The Consolidated List of Stuff That Isn’t Feminist

9 Dec

As Charlotte Raven helpfully pointed out in the Feminist Times this morning, wearing high heels is not feminist. Nor, apparenty, is staying in an abusive relationship. After reading her piece, I hope that both shoe aficionados and domestic violence victims see how badly they’ve been fucking up and either shape up or ship out, because the feminist movement isn’t interested in the likes of them. I would also like to thank Ms. Raven for being brave enough to say what no one else was women to say – namely, that women who like fancy footwear and who just sit there and let their partners abuse them are failing all women everywhere and just need to find another way to get their kicks other than Louboutins and men who make them fear for their lives.

If I have one criticism of Raven’s piece, it’s just she didn’t go far enough. Sure, high heels are anti-feminist, but so are a lot of things! What we really need is a handy-dandy guide put together by a privileged white woman telling us exactly how to be as feminist as possible. Since Raven has failed us in this regard, it’s obviously necessary for someone to step in and correct this failing. Please allow me, a privileged and lily-white member of the feminist tribe, to be of service.

Feminists Do Not:

1. Wear makeup

2. Wear short skirts. Or any skirts. Or leggings. Or tights. Or tight jeans. Or a bra (note: bandeaus and cute lacy camisoles are fine).

3. Wear saucy shirts that reveal any of the following: cleavage, midriff, shoulders, elbows, collarbone, neck, wrists

4. Shave any part of their body (eyebrow maintenance is, however, strongly encouraged)

5. Get married, even if it’s to another woman. Seriously. Take a close look at the tradition of marriage and tell me WHICH part of that, exactly, is feminist? Is it the part where your father gives you away as if you’re a piece of property, or the part where you promise to love, honour and obey your husband? And don’t tell me that your marriage is different – it’s still promoting an institution that has been and continues to be oppressive to women. Be in a “committed” relationship all you want, but leave marriage out of it unless you want your feminist card revoked.

6. Take their partner’s name – this is basically like stamping “I am my husband’s property” on your forehead. I don’t care that it’s tradition, or that you think it’s nice, or you’re doing it for the kids – it doesn’t matter what argument you come up with, it’s still patriarchal bullshit.

7. Watch network television, except to criticize it (self-explanatory)

8. Let men hold doors, give compliments or pay for dinner. If a man you know tries this, offer him a swift kick in the groin.

9. Have children, unless they have access to a hospital-grade breast pump and a staff of round-the-clock nannies and nurses so that they don’t have to miss more than a few days of work at their high-power jobs.

10. Stay home with their children. Who ends up paying for your cushy suburban life of trips to the library and ice cream cones in the park? A man, that’s who. Feminists are self-reliant – if you think that a man funding your stay-at-home mommy life is empowering to women, you need to sit in the corner, read the Feminine Mystique, and think about what you’ve done.

11. Make jokes, laugh, or otherwise display a sense of humour. Duh.

12. Watch sports. They’re nothing but a masturbatory homage to heteronormative patriarchal ideals. Do you think it’s a coincidence that most sports feature BALLS of some sort? Well, think again. And let’s not even get into the phallic imagery of baseball bats, hockey sticks and golf clubs.

13. Watch ballet. You think high heels classify as self-harm? Check out the damage toe shoes do to feet.

14. Listen to Beyoncé, try to emulate Beyoncé, or even think about Beyoncé. And while we’re on the subject, let’s just be clear about one thing – Beyoncé is categorically not a feminist. How is this even up for discussion? She’s broken basically every rule on this list so far. SHE CALLED HER LAST TOUR THE MRS. CARTER WORLD SHOW TOUR. When the revolution happens, Beyoncé albums will be the first to be burned.

15. Let women of colour speak, unless it’s to toe the same old white feminist line that fails to address many of their most pressing problems. Real feminists know that intersectionality can only be addressed once all white women everywhere are equal.

