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The Carletonian

The Carletonian

The Carletonian

Tomboyish girly girl?

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I’m a woman, and I’m sensitive, and can get emotional. But this doesn’t make me weak. And this doesn’t make me a “bad” feminist. One of the things I hate the most is when traditionally assigned female characteristics are seen as negative. It sometimes seems that if you fit these characteristics, you’re prescribing too much to the gender binary and are therefore not a powerful woman. I think it’s great to have a flexible definition (or even none at all) of what makes a man or a woman, and to acknowledge that some people don’t fit either of these boxes. However, I also think the subtle chastising in the feminist community of women who show their tears, like to wear dresses, or, heaven forbid, enjoy being asked out on a date is not the solution. I’m not saying that many feminists do this, but it’s present enough on the Internet that it merits discussion.

I sometimes feel like I need to justify what I wear. At Carleton, I’ve come across the opinion quite frequently that putting thought into what you wear and putting on makeup is not by choice. They’re aesthetic prisons, and the common belief is that you’re doing it entirely based on societal expectations. Apparently, the fact that I wear makeup means that I’m being controlled by the patriarchy. I was once told that women wear lipstick because it signifies arousal and is therefore something society tells us to do, not something we actually want to do. Now, I understand this argument, because there are definitely things I do everyday that are based on unwritten social rules. I wash my hair, complain about how much homework I have (even if I’m having a relatively stress-free week), and have definitely bought items of clothing just because I saw it in a magazine. However, if we follow this logic, then we could argue that nothing we do is out of our own volition. I understand the want to make women cognizant of society’s unfair expectations, but making a woman feel like part of the problem is the wrong way to go about it. It just makes those whose interests happen to fit stereotypically female gender roles feel stupid, and like they’re less academic for dressing conventionally. And you know what, I happen to like wearing lipstick. And yes, I do know its sexist past. But I don’t feel trapped by it, I actually feel empowered by it. Putting on lipstick gives me a confidence boost. That being said, I’m lucky enough to have had a mom who taught me to consider why I am doing things, and go to a college that fosters these types of conversations. Still, I think there’s a fine line between sharing your knowledge on the systems that often put us in boxes and doing more harm than good. I know it comes from a good place, but these comments have left me feeling less confident than before. Why do people care what others wear? When we form assumptions about women because of their appearance, we’re making them two-dimensional. We’re forgetting that women have interests that, like most peoples, are varied and often contradictory. Just because a woman may be “conventional” in one way, this doesn’t mean she’s simple. She isn’t just what she wears.

I like to get dirty. I love the feeling of my bare feet squishing in the muddy grass after it rains. I feel alive when I reach the top of a mountain. I love to read and to listen to ghost stories by a fire at night. I have no problem sharing my opinions, and see myself as a confident, competent person. But I cry at TV commercials, my favorite movie is Pride and Prejudice, and I’d say I’m a good cook.

These things shouldn’t be at war with each other. When I’m asked to describe myself, I shouldn’t have to say I’m a “tomboyish girly girl.” That sentence is just confusing; I shouldn’t have to try so hard to describe myself in socially relevant terms. I shouldn’t have to be afraid to cry, for fear of being seen as a stereotypical women, just as shouldn’t be derided for speaking my mind.

The only thing that makes you a “bad” feminist is if you shame other women for their decisions, whether they be over how they express themselves emotionally, dress, or their self-chosen role in society. When discussing female self-determination, we often use

While I understand this often applies to serious issues like reproductive rights, I also think it means as women, we should have the right to choose how we present ourselves to society. We shouldn’t be shamed for acting stereotypically “feminine,” nor should we be shamed for defying our society’s gendered system. So, I might not become the badass, black suit wearing executive, or a shirtless feminist activist, but these are caricatures. This doesn’t mean that the people who fit them to some extent are going about feminism in the wrong way, but there are so many versions of what it means to be a successful, happy woman. A woman who chooses to stay at home and raise her children isn’t any less important, or less of a feminist symbol, than a career women. As long as it’s a woman’s choice, who are we to judge? All it does is create an atmosphere of useless competition, where the validity of others decisions are weighed against each other. There’s a quote by one of my favorite comedians, Amy Poehler, that I think sums this up perfectly. She writes, “Good for her! Not for me. That is the motto women should constantly repeat over and over again.”

Let’s be be happy for each other and support each other as women and as fellow people, instead of debating who’s “better” at upholding social justice. Forcing me to be something I’m not, even if it helps the feminist movement, is incredibly hypocritical. I am a feminist. I am a young woman. But my most important label is “person.”


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