I’ve been reading a book, I know! Somehow miraculously through all the editing, dog sitting, university assignments, and you know generally fucking around I’ve had time to pick up a book and read. Don’t worry I’m already patting my head in self-gratification, I also get brownie points for completing it in a week. The book, Hot Feminist delves into the identity of the self-labelled, Hot Feminist. A woman who takes pride in the way she looks but still holds onto feminist values, such as gender equality, ending sexual assault and closing the gender pay gap. Although these are important issues, many modern feminists see the obsession of vanity equally as horrifying. Wanting to shave your armpits or wanting to wear those three-inch heels are seen as tantamount to succumbing to the patriarchy.
Reviews for Hot Feminist varied considerably, many reviewers seemingly not understanding what the book was trying to convey. She’s not saying, I’m so much better than you because I buy MAC and shop at Karen Millen, she’s saying it’s ok to be hot. For years, I always wondered if somehow by wearing a dress made me less of a feminist, merely fodder for male fantasy. The problem it seems and I wholeheartedly agree with Miss Polly Vernon on this is that Feminism is so disjointed, everyone’s idea of feminism is paramount and if you somehow don’t agree with theirs then it somehow makes you a lesser person. It wasn’t until university that I started identifying as a feminist, I don’t know what it was about the Creative Arts, but it makes one ultra aware of their privilege and others as well. You can’t help but compare how much easier certain groups of people have it over you. And of course how much easier you have it over others.
And for many years, I wore jeans, baggy jumpers, and converse to tell the world: I’m not here to be objectified. I won’t ever be blamed for unwanted attention because of the length of my skirt. My validation will not come through meaningless comments from people on the street (or Tinder matches). But as I look back at that period (Ah Facebook, a constant reminder of how shit one’s life was and or still is) I shudder, I don’t look happy, I look mildly amused at the very best. The truth was I felt hollow. Even though I had started on my quest to be an archaeologist I was deeply unsettled, displeased with my shitty part time job, worried that potential dates would judge me about still living with my folks, and last but not least scared that this whole caring about not caring facade would eventually break. Everyday, I dressed like I had some adventure waiting for me as soon I left university, and this was all due to my belief that people would take me more seriously. But did it?
The short answer is: no. I was constantly belittled by others, reminded that ‘I was only a student’ and that I dressed like a 13 year prepubescent boy (slight exaggeration). The criticism I received not only knocked my confidence in my academic work, but also in my relationship with others. I had intentionally made myself unhappy. And I was so unhappy. Because I wanted people to think I didn’t care about my appearance, but I did and probably always will. This is not to say I have an unhealthy obsession with my outward appearance, I like to think that I have a ‘normal level’ interest. Shopping, scrolling through H&M’s website in the office (while that foreboding deadline comes closer), caring about your appearance doesn’t necessarily make you a bad feminist. It’s just one of those feminist non-arguments that routinely gets thrown around. It’s amusing that columnists or just people in general don’t dish out criticisms on decorating one’s home or office spaces or keeping the garden hedges nicely trimmed. Yet somehow, caring about make up, hair, and clothes is criticised as as being vain or a victimization of the patriarchy. This what I call Negative feminism, mostly seen through Twitter and endless Tumblr posts, creeping into women’s psyche making them question every decision in fear of being judged. Let’s face it, Twitter/ Tumblr feminism has become extremely self-righteous. Isn’t feminism suppose to be about allowing women to make their own choices? That’s the feminism I signed up for and that’s the one I’ll keep marching for even in heels.