Can a feminist wear make up?
Feminism is a delicate term. A delicate term reserved often for strong women. Women who, like their pubic hair, will be plucked and tugged and torn from their roots, and grow back stronger each time.
A gaggle of outspoken ladies were discussing feminism on brunch-time radio recently. In the course of their conversation one lady posed the question; ‘can a feminist wear make up?’ Opinions were bandied between the panel with the grace of a 12 year old applying glitter for the first time, and the results were just about as successful .
While many women often shy away from defining themselves as feminists, fearing that they will consequently be viewed as a Roald Dahl character whose body hair would effeminate Tom Selleck’s chest, we are frequently reminded that a feminist is merely an individual who believes that men and women should have equal rights.[pullquote]While many women often shy away from defining themselves as feminists, we are frequently reminded that a feminist is merely an individual who believes that men and women should have equal rights.[/pullquote]
So, can a feminist wear make-up? Are we thus determining a feminist to be an outspoken woman who asks to be defined by the measure of her voice and not that of her waist? Is she a confident woman willing to confront a patriarchal society; a lady who will embrace her slightly over-spilling hips fed on a diet of carefree-fun and laughter? Or a lady who will proudly place her tampon box on the shop counter, not requiring a bag to hide this hygiene product, nor to hide the fact that she is a functioning fertile female?
Or perhaps, could a feminist also be a woman who orders a gin slim line tonic that she sips self-consciously through a lipstick-preserving straw, with semi-present eyes that flit between her female conversation and an over-shoulder male seduction? Can a feminist be a woman who likes to contour and wear tight dresses? A mother who is happiest at home caring for her family. Or maybe even your ten year old son who dreams at night under his Arsenal sheets that his eight year old sister will have the same opportunities as he will once they outgrow their cartoon onesies.
Moreover, can a woman, or individual, that we may label as ‘mainstream or ‘glam,’ a female whose smile sags beneath the weight of her crippled self-esteem, or an experimental middle-aged man who likes to wear winged-eyeliner at the weekends all be feminists too? I am not advocating that feminist role models should be cosmo-sipping eyelash-extended dainty young women, but merely that they can be.[pullquote]I am not advocating that feminist role models should be cosmo-sipping eyelash-extended dainty young women, but merely that they can be.[/pullquote]
I celebrate strong women, I admire the courage and bravery of ladies who challenge conformity and redefine outdated definitions of the female and femininity. I applaud the confidence of a person willing to provoke a snoozing population. But what if you are someone who lacks this confidence or one who struggles to articulate the reality of being a woman? Maybe your reality is different to that you see described by other feminist role-models. Perhaps the term makes you feel uncomfortable or embarrassed – can you still be a feminist; an individual who believes in equal male and female rights?
By dismissing a large population of individuals that may hold different opinions from our own, have slightly divergent values but fundamentally are seeking the same, or at least a similar, end goal, it is possible that we are denying a large group the opportunity to participate in a wonderful, powerful and necessary movement. It may be time to spread our feminist legs to welcome a wider cohort of men and women; humans who, on a basic level, really just want equal rights.
A feminist can be outgoing or shy; an activist or a reflector; a nail technician, a solicitor, a pastry chef, an electrician, a student, father or really, rather unsure. A feminist can be bald, broke or bingo-winged, and a feminist can most definitely wear make-up.