Feminism as a political movement asks difficult questions. These questions probe the idea of equality, namely how close our current society is to achieving it, and what else needs to be done on political and social fronts to close the remaining gap.
Feminism as a philosophy asks questions that are even more difficult. These questions aim to uncover the inner mechanisms of the movement itself, examining how feminist ideas of equality relate to other social issues and broader ideas of morality.
Feminism as a lifestyle asks the most difficult questions of all. These questions challenge not only the ideas of feminism as a whole, but they challenge you – the feminist – with a bluntness that is necessarily personal, often terrifyingly so.
Some will say that the individual is not that significant. Gender-based oppression is a product of history, and society, and culture, and the list goes on. This problem is beyond just one person.
Yet, to put into perspective just how significant the individual is, I ask you this:
Can you shave your legs, and call yourself a feminist?
Real feminists don’t wear makeup.
Real feminists don’t wear bras.
Real feminists don’t shave their legs because real feminists don’t shave anything.
But this isn’t really the answer.
Real feminists are human beings.
They have friends, and family. They have hobbies, favorite foods, maybe a favorite movie. And just like everyone else, they exist in the same society that we all know. No one is immune to the powers of society.
Just like everyone else, real feminists are affected by media, gender norms, social pressure, and everything in between.
This isn’t to discount the beautifully barefaced, braless, and unshaven feminists of world. This is only to say that the stereotypical conception of feminism may be unapproachable to many, and isn’t the reality.
The reality is that feminism is diverse. Committing to the cause does not require you to check off all the boxes for “feminist” characteristics.
The answer is yes, you can shave your legs and call yourself a feminist.
Feminism on the battlegrounds of social justice must be rock solid, and necessarily so. Causes of equality are not easily won in a society built on inequality.
Yet to stand for women does not undermine all the other factors that make up who you are. Holding feminist values in one hand, and personal values in the other does not make for a confrontation that is easily resolved. In fact, this does not need to be resolved for you to call yourself a feminist.
Maybe shaving is habit. Maybe shaving feels therapeutic. Maybe shaving gives you a sense of confidence.
Whatever the reason, embrace the uncertainty.
The value of feminism is found in asking why you shave. Why is it habit? Why is it therapeutic? Why does it boost confidence?
To these questions, every single feminist will have a different answer. The many different answers are what gives feminism its vibrant life and diversity. Most importantly, these answers reveal a bit more about yourself and society every time you ask them.
These answers pave the path of progress. It’s not the answers themselves, but the act of seeking them that makes a feminist.
Wherever you are on the feminist spectrum, fear not if you do not embody the paradigm of feminist ideology.
Feminism as it applies in real life, is never straightforward. Considering the complexity of life as is, it is not easy for feminism to take priority.
Feminism simply asks that you look a little deeper and make a commitment to change, not just in society, but also in yourself.