At the risk of sounding like Britney Spears, I’m gonna go ahead and throw it out there: I am not a role model.
I am, however, a feminist. And you can try and take away my membership card, but I’m still going to claim it.
I’m a 23-year-old kid trying to get through law school, get a job, and make it through my daily life. I also blog sometimes. Blogging is not my job. I don’t get paid for it, and while it’s important to me, I don’t construct my identity around it.
I’m very flattered that there are people out there who apparently consider me to be some sort of leader in the feminist community. But I’m not blogging because I’m a professional feminist, or an expert on gender issues, or some sort of feminist Yoda (although the best compliment I ever received in my life was when another NYU student called me that). I’m not blogging because I think that I have some big feminist secret to share with you all, or because I think that I’m better-informed or more “feminist” than most other people, and therefore can impart my brilliance onto all of you. I blog because I love the community that we’ve built here, and because these days, feminist blogs are my major connection to other feminists. I blog because I need a space to vent. I blog because I like to write, and because I’m interested in politics and gender issues. I was a journalism and politics major and a gender studies minor, and I wrote an opinion column for two years in college — political/feminist blogging was kind of a natural follow-up. And I spent a year being a teeny-tiny little blogger until Lauren asked me to join her at this space, and I was essentially handed a large, incredibly well-informed audience who I love engaging with in conversation. I feel like this blog is fairly horizontal in structure — it’s not about Piny, Zuzu and I conferring information onto all of you, and everyone sucking it up. For me, this space has always been about having conversations and sharing our perspectives. I’ve never felt like being a moderator of this space somehow makes me any more of a feminist role model than anyone else here.
I don’t think that makes me immune to criticism, and I do think that it’s valid to question why feminist women do things that don’t fit into the Perfect Feminist mold. My Fun Feminist post wasn’t meant to imply that I don’t challenge my own behaviors when it comes to waxing, high-heel-wearing, and whatever other “non-feminist” things I do. It wasn’t meant to imply that women who don’t do these things aren’t “fun” — I was borrowing Twisty’s disparaging use of the term “fun feminist” and owning the slur. I do question these activities. I do feel a certain degree of guilt for engaging in traditionally feminine or beauty-myth-supporting behaviors. I’m not trying to argue that “I do them for me” and that they’re out of the scope of discourse. I don’t like that I do them, even though I do often like the ritual and the benefits of doing them. I feel a stab of guilt whenever I cop to them, primarily because doing so makes me feel like a “bad feminist.”
But I do think it’s unfair to assert that I’m not worth listening to because I wear skirts and get my eyebrows threaded. And if your feminism asserts that only women who present themselves in a particular way are worth listening to, then I’m not sure that there’s much else for me to say, because your feminism isn’t for me.
We all make compromises to get by. I’m sorry if my post gave people the impression that I think women should act out feminine behaviors, or that I think it’s acceptable to live your life unexamined. Of course we should try and change the behaviors that we see as harmful. Of course we should strive, every day, to live more feminist lives.
And I like to think that I do live a fairly feminist life. Yes, I have a few pairs of high heels in my closet, but I also write for a feminist blog that gets tens of thousands of hits every day, and (hopefully) encourages feminist conversations. I even get off my ass and step away from the computer on occassion, and do “real life” feminist activism. I volunteer for a grassroots pro-choice organization that provides housing for women coming to New York City for second-trimester abortions. I’ve written dozens of feminist columns and articles, organized busloads of people to travel from New York to DC for the March for Women’s Lives, and set up escort trainings at abortion clinics. I’ve worked for international women’s rights organizations. I live independently and self-sufficiently; I try and take good care of the women in my life who are important to me — my mom, my sister, my friends. I try to take a pro-woman perspective by not mocking, berating or criticising other women for making choices that don’t look like mine. I’m planning on pursuing an entire career in international women’s rights.
And now I’m irritated because I feel like I’m on the defensive, and that I have to somehow prove that, despite what I look like and how I dress, I’m deserving of my feminist credentials.
My feminism — and note that I’m qualifying it with my, because nowhere on this blog have I ever claimed to be The Feminist or to speak for feminists everywhere — is always about supporting women. That means recognizing that we’re all doing what we have to do to get by. For a lot of us that includes trying to please and/or attract men in one way or another. In a patriarchal system, women are taught that pleasing and attracting men takes a whole lot of work. We all do that work to some degree. And while I’m pretty gung-ho about criticising the system, I don’t see how it does any good at all for feminists to attack each other about
who’s the most feminist who looks like she’s the most feminist.
If you don’t like my feminism or my writing or this blog’s style, that’s fine and good — the internet is a big place, and I’m sure that you can find dozens of feminist blogs that are more appealing to you than this one. But if you think that my worth as a feminist writer is contingent on my mascara or the status of my pubic hair (or perhaps on my willingness to honestly discuss that status), then I’d argue that perhaps it’s time to do a little navel-gazing yourself and realize that, just maybe, you also make compromises and don’t live your life exactly in accordance within someone else’s feminist ideal, and that, just maybe, those compromises don’t negate your ability to still be a damn good feminist, activist and writer.
I am trying to be the kind of feminist woman that I admire. But it’s a process. Perhaps I’ve been too forthcoming with my own failures and questions during that process, but I’m working on it. Maybe I should pretend that I have all the answers. After all, it’s the internets, and if I wanted to present myself as fitting all the feminist rules and regulations, I certainly could. But I make a choice to be honest because I don’t have all the answers, and I’m still sorting out where I fit and what I believe in the big feminist scheme of things. That means that, sometimes, I’m going to be a disappointment. And I am sincerely sorry that I can’t live up to every single feminist ideal out there, but I’m not going to waste my time wallowing in my own self-indulgent guilt over it (I think I wallow in my own self-indulgence quite enough, thank you). I’m going to try and be better. And where I can’t yet make myself be better, I’m going to examine, accept, try to understand, and keep working.
If, all of that said, you still find me intolerably anti-feminist, or believe that I’m not worth reading because I’m about to get in the shower and shave my legs, then I’m happy to show you the door — it’s as close as your browser’s navigation tab. Don’t let it hit you on the way out.