I am so delighted that Emily Heroy of Gender Across Borders asked if I would cross-post this piece. When I was preparing for this week’s Feminist Carnival, I had several bloggers say, all sheepish like, that they wanted to submit, but weren’t sure if their take on beauty would be “feminist enough.” Because somehow, we still think “feminist” means angry, bra-burning, and all that — when it can mean so many different things. So yes, you can be an angry feminist if you want. Or a non-angry feminist. Or even a sometimes angry feminist who still wears her bra — and makeup, too.
Now here’s Emily to tell you why:
Before I took my first Gender studies class as an undergrad, I always had the image of stereotypical feminists with hairy armpits, a makeup-less face, and wearing no bras. I know, I know–what a faux-pas for such a staunch feminist! But as I grappled with my own definition of “feminism,” I also struggled to find a medium where I could care about my appearance as well as fight for equal rights for all. Many thoughts went through my mind during this time: Does my appearance of wearing make-up and heels coincide with “feminism”? Will I not be considered a feminist if I wear lipstick or if I like to shop for clothes?
One way to look at it–is that liking fashion and make-up may imply that you care too much about your appearance, and therefore that’s all that you care about. That’s a slippery slope to assume–but many people make it, including myself at times.
I wish that these assumptions weren’t made, because I outwardly enjoy fashion and make-up. I wrote a post last year about Lauren Luke, a Youtube-made makeup artist who believes that applying make-up should not be what TV and magazines tell you how and when to apply it, because that’s just “not normal.”
While I do not think appearances are everything, unfortunately they do matter in today’s world. I’m not talking about conforming to beauty standards (which you can read about in Naomi Wolf’s The Beauty Myth), but about how you appear in front of other people. One of my good friends in the fashion industry (whom I frequently ask questions to her such as, “Are leggings appropriate as pants?”) reminded me that appearances, for the most part, are about confidence and how you convey about yourself to other people. If you don’t feel good about yourself and how you look, how will that affect your overall confidence?
How you feel about your body actually affects your self-confidence greatly, many studies have shown. But most of all, it’s okay to wear new fashion trends and red lipstick–because after all, it’s your body and you can wear whatever you want. That’s what I call empowering, and by empowering yourself through the kinds of clothes and makeup you choose to wear, I would say, is “feminism.”
So, whether you choose to wear bright red lipstick,
Alexander McQueen heels (RIP McQueen),
or wear a sequined tank,
and you’re an unyielding feminist like myself, go for it. The more and more I learn about feminism, I realize (that many of you probably know) that there is no one definition of feminism. My definition of feminism might be different from yours–and that’s okay. More specifically, though, in terms of fashion and beauty, as long as I’ve understood the historical and societal implications of beauty and fashion and how they’ve shaped how women are “supposed” to look, then it’s more than okay for me to wear heels.
Emily Heroy is the Executive Editor of Gender Across Borders, a global feminist blog. She is currently working on a master of science in secondary education and you can follow her on Twitter at @emilyheroy.