|Skirt: Target Petites (old)|
Gender inequality in my own culture and society and around around the world is so often the root of violence towards and oppression of women and of non-conforming men and transgendered individuals.
While there have been strides towards equality, I am inundated on a daily basis with examples of gender inequality in action from the murder of a young woman in Turkey who was killed trying to fight off her rapist to poor working conditions for women to a certain popular novel and film widely thought to glorify abusive relationships.
With so many examples of sexism in action on a daily basis, it’s clear that the patriarchal system that supports such inequality hasn’t really gone anywhere, despite changes in the last century.
Being a feminist is being an advocate for the fair and equitable treatment of all people regardless of sex or gender identity. At its core is the common humanity that we all share. We are inherently equal no matter what, and we deserve to be treated as such in our personal relationships, by others in our societies, and by the institutions that control our everyday lives.
|T-shirt: Zazzle (Available here)|
But as a feminist, I’m certainly aware of the negative connotations that the word can carry.
Part of that negative stereotype is of a man-hating woman who is generally unattractive, often fat, hairy-legged, and a laundry list of other physical characteristics deemed less than desirable in our culture.
While I will gladly argue that most of these traits aren’t necessarily “negative” in the first place, this caricature of feminists serves to perpetuate the inequality that feminists would fight.
First, it assumes that men aren’t feminists.
If you believe in the social, economic, political, and cultural equality of men and women, congratulations, you’re a feminist! No vagina required!
This caricature of feminists as physically unattractive works to preserve the beauty myth while making feminists look like unsuccessful women, women who simply lost at the game of playing gender. Only women who couldn’t hack it as “real” women (i.e. slender while still curvy, perfectly coiffed, etc.) would resort to feminism, right? Over the years, I’ve heard that feminists are losers, lesbians, ugly, and mentally disordered, among other things.
|Boots: Target (Purchased used from eBay)|
This erroneous line of thinking has been used by the dominant culture to make it easier to discount feminists and to discourage women from identifying themselves as such. It keeps women from wanting to associate themselves as feminist for fear of being less acceptable in the culture.
The stereotypes used to turn people away from feminism are in place for the very reason that feminism is still needed.
Women are taught from a young age that we must constantly worry about our appearance and devote tons of time, money, and personal effort to maintaining said appearance. We are told that in our natural states, we are unattractive.
|Necklace: JC Penney|
While the war against women’s body image is only one small part of gender inequality, it is one that affects so many women from all walks of life.
It certainly has affected me. Due to my love of fashion, I found myself absorbed in fashion magazines from a very young age, and I pored over the images of airbrushed and digitalized women, not understanding that the women who these images were supposed to represent didn’t even look like the pictures. Cindy Crawford has famously said, “I wish I looked like Cindy Crawford”!
|Clutch: The Limited|
I was led to believe in a false ideal of perfection, and it has taken me a lifetime to recover. I’m still recovering. I bought into the beauty myth hook, line, and sinker, and despite all of my gender studies education, despite my own rational mind, despite everything I knew, I accepted it. I allowed the myth of perfection to overtake my life and affect my perceptions of my body and ultimately, myself. My self worth was so tied into what I looked like that I let my appearance overshadow everything else great about me.
Over the last few years, I’ve found myself stepping away from fashion magazines and turning to bloggers of all shapes and sizes as a way to get my fashion fix. I’ve continued to teach myself that my value as a human being isn’t about my surface.
I am at the best place in my life in regards to my self-esteem and body confidence.
100% cured from the damage caused by society?
No way, but such amazing progress nonetheless.
And today, I celebrate that growth by the wearing of this shirt.
|Bracelets: The Limited, Ann Taylor|
You see…over ten years ago, while reading a fashion magazine, I ran across an article on Ashley Judd. She discussed her feminist views, and the article contained a photograph of her wearing a t-shirt with the phrase, “This is what a feminist looks like.”
I immediately was drawn to the message, and I wanted a similar shirt. But, something stopped me.
At the time, I thought the whole point of the shirt was to dispel the myths that feminists were only physically unattractive (as if that would be such a bad thing, anyway).
Of course, Ashley Judd could wear a shirt like this. She was thin and beautiful, and she was the perfect poster woman for such a message.
|Ring: Purchased at local jewelry show|
But what about me?
I was short, a tad overweight. I wore glasses. I wasn’t pretty enough.
Would wearing such a shirt reinforce the stereotypes of feminists as unappealing?
Who did I think I was to suggest that I was attractive and therefore a deserving face of the feminist movement?
Oh, I look back now, and my heart hurts for the insecure young woman I was. And I realize now that I missed the whole point of this slogan.
Feminists come in all forms – male, female, and intersex. Some of us are cisgender. Some of us are not. We identify sexually in different ways. We are of different heights, hair colors, skin colors, body types and sizes, and physical abilities.
Feminists are people who believe in the unwavering equality of human beings and are willing to stand up against the tyranny of sexual and gender oppression.
Yes, I am a feminist.
|Earrings: New York & Company|
And this is what a feminist looks like!!!
Read more of Ashley Judd’s views here.
A note on the shirt. I’m wearing an XL, and the printing appears smaller on my shirt that on the web site. Looks like the screen print is one size, so it will appear smaller on larger sized shirts than the smaller sizes. Had I realized, I would have chosen one of the larger print options.