As I’ve stated a few times, I identify as a feminist.
I’m a feminist and a college student – which tend to conflict more often than not. People are often pretty hostile about my refusal to fall back on principles that I don’t agree with – whether it comes from not laughing at a sexist/racist joke, not participating in a party with a clearly anti-woman theme, or generally questioning the idea of intellectualism in academia and its exclusion of women nearly across the board.
But when I first started to identify as a feminist – what really got to me was the questioning of my femininity.
I’m someone who focuses a lot of things that are traditionally feminine – makeup, nail polish, fancy clothes/dress/etc., and I’m sure I have a host of other traditionalist pursuits.
I also decided to cut my hair, which confused everyone around me and coincidentally happened around the same time I decided to openly identify as a feminist. And the comments typically went like this:
How do you stand your hair being so… coarse?
Why did you cut your hair? It was so beautiful before with your curls!
How can you be a feminist when you spend so much time putting on makeup?
I thought feminists were all ugly… but you’re not.
And this is just another example of why I choose to be a feminist. The fact that people feel as though a woman’s credibility should be questioned based on her race, appearance, style, and general lifestyle choices are reinforcing why we need feminism.
If someone falls too far from conventional femininity, people won’t take their opinion seriously. If you’re too close to it, then you’re not really fighting for a cause because you’re falling into traditional norms.
And yes, there is a certain aspect of femininity that reinforces patriarchal notions, but that doesn’t encompass all of feminism by any way, shape, or means.
If someone is actively helping the cause of feminism, recognizing their privilege, and working to create a more inclusive dialogue that all can participate – then they’re a feminist. Their appearance doesn’t confirm or deny any of those aspects of their personality.
At the same time, if someone decides not to fall into traditional ideas of femininity, that doesn’t make their opinions any less valid either. Considering the absolutely vicious things people will say to those who refuse to fit into conventionality, they’re taking great steps to support their sense of personal and social identification.
Overall, feminism is not about physical appearance. It’s about changing sense of ideology, purpose, and focus. Feminism is not, and will never be a monolith. And if you want to limit it based on narrow definitions of attractiveness or physical appearance, then you’ll be missing on how much it has to offer.