16. Treat their children in any way that reinforces the gender binary. In the future, the terms “girl” and “boy” will be done away with and everyone will wear sexless onesies with snaps at the crotch. FEMINIST UTOPIA.

17. Diet, or otherwise try to lose weight. If you feel uncomfortable in your body, it’s your own damn fault for buying into patriarchal ideas about how women should look.

18. Smile, unless you’re smiling in anticipation while scheduling your next abortion.

19. Watch or enjoy anything even remotely problematic. See: everything in mainstream culture so far. I don’t care that the Gilmore Girls was your favourite show when you were a kid and you and your mother watched it together when she was dying and it gives you nothing but good feelings – that shit is PROBLEMATIC.

20. Experience any emotion other than rage. There is so much to be outraged about that I cannot fathom how you could feel anything else, unless it’s joy over the aforementioned abortion.

Real talk, though: a lot of the stuff on this list genuinely does not fall within the parameters of what would be considered feminist or egalitarian in a perfect world. In that world, I wouldn’t feel that in order to be attractive and respected I had to slather makeup on my face, shave my armpits, or dress a certain way. In a perfect world women wouldn’t find it romantic to ditch their own last name in favour of a man’s. In a perfect world we would all hold doors for each other, and acts of politeness would not have sexist undertones. But you know what? We do not live in that world.

Yes, we do things that buy into or even promote patriarchal beauty standards. Yes, we sometimes uphold traditions that have been oppressive to women. Yes, we sometimes enjoy stuff that could and maybe should be considered problematic. We’re only human, after all, and we all grew up being brainwashed by the same ideas about how women should look, dress and act. If I hadn’t grown up in a world that told me that removing all of my body hair was considered sexy, would I reach that conclusion on my own? If I didn’t live in a culture that prized a traditionally misogynist ceremony of lifelong commitment as super romantic and de rigueur for all women everywhere, would I have gotten married? The answer to both of those questions is: probably not! But nothing exists in a vacuum, not even feminism. Especially not feminism. And it’s not that we shouldn’t talk about these things – things like why we might get married or take our partner’s name or want our body to look a certain way. We definitely should talk about these things – and we should also talk about why we choose to do them.

We all do things that could be considered anti-feminist. We all compromise sometimes. We give in on some things, and fight tooth and nail on others. We pick our battles and learn to hold two opposing truths at the same time. We let ourselves feel pretty in high heels and makeup while still remembering that this is mainly because men have made us believe that these things make us pretty. We enjoy movies and books that don’t pass the Bechdel test and maybe say some not-so-great things about women, while acknowledging that media representation of women needs to be so much better than it is. We call our children “girl” or “boy” even while accepting that gender is a social construct. We do these things, and it doesn’t mean that we can’t call ourselves feminists.

If I were to make a real list of things that feminists don’t do, there would only be one item on that list: tell people how to be feminists. Because when an individual begins dictating what a movement looks like, then it stops being about what’s in the best interests of women everywhere (spoiler alert: very few things are in the best interests of all women everywhere) and becomes about that person’s biases and opinions. And that? Is pretty unfeminist.

Definitely Not A Feminist

Definitely Not A Feminist

47 Responses to “The Consolidated List of Stuff That Isn’t Feminist”

  1. Miep December 9, 2013 at 9:59 pm #

    I would argue that real feminists try not to be hard on other women, although I would exempt politicians from that, as going easy on politicians simply because they are women is likely to get you dangerous female politicians.

    • Moll McGuffin March 19, 2014 at 7:00 pm #

      Case in point: Margaret Thatcher *shudder*

  2. Allison Epstein December 9, 2013 at 10:10 pm #

    “If I were to make a real list of things that feminists don’t do, there would only be one item on that list: tell people how to be feminists.”
    This. All day, every day, this. If I want to wear men’s sweaters and not shave my legs and believe that women and men should have the same rights, I am a feminist. If I wear makeup and dress like Zooey Deschanel and believe that women and men should have the same rights, I am a feminist. Pretty much all there is to it for me.
    Great post!

    • Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) December 9, 2013 at 10:45 pm #

      Yes, the dictionary definition (Macquarie) is ‘advocacy of equal rights and opportunities for women’. That’s the whole point; that’s what matters. Good article!

  3. K.M. O'Sullivan (@KellyMOSullivan) December 9, 2013 at 10:11 pm #

    Great piece. Feminism, like gender, evolved in our cultural bubble. Some idealized, well-defined version of a feminist only exists in theory, and even then it is imperfect. There is so much gray area in feminism and we make “mistakes” all the time. The way to move feminism ideals forward is to move forward without over-analyzing just what a feminist is. The point of feminism is to remove limits, not provide new ones.

  4. Jennie Saia December 9, 2013 at 10:22 pm #

    I love every word. So brilliantly said, that all I can add is: “Sexless onesies with snaps at the crotch”? I am CERTAINLY not a feminist if those hoo-ha-hating torture devices are in the dress code!

    • samara December 10, 2013 at 3:40 am #

      Hi, sister wife! You are the other chick I know who says hoo-ha! (although I spell it who-ha). I heart you! I’m not surprised to find you here – GREAT post!

      • Jennie Saia December 10, 2013 at 4:52 pm #

        Whose-ha are you talking about, sister-wife? 😉

  5. JackieP December 9, 2013 at 10:30 pm #

    The feminism of today is not the feminism of the 70’s, 60’s or whatever. I lived it, I know. It was so different than todays version. Give me the original version anyday. Feminism back then was about equal pay for equal jobs, it was about women having the same opportunities as men. It was about being fair. Now it’s a caricature of that. It’s a shame. really.

    • Snakypoet (Rosemary Nissen-Wade) December 9, 2013 at 10:41 pm #

      I lived it too, and I’m with you.

      • JackieP December 9, 2013 at 11:43 pm #

        Thank you.

    • alexjanemartin December 13, 2013 at 7:19 am #

      The notion of feminism has changed (with time comes change) but it doesn’t make it shameful that feminists have chosen to fight, discuss, explore other social and cultural aspects and paradigms of feminism.

      Our world is dramatically different from the world in the 60’s or 70’s; the battles women fought in the 60’s and 70’s are different than battles woman fight today–it doesn’t mean they are less significant.

      We are fighting for power and we are fighting for equality but in the 21st century there are various mediums to do so. This is why it is evolving and this is why it’s gray.

    • Phoenix Singer January 28, 2015 at 7:17 pm #

      I’m not entirely sure what you’re talking about because modern feminism is basically a progression of the cultural critiques made by a lot of Black Feminists and Radical Feminists (even if we abandoned the TERF-y shit, we held on to a lot of their critiques), and then the third wave had people like Judith Butler throw a wrench into our very ideas of gender because she was a cultural critique. Feminist cultural criticism is important and without it we can’t fully purge the patriarchy in the name of women’s liberation.

      It sounds like you miss liberal feminism, which has never worked, and only represented white women and ignored the realities of Women of Color where “equality feminism” often times only meant the right for rich and suburban white women to equally oppress the poor and women of color as rich white men do. We have that now, with Lean In, with ‘choice’ and ’empowerment’ feminism. What you’re talking about never went away and was never desirable to begin with.

      tl;dr read Andrea Smith, bell hooks, Silvia Federici for the love of god.

  6. GrimalkinRN December 9, 2013 at 10:35 pm #

    Reblogged this on ofcourseitsaboutyou.

  7. andreablythe December 9, 2013 at 10:48 pm #

    I agree. There is no need to dictate what feminism means. It becomes a kind of dangerous policing in and of itself.

    Also, maybe putting makeup on, wearing dresses and heels is influenced by patriarchy, but some of that is just plain fun. Not to mention monitoring women’s dress, saying what they should and should not wear is patriarchal society has been doing for ages. Why join the bandwagon?

