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.