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The Carletonian

Making peace with hypocrisy?

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It’s impossible to say I’m not a hypocrite, no matter how uncomfortable that makes me. In the advice I give, in my relationships, and in my daily thoughts, everything is confused and unclear. Sometimes, life can be a beautiful mess of contradictions. But if you live two different lives, flipping back and forth between your ideals and how you actually act, life can be difficult.

It may seem odd at first, but the thing I think about when I consider hypocrisy in my life is how I think about myself and my relationships in contrast to my feminist beliefs. I believe in equal pay, greater (and guaranteed) maternal leave benefits, and overall equality of the sexes. I believe that little girls shouldn’t grow up thinking that they are unworthy because they don’t meet some arbitrary standard of beauty or they never have a boyfriend in middle school (which is just a whole other ridiculous concept in itself ). Lipstick shouldn’t be mandatory and shaven legs shouldn’t be the required uniform to be considered a woman, but women should feel free to do those things if they so choose. Women should never be afraid to speak their minds and they should feel free to express themselves without fear of being called ‘bossy’ or labeled as an ‘aggressive’ person.

But even though I walk around with all of these beliefs and ideals of feminism in my head, I struggle with following through with these beliefs all the time in my thoughts and actions. I don’t always speak up in class because I don’t want to be seen as too eager or ‘dominating’ of the conversation. I think to myself, ‘Surely people don’t want to hear what I have to say all the time.’ I wanted to shave my legs in the fifth grade because I knew that the pretty, ‘popular’ girls were already doing it. I felt bad about myself throughout middle school watching my friends be asked to ‘date’ boyfriend after boyfriend while I struggled to grasp the concepts of photosynthesis and writing sonnets for English class.

A little girl I babysat back home would ask me each time I came over: “Do you have a boyfriend yet?” Most of the time the answer was no, or sometimes it was “it’s complicated.” And I felt guilty that I couldn’t fulfill her dreams of the ‘perfect teenage girl.’ I was sad for her, that her babysitter, amazing to her in all other ways, fell so short in the fact that she didn’t have a boyfriend at all times. I so wanted to tell her all of my ideas about women and relationships. How women needn’t be defined by how many boyfriends they had or who they were dating. How I was ok with being an independent person and working on me rather than my relationship status all the time. How she should feel good about herself with or without a boyfriend when she gets older.

Why do I find it so hard to stand up for what I believe about feminism when it comes to my own life? I can easily support my friends, lift them up and encourage them about speaking their mind or feeling good about themselves for whatever choices about their appearance, relationship, or speaking their mind they want to make. But when it comes to myself, I fail to be my own best feminist advocate. I suffer from cognitive dissonance. I know that I shouldn’t feel bad about being single or not wearing makeup on a rushed Monday morning or wanting to participate fully in any of my classes. Yet I still feel guilty, and then I feel guilty about feeling guilty, and the cycle continues.

So the question becomes: how does one end the cycle of guilt? How do I stop making myself a plaster saint of feminism? The first step to amending any hypocrisy, I think, is awareness. Before I can make any changes, I must acknowledge my cognitive dissonance and make peace with it. Because, like everyone else, I am human. It’s ok to have these feelings of inadequacy; no one person can be the perfect advocate for feminism (or any other belief, really). But what becomes important is to rise above those feelings—use your awareness for the better, and remind yourself what you believe at your core is more important than how your situation makes you feel in the moment. So the next time that little voice of doubt starts to creep in, I can mentally crank up my happy music and remind myself of what I believe. I’ll speak out to my truth, hoping to be a hypocrite no more.

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