  8. thestayathomefeminist December 9, 2013 at 11:26 pm #

    Love this! It irritates me so much when I hear of feminists dictating how feminism should look. There is a problem if someone’s outer appearance determines what level of feminist they are.

  9. Muddy River Muse December 9, 2013 at 11:49 pm #


  10. Miep December 10, 2013 at 12:34 am #

    Also, feminism should be about women having more options, not fewer.

  11. thismillennial December 10, 2013 at 2:59 am #

    This is what I argue with people everyday. Feminism is not a hatred of men as people. It is a hatred of male dominated societies which enforce harmful and oppressive regulations on anyone outside of the male order. It is not definable other than an opposition to female oppression and no one should act like they can define it.

  12. Psychobabble December 10, 2013 at 3:44 am #

    Great piece.
    And absolutely – feminism is all about having choices, even if we choose to wear heels or stay in an abusive relationship.

  13. mandaray December 10, 2013 at 4:44 am #

    Reblogged this on Note To Self and commented:
    Well shit. I just bought a new pair of boots last month that have heels on them. And I really like wearing them, too! Guess I’m not a feminist anymore. D=

  14. Jennifer Bridge December 10, 2013 at 5:26 am #

    I agree. Feminism = equality and opportunity

    However, if I choose to wear high heels and a pencil skirt I am choosing to make my body less stable and restrict my movements in a tight skirt. Therefore I choose not to do those things so that I remain equal in my opportunity to move around in the world.

  15. MELewis December 10, 2013 at 6:27 am #

    How about being a feminist and NOT talking about it? Just living a feminist life by example. Not a popular approach but one that’s worked for me.

    • sellmaeth November 23, 2014 at 7:44 pm #

      How, exactly, does this work? How do you live a “feminist life” without ever doing things like, demanding change in laws (requires talking), complaining about sexism in the media (requires talking), speaking up when other women are harassed (requires talking) … okay, the last one could be solved by just hitting the harasser over the head with a frying pan, but most feminists don’t approve of violence, so there is that.
      Admittedly, none of those things require that you self-identify as feminist, but it is not an “lead by example” approach, either.

  16. tdawneightyone December 10, 2013 at 3:28 pm #

    Oh I love this. My own definition of the f word and the ever evolving movement that it is has changed over the past few years. I think becoming a Mom and more in to my own has forced me to re-evaluate what a feminist looks like. Turns out she looks like me…in all my ironic goings on in my life right now.

  17. Drunk Bunny December 10, 2013 at 6:33 pm #

    I liked this at first, then thought the author kind of flubbed the end. She still largely relegates much of her own list to somehow failing to be a “perfect” feminist and living in the “real” world. I get the real world point. I diverge, though, when it comes to conceding some things are less feminist than others, because it means some things should still be assigned guilt. I feel what makes something “feminist” or not derives from intentionality and awareness, not superficial understandings of what patriarchy is. One of the major mistakes some feminists make is that they assume the meanings they impart to things and people are the true ones, which is a trademark practice of patriarchy. So I have to press this issue further. I should wear high heels, not because I’m willing to accept myself and the world as flawed (which assumes heels mean only one thing), but because, after careful introspection, I’ve CHOSEN to f****g wear them (which explores that heels mean something different than what someone else is forcing me to believe about them).

  18. Helena Hann-Basquiat December 10, 2013 at 6:34 pm #

    You. Fucking. Rock. Darling. Feminism, or any -ism, is an ideal, whose absolutes exist in a world of fantasy. As a close personal friend of mine once said: “-Ism’s in my opinion are not good. A person should not believe in an -ism, he should believe in himself. I quote John Lennon, “I don’t believe in Beatles, I just believe in me.” Good point there. After all, he was the walrus. I could be the walrus. I’d still have to bum rides off people.”
    Thank you for blending a bit of realism in with your quest to understand feminism.

