I was recently reading an article written by a woman who, at her heaviest, weighed two hundred and fifty pounds and felt she was being anti-feminist for dieting. We’ve all heard the stereotypes that feminists shouldn’t wear makeup or shave their armpits, but this was the first time I’ve heard someone claim that by counting calories, she felt like a traitor to the women’s movement.
The textbook definition of feminism, a definition which Ms. Gloria Steinem herself supports, is “advocating social, political, legal and economic rights equal to those of men.” Nowhere does it mention that we shouldn’t care about our appearance.
A woman could be a size 2 or a size 22 and still be a feminist. In fact, it is a feminist belief that our bodies are our own that no one can tell us what to do with them. From that line of thought, if we mustn’t judge a woman for choosing to use contraception, we mustn’t judge a woman for counting calories. If a woman wants a smaller body, it doesn’t make her any less of a feminist than a woman who doesn’t mind if she’s packing a few (or more) extra pounds.
I understand the argument that a woman who diets might be conforming to the pressure of society to look a certain way, but if she feels better at a lower weight, it is not for us to make her feel guilty. Besides, there’s nothing feminist about high cholesterol or diabetes. We are more powerful when our bodies are healthy and happy. Feeding the body nourishing foods keeps our spirits up and our energy levels high. If dieting makes a woman feel confident about herself and ready to take on the world, then who is anyone else to judge?
Actually, most feminists would argue that too much emphasis is placed on a woman’s appearance. The very stylish and attractive Gloria Steinem has said that there is a common misconception that women who are pretty can’t be smart. Early in her career, Steinem was actually sent home from a writing assignment when a male editor remarked, “We don’t want a pretty girl, we want a writer.” She sure proved that being pretty and smart aren’t mutually exclusive.
“Feminist” has become somewhat of a dirty word, and sadly, many women who actually fit the description are hesitant to use it to describe themselves. In a recent interview, Katy Perry said she doesn’t even know what a feminist is. Too often the word is associated with being a bra-burning radical or a tomboy or a man-hater, which may account for a small part of the feminist population, but there is another type, which I like to call the lipstick feminist.
I’m sure some people look at me with my platinum blonde hair and hot pink lip gloss and think that I’m the last person in the world who would be considered a feminist. Despite my love for fashion and makeup, I believe in empowering women, which is a much bigger indicator of feminism than whether or not a woman chooses to wear mascara. Make-up and fashion are feminine; I don’t feel we should have to take the feminine out of feminism and hide the girly part of ourselves to have equal rights and opportunities.
Just as there is power in a woman who has more of an aggressive masculine energy, there actually is also great power in a woman who is beautiful and feminine. Your power comes from your authenticity. Before I continue, I would like to mention that I agree with the late Estee Lauder, who said, “There are no ugly women, just women who don’t care.” Whether a woman cares about her appearance or not still has nothing to do with the feminist movement, but part of Gloria Steinem’s appeal to women was that she was very attractive, so attractive that she was even able to go undercover as a Playboy bunny for a story. Women identified with her much more than had she been lacking in sex appeal. Most women are naturally wired to want to be beautiful and sexy even if we want to be successful.
As for the common misconception that feminist women don’t like men, there probably are some that actually don’t, but that’s not the point of the sisterhood.
For the record, most of the feminists I know do like men, some of us like men a lot; we just don’t like them telling us what to do.
The sisterhood is about supporting and empowering other women. So the very act of labeling a sister as un-feminist for something as trivial as dieting or wearing stilettos isn’t very feminist at all.
While there’s no shame in wanting to improve your appearance, it’s time we as women stop obsessing over the size of our own and each other’s bodies, slap some lipstick on and go out there and kick some ass.
By Amy Elizabeth