In response to reading Bad Feminist by Roxanne Gay, I thought I would write up a post about what I think poses as problematic in my own feminism. The term ‘feminist’ has always seemed to have a negative connotation attached to it alongside with the very positive interpretations of the movement. Where one person might view it as equality between the sexes, another might see it as man-hating. This divide seems to leave many people (women included) hesitant to call themselves feminists, despite the fundamental notions of the movement being aligned with theirs. No one wants to seem fanatical, but sometimes taking a greater stand is what needs to be done to convey a point.
By writing this post I want to be open and honest about various thoughts I’ve had or positions I’ve held that are counterintuitive to the feminism. I’m sure I’m not the only woman who has exhibited these so I thought it would be a bit interesting to put forth my views and read about other’s in the comments below.
BEING A GIRL THAT GUYS LIKE
As a child you strive for inclusion, whether that be with your older siblings, your school teams, or your friends. Feeling left out wasn’t as much of an issue for me until I entered Junior high (grade 7). This seemed to be the time when puberty was kicking in, hormones were astray, and the gender gap was exceptionally noticeable in our co-ed classes (including gym). This is a time when the boys were coming into their own physical strength, their bodies finally catching up to their overgrown feet, and the girls were beginning to fill out their sports bras and experience menstrual cramps in lieu of growing pains. The tectonic plates between boys and girls were beginning to shift.
For most girls this is when normally unquestionable friendships with the opposite sex were now somewhat scandalous. Do you like him? Do you want me to ask him if he likes you? Our friendships with boys were no longer that simple and we now had to be looking for boyfriends. We all fall into this trap, boys and girls alike. I was never happy about it, but I fell in line with the rest and soon every boy I encountered would be a potential love interest instead of possibly a friend. Ever since then, whether I notice it or not, I’ve tried to be the girl that guys like. I feel an innate drive to pinpoint what their interests are and become a reflection of that. There is no logic to this drive, but it is ever-present and has really annoyed me the older I’ve gotten.
JUDGING OTHER WOMEN FOR IDEOLOGIES I DON'T HAVE
This one might be a bit confusing, so bear with me. As is already evident, there are many ideals presented that make ‘the perfect woman’. These ideals seem at times to be contradictory—the quiet, rebellious girl or the modest sexpot. In this case we are told to be oxymorons and when some of us can’t fulfill this (as most people can’t) then we are shunned or told to shun anyone not complicit in this behaviour. Of course, I’m generalizing here, but what I’m basing my notions on is my own experiences and what I see perpetuated in the media.
There have been many times where I’ve caught myself judging another woman simply because I don’t like how she presents herself. Maybe she’s a bit too scantily clad, more than I would ever consider being, or the common judgment against Taylor Swift, that she has too many boyfriends. These thoughts will always cross my mind until I catch myself and ask, “why do I care?”. There’s no reason that I should and yet I feel inclined to push an ideology that, logically, I shouldn’t even concern myself with. And yet, there I am, pitting myself against another woman with the defense that “I’m not like her”. Of course I’m not like her, no one is like anyone else. There doesn’t have to be a cookie-cutter epitome of how everyone should be. We are all our own people and that is okay.
HATING INSIGNIFICANT PARTS OF MY BODY
We live in our bodies every day, so it’s hard to view ourselves as a whole. We are disjointed limbs, unnecessary skin, and patches of hair. We are walking, talking Picasso paintings. You don’t feel this way about yourself? Well, congratulations! You’ve made it out of the tumultuous waters of puberty unscathed. I, on the other hand, have been told, no, implored to always attempt changing myself, even if I might not think there’s anything to change. Magazines, movies, TV shows, even commercials will show you that something can always be changed.
I have never liked my thighs; I don’t have the ever sought-after thigh gap and they don’t look like the image in my head of what the ideal woman would have. But, they are proportionate to my body. They are designed for my body. This also goes for my chipmunk like cheeks that puff up when I smile. Recently I learned that the thickness of the skin causing that chipmunk look is important for people from the Mediterranean to protect from the dry weather.
We can look at anything on our bodies and think they are wrong or out of place, but they are just the way we are and like that for a reason. We may not understand it, but at some point we have to accept it. Of course, there’s no judgment toward anyone who changes their physical appearance, but there’s also no judgment for those who don’t. It’s all about happiness and if what you are presented to be “the perfect body” goes against your happiness (or even health) then it should be disregarded.
It’s hard for me to come out and say that I love my body, because female bodies don’t seem to be meant for love—they are meant for judgment, improvement, and the male gaze. Would it make me rebellious if I said I do, as though actively fighting a systematic oppression? It shouldn’t, because at the end of the day, it’s just a body and we all have one.
I could probably list a few more things that make me a bad feminist, but I didn’t want to write a dissertation for this post. I’d love to hear of any of your experiences or thoughts on the topic. Do you consider yourself a good or bad feminist?