An allowable proposition: being a feminist in a dress
Published: Sunday, October 21, 2012
Updated: Sunday, October 21, 2012 22:10
At a recent dinner with some male friends, I was lightly teased about being a feminist; not because I was one, but because I didn’t exhibit the usual qualifications of feminism. While it was all in jest, the conversation stuck with me. I want to discuss the obligations society feels that I must fulfill, and what stereotype I have to commit to, in order to be seen as a feminist.
I, as a feminist, would have to strongly argue against Disney princesses and Barbie dolls, have some possible lesbian or masculine tendencies complete with a boyish hair-cut, a “no dresses period” policy, and so on. The misconception, sometimes held by the general public and sometimes even by other feminists, is that my feminism is not as valid if I don’t conform to this stereotype. Feminism takes many varied forms, some towards the extreme and some towards the less extreme. Unfortunately, the former is what is latched onto by media and the general public, allowing for backlash against the entire movement and those feminists who aren’t the “norm.” Let’s clarify that feminism is a movement for women, and that women should not have to conform to the male sphere of characteristics in order to be considered acceptable.
Feminism is defined here as an ideology that seeks to obtain equality for women. How one can advocate for that is a matter of opinion, but the methods of one fraction should not be judged by another. Certainly there are some that believe a strong feminist is a masculine one, but I want to challenge the belief that women have to act like men in order to be strong feminists or strong women–that being a woman is okay as long as it’s as close to being a man as possible. It allows people to judge me for arguing for my rights if I allow a boy to open the door for me or pay for our date. It prevents me from expressing an admiration of nail polish or shopping, because a real female activist isn’t like that. It stops me from being a feminist in a dress when really feminism should be a celebration of all it is to be feminine.
Certainly there are women and feminists who have some traditionally accepted masculine characteristics, but this shouldn’t impair the other side of the coin here. Feminism shouldn’t encourage or force women to be more like their male counterparts, when everything about being a woman is just awesome. I won’t make this article a discussion on why women are extraordinary (mostly because I might feel insulted to have to argue that) but on how feminism isn’t about pushing women to be more like men, but an acceptance of all the different characteristics of women. Being feminine shouldn’t be seen as a weakness; women shouldn’t feel that talking about their newest shoe acquisition makes them “delicate.” I want feminists to extol their feminine qualities. Instead of being proud of being female, women are often instructed to be more masculine in order to be accepted as a strong woman.
This ties into two common arguments seen even from feminists–that I shouldn’t become a stay-at-home mom and that I should hate the Disney Princesses and Barbies for the mindset they give young girls about being pretty and wearing dresses. Because motherhood and these media representations of women involve child-rearing, career rejection, glitter, love, and the ever dreaded pretty dresses, we couldn’t possibly believe that being or wanting any of these things is okay. While there are quite obvious flaws in the characterization of women we see in pop culture, and while I understand the resentment towards the traditional female role in the household, it’s a hurtful attack on feminists who do want to stay at home with their children and fall in love.
Putting it together, being a woman and being a strong woman come in many different forms, from your overly girly cheerleaders to your tom-boy gamer girls. My request is to stop the fallacy that I have to be a tom-boy and act like a man in order to have a respected feminist opinion. As long as we as females want equality, who is to care how we go about asking or acting? Whether we let boys open doors for us or insist on paying for the first date, we are all strong women. So who cares if I wear a dress while being one?