  19. dave December 10, 2013 at 7:12 pm #

    Almost lost me with this one. So glad I came back and finished it. Oh me of little faith!

  20. dianatierney3 December 10, 2013 at 7:30 pm #

    Thank god eyebrow maintenance is exempt! Lol I just like to remove hair because I don’t like looking like Chewbacca…this had me chuckling.

  21. samara December 11, 2013 at 3:01 am #

    This is why I blog. This is why I read blogs.
    I am just starting my blog journey. I am so inspired by writers like you who manage to capture the essence of an idea and apply it universally and also specifically, to your self.

    These are such ridiculous notions I don’t even know where to start. Is it non-feminist to want to look sexy? Is this because we are pandering to male-designed notions of sexuality? Are we not capable of visually assessing what kind of shoe, independent of a man’s eye; makes our leg look beautiful, and does doing this contradict feminism?

    I do know this: You are a blogging superstar. Thank you for letting me part of your world. Rock on!!

  22. Sin City Siren December 12, 2013 at 9:15 am #

    Reblogged this on The Sin City Siren and commented:
    This is a must read, a perfect marriage of snark and truth.

  23. reprobatemum@Reprobatemum December 12, 2013 at 9:15 pm #

    Reblogged this on Raising Jonah and commented:
    Feminists can be funny, too. Really. No really.

  24. tmgre December 13, 2013 at 1:48 pm #

    Thought the list was a bit on the long side – but on an overall, it’s a wonderfully well-written and witty text

  25. Mari December 15, 2013 at 4:30 pm #

    Reblogged this on The Old Brag of My Heart.

  26. annabel king-martin December 18, 2013 at 5:37 am #

    I wouldn’t worry about Raven. Read the article above from this week’s Independent in which she reveals that she doesn’t understand the fuss about paedophilia. She likes upsetting women. She’s no feminist, just a self-publicising opportunist. Unfortunately the media continue to give her attention. If we ignore her anti-feminist witterings she’ll soon go away, all the people working on her website are just her family and friends, its hardly a voice for the feminist movement.

  27. torirena December 28, 2013 at 6:17 am #

    Awkwardly this is the first time I heard of this term, I swear this has shed a new light on this subject to me, I guess its just another thing for me to Google about and reblog.

  28. Tyler Twi March 11, 2014 at 6:28 am #

    This is why “radicalfeminism” makes me uncomfortable. It’s telling woman what to do, but if we are the lesser sex shoudlnt we focus on surviving!

  29. Editor March 15, 2014 at 6:21 pm #

    Reblogged this on intersectionelle.

  30. tanjagrubnic March 15, 2014 at 10:18 pm #

    I really like this piece! It’s so important to stress that being a feminist isn’t necessarily an identity, but a different way of seeing the world. I often hear from people that I “don’t look like a feminist” because my appearance is very classically feminine. Sometimes they are pleasantly surprised, realizing how little they know about feminism – and feel encouraged to learn more. But other times, I feel like people don’t take me seriously, as if my performance of femininity delegitimizes my feminist leanings. One of the most important goals of feminism is allowing women to express themselves, or perform gender however they want to without being punished for it. Good food for thought.

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  32. Andrea December 11, 2014 at 11:33 pm #

    This is v normative/ dismissive/ black n white.

  33. godofthunder85 April 20, 2015 at 9:32 pm #

    This was a great article! I’m speaking as a die-hard heterosexual male egalitarian who opposes not simply patriarchy, but *all* forms of hierarchy, period. I strongly believe that any group of people, or sub-group thereof, who are given the position of “top dog” in society will become oppressors, because that’s an unfortunate *human* weakness that you can’t escape simply by not having male plumbing or by being attracted to the same sex.

