Feminine Feminism

Laura Wadsworth loves lipstick, fashion, boys, and the colour pink. Does that mean she's not a feminist? No way! Girly girls can be just as feminist as anyone else, she argues.

Laura Wadsworth, 19 March 2004

I like pink. I like boys. I get excited over lipstick names - but I'm still a feminist.

Just because the youth of today roll their eyes at the mere mention of the dreaded 'f' word - and either think you're a Margaret Thatcher type or pat you on the head saying 'aww, our little freedom fighter' - doesn't mean that I'm going to ditch my viewpoint that feminists can be feminine.

getting the giggles from choosing between 'apricot sundae' and 'mocha-melt' eyeshadow doesn't mean that I'm brainless

Being a girly girl with blonde hair and blue eyes isn't exactly the stereotypical 'feminist look'. Miss Morningside from the 'Miss World' film Miss Congeniality said, "I'm against women like you, ugly women, feminists." This stereotype annoys me immensely. Why are feminists thought of as being ugly? Yet on the other hand, why won't people accept that getting the giggles from choosing between 'apricot sundae' and 'mocha-melt' eyeshadow doesn't mean that I'm brainless? Just because I'm an archetypal 'girly girl' and enjoy typically feminine things like makeup and pink stuff, doesn't mean that I can't call myself a feminist.

Some people may argue that being girly is only a way of attracting males, thus becoming male dependant - and where's the equality in that? But wanting to feel feminine, to me, is a means of self-confidence. I'm sure everyone can relate to feeling less confident if they had a whacking great coldsore compared to if they had just had their hair styled. I certainly believe in the 'look good, feel good' cliché - and science can back me up on this one. Recent research has suggested that wearing your favourite clothes can boost your confidence. This is not vanity, this is just a desire for improved self-assurance and happiness within yourself. I'm not suggesting that 'looking good' should be defined from what we see in magazines and television, but by simply feeling blissful within ourselves. For example, if you're wearing a baggy t-shirt which your best friend thinks is hideous but you feel absolutely fabulous in, to me that's 'looking good.' Nobody should feel forced into the bitchy world of fashion.

I do have very strong feminist attitudes, many concerning the pressure on women to look attractive and subscribe to the cult of the appearance. Is it right that women should only feel happy from looking appealing? I don't think so. As I said before, it's acceptable to want to feel happy within yourself by dressing how you want to, whether that complies with fashion or not. Like I said, I don't think that women should feel pressured into fashion because of the media.

I remember being in primary school with a pair of white Velcro trainers. I didn't think anything of them; I did P.E in them and took them home at the end of the day. It was only when some dancer girls picked on me because they weren't 'cool' that I began to worry. I'm sure lots of girls understand how this feels - and even though it seems so superficial, nobody likes to be teased, whatever the reason.

No matter what we wear, we seem to get criticised.

This is not to say that I am happy to blend into society by copying what everyone else wears, becoming a 'sheep'. But again, isn't that just a ploy from the fashion industry to get us to wear their more 'original' clothes? No matter what we wear, we seem to get criticised. Wear something 'different' like a fluorescent green leather skirt and get called a weirdo, but wear something 'normal' i.e. a pair of regular jeans and get labelled as 'boring'. Teenagers can be so critical! I could parade around in a rubber chicken suit, screaming 'non-conformist!' but deep down I'd know I'd feel absolutely ridiculous.

Yes, we could all file our nails into razor-sharp tips and point and hiss at teen magazines like J-17 and Sugar, but even if the magazines weren't so full of makeup and fashion, people would still be interested in it. It's not a crime and it doesn't have to be anti-feminist! Fashion can be as enjoyable as Le Tigre on tour with Sleater Kinney, just as long as it doesn't discriminate or fuel rivalries between people.

Surely this is modern feminism: being proud of our gender and not taking any stick from males, without being anti-men. How can some feminists still be anti-men?! Isn't it totally normal for heterosexual women to desire love and have respect for the other sex? Although many of us have boyfriends/husbands, it does not mean that we are any weaker or less independent than our single sisters. Yes, oppression exists and we could blame men for this for ever and ever, but isn't that a generalisation? Not all men want fewer women to be employed or see them as sex objects. We've moved on from the seventeenth century and in a modern dog-eat-dog world, women can be just as nasty in the business playground.

And talking of sex objects, 'it's time for the big 's' word: SEXUALITY! Tying in with my argument for femininity is women being aware of their sexuality. Why does being a sex object make a woman seem powerless? Ok, so men may find her sexuality as a striking quality, but that doesn't make the woman weaker: she becomes the one in power because it is the man that desires her.

We can't judge the women in magazines without knowing the 'real person'

"Sex object: A person regarded mainly in terms of sexual attractiveness". Ok, so let's take the typical sex object of male magazine FHM: Beautiful girls in society's view, stripped down to their underwear for men to gawp at. Do we respect these women? I definitely don't think we can immediately slate them. Out of being a "sex object" can come money, independency and potential fame. Models for men's magazines get paid loads of money and since we don't know their personality or attitudes we can't just call them sluts or bitches - do you know every single woman who has modelled for FHM? They may have highly paid professional careers or just get a buzz from their sexuality. It doesn't mean that women should have to feel pressured to look like that either, since we are well informed that the women in magazines are airbrushed and 'enhanced.' Women in men's magazines are often interviewed with leading questions about sex, but since this is the image that they are selling, we cannot form shallow and snide opinions when we don't know the 'real model.' I don't think there is anything wrong with women posing for male magazines seeing as they have chosen to do so. Both women and men have the choice to pose naked for magazines - don't deny you haven't seen or heard about the centrefolds inside the raunchy woman's magazine More!. Male models are in exactly the same boat!

No, we do not have 100% equality in this world, but we can make a difference through expressing our views, and still enjoy life as feminists. I just want to say, hey it's ok to be girly; it doesn't mean you don't want equality nor does it mean you are an airhead. I don't believe that these attitudes make me a hypocrite, or mean that I'm non-committal, because I'm still adamant about demanding equality and striving for it. It is just that along the way, I feel that we should not lose our female identities just to prove a point.

There is, and always has been, a lot more to women than the meek, submissive weaklings that we have been made out to be throughout the centuries. We got down to the nitty-gritty in the twenties and got the vote, in 1990 Kathleen Hanna gave us the riot grrrl manifesto and the Spice Girls sang and shouted us their tongue in cheek forms of feminism in the mid-nineties. Glamour isn't a word typically associated with feminism, but oh how this is changing. Feminists in music and drama particularly embody this phenomenon. Take Jessica Alba from 'Dark Angel' for instance, or the punk rock glitz of the girls from 'The Halo Friendlies'. The woman's movement is shifting and moving forward in a bold statement of femininity and I embrace it with my jingly bracelet clad arms held wide open.

From reading the article 'Pick 'n' Mix Feminism' I believe that I partly speak out for 'Pop-feminists'/'Lites' who claim that 'wearing a Wonderbra is a statement of empowerment.' Why should feminists think that wanting to look attractive from society's point of view is solely to attract men? Let's do this for ourselves! It doesn't have to be superficial or appeal to men, but just to make ourselves feel like the remarkable people that we really are!

About the author

Laura Wadsworth

17-year-old Laura Wadsworth is the bassist in her girl rock band 'Evol'). She likes speaking French (except in her A level exams!) and she enjoys collecting faeries.

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