magazine? It’s all good.