For a while I have been struggling with the "am I a feminist if..." question.
Am I a feminist if I follow certain patriarchal beauty standards (i.e. makeup, high hells, hair straightening/curling, etc.)?
Am I a feminist if I read Cosmo?
Am I a feminist if I follow pop culture?
I enjoy these things. Does that make me un-feminist? I don't think it has to, but it has taken me a long time to come to this conclusion.
One of the things that our sisters were fighting for in the 70s was the ability to not HAVE to do these things. To not have to wear heels and panty hose. To be able to wear pants in a professional as well as informal situation. To not have to wear makeup. And all Cosmo and pop culture do is perpetuate these patriarchal beauty standards and reinforce the stereotypical belief that women only exist to please the men in their lives and in society.
How can I call myself a feminist if I support this type of oppression of women? I enjoy wearing heels, dresses and makeup on occasion as well as picking up the sporadic Cosmo and People. But I have also committed my life to feminism. How do I consolidate these aspects of my life?
When it comes down to it, it's all about personal preference and choice. That's not to say that every woman that wears heels and makeup can be a feminist - you have to be away of the political and social meaning behind your choices. Jennifer Baumgardner and Amy Richards in their book Manifesta say,
"In reality, feminism wants you to be whoever you are - but with a political consciousness. And vice versa: you want to bea feminist because you want to be exactly who you are," (56-7).I wear heels, dresses, and makeup, but I am aware of the history behind the fight to not wear them. I read Cosmo and People but constantly question and analyze what I find in them - I do not take what they are "reporting" blindly.
Feminists need to know what their sisters fought for in the 70s and on and what wearing heels and makeup means in relation to that. Then, feminists need to make the conscious decision on what to wear, read, and do based on that reflection. In the end, I think that even asking the question "am I a feminist if..." shows that there is feminist analysis and reflection in that person. Just asking this question shows a feminist consciousness.