You Don’t Have to Choose Between Feminism and Femininity

Recently, with the demise of Helen Gurley Brown, there’s been a lot of talk about lipstick feminism. She was legendary in her forward thinking, and I admire that. As Editor-in-Chief at Cosmopolitan, she introduced frank discussions about sex in the magazine, urged women to always look their best, and maintained that they could take care of their appearance without compromising their feminist ideals. And I wholeheartedly agree with her. You don’t have to choose between femininity and feminism.

But to start with, at the basic core of the definition—one that is often mistakenly stereotyped—feminism refers to the doctrine that advocates social, political, and all other rights of women equal to those of men. This definition is simple, but often misunderstood. In fact, the term is not even exclusively reserved for women. Men can also be feminists, that is, that they believe in the equality between the sexes.

Feminism is brimmed with negatively charged connotations, and the idea often conjures images of a woman with an androgynous appearance, sporting a military haircut and holding a strong disdain for men. While there may be some that fit that bill, it’s not representative of the entire feminist community. You can be a feminist and still care about your looks and want to bring your best self forward.

I wear makeup because I take pride in how I present myself to the world and it’s a quick self-esteem booster. I also view it as an art form, as a way to creatively express myself.

I work out because it’s good for my health, because I want to feel better and lighter and healthier.

I wear high heels because it makes me feel taller and sexier.

All these “anti-feminist” things I do, I do for myself, because it makes me happy. I often read about women who use makeup and wear heels and subsequently, harbor feelings of guilt and shame because they believe it makes them an “anti-feminist.” But take a minute and think about how ridiculous the term “anti-feminist” sounds? Does wearing makeup make me any less supportive of the idea that men and women should have the same opportunities? Does it automatically make me a pawn to patriarchy? I think not.

“Good feminist” and “bad feminist”—both of these terms are meaningless, to me, at least. They are merely silly labels that society needs in order to clump me into neatly defined categories. It’s how others perceive me, but all that should matter is how I perceive myself.

The new idea of feminism is freedom to do what you want according to how you feel. Don’t fret over every decision and weigh yourself down with the burden of labels. If wearing makeup makes you feel happier, then wear it. If wearing heels makes you feel sexier, then wear it.

So the next time you’re asked, “Are you a feminist?” proudly say, “Yes!” as you retouch your lipstick.

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