    I give the thumbs up to the vast majority of what you said, understanding that you were being firm but flippant in some cases, though I do have a few thoughts:

    1) I agree with what you say about marriage in full. The thing is, I’ve had strong difficulties with many women when I’ve mentioned my feelings about state-or-church-sanctioned marriage. Many of them will tell me something like this: “But ever since I was a little girl I had wonderful images of what my future wedding would be like.” The cultural image of marriage is heavily ingrained in the female psyche due to their upbringing! Hence, my feelings on marriage – which correlate heavily with yours – were seen as a let-down to them.

    2) I will come out and say that I have no problem with women dressing in a revealing manner, and I find it very appealing. I don’t think this is some sort of requirement to look attractive, but I do like mid-driff shirts, halters, strapless dresses, etc., for the following reason: A woman’s body is beautiful, plain and simple. I take no shame at all for finding the female form attractive, while making it clear that this doesn’t mean that other aspects of a woman aren’t equally or even more attractive, including her personality and way of carrying herself as a person. I agree that women shouldn’t feel like they’re expected to dress a certain way in order to be considered attractive, but I likewise do not think they should feel the need to more or less strip themselves of any hint of sexual appeal to fit a feminist or equality ideal. Sexuality is a beautiful gift to humankind, and I don’t think it need be denied or even downplayed in order to make all the other amazing aspects of a woman shine through. For example, I find all the many creative things that women tend to do on a regular basis, without even thinking about it much, to be very attractive and pretty damn awesome. Examples are their recognition of nuances in color and patterns that the average man would scarcely notice or make use of.

    3) Along those lines, I agree that women should not have to feel that they need to put on make-up to look attractive; personally, I have no understanding of why that’s supposed to make them more attractive in the first place, especially since our culture believes that men don’t need it to look attractive. The same with body image: I’ve always found many heavy-set women attractive. Being a man who is himself dealing with a weight problem, I can relate to this completely; I’ve met too many women who automatically ask me if I have that much exalted “six-pack.”

    4) I do not think gender is a social construct, but I do believe specifically defined *gender roles* definitely are, e.g., men are supposed to like sports, women are supposed to like cooking, men are supposed to like parenting less than women, women are supposed to like repair work/electronics less than men, etc., et al. But this might have been what you meant, of course.

    5) I totally agree with you on the subject of sports as being a hyper-masculine thing that both women and men are negatively affected by when it infiltrates the cultural mindset as much as it has. When I was in high school, boys like myself who were artistically rather than athletically inclined were shunned by most of the girls, and the star athletes – regardless of their personality or behavior – were considered the most desirable boys around. And not all artistic guys who are writers, artists, musicians, etc., rather than athletes, were by any means a “wuss” – I’ve always had a strong affinity for martial arts, but since it wasn’t football, basketball, hockey, etc., it wasn’t considered “impressive” or “appealing.”

    6) One thing I would like to point out: Men have had privileges over women in this society, and whites have had privileges over black: But *classism* is also important to take into consideration. Class is the ultimate expression of hierarchy in contemporary society, and it’s completely *artificial*. No matter what disparities in regards to financial and social standings whites in general may have over blacks in general, or men may have over women in general, these disparities are relatively miniscule compared to what the vast disparities between people of any race or gender who are wealthy and those who are not. I’ve always known several black men and women who have made considerably more money than I do, despite my being a white male heterosexual.

    7) I never like using the “perfect world” analogy, because I think the term “perfect” is inherently loaded. We may not be able to create a “perfect” world, but I think we can indeed create a much *better* world. One where no hierarchy exists, with no defeatist excuses to tolerate it, and no small handful of truly privileged individuals who encourage various groups in society to fight and compete with each other in relentless and mostly futile attempts to claw their way to “the top.” We may always have interpersonal conflicts, and never be “perfect” or “utopic” in that sense, but we can create a world that is without hierarchy based on essentially plutocratic privilege (regardless of what that plutocratic handful’s dominant gender or racial make-up happens to be).

    Thank you for a great post with excellent insights! And thank you for listening! 🙂


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