I am a proud feminist. I'm the daughter of a working woman who kept her maiden name and a feminist man who loves being surrounded by his family of strong women. They raised their daughters not to shy away from the label and instilled the values inherent in the word. I can't really remember not being a feminist or even being shy about the word (minus a few moments of teenage insecurity fueled weakness).
So recently, I decided to take an elective women's studies course to fill in my degree. I thought it would be great to learn more formally about the values I had always been taught.
But OH BOY did I hate it.
I don't really remember the details of the whole class and there certainly were moments that were interesting and useful for all of us. (Plenty of the jerks we see regularly on Twitter could have greatly benefited from listening in.) But what I do clearly remember is: a) getting a bad grade on a paper for defending American Girl dolls instead of attacking them (don't even try me with this one); and b) a long discussion in our first class where our professor called makeup, heels, manicures, etc. "trappings."
Like, I literally cannot even with this nonsense.
Look, I'm not about to deny that there are obviously horrible things going on in the beauty industry: that we're all conditioned to believe that certain things are the standard of beauty and others aren't, that these standards can lead to psychological and physical harm and that plenty of women don't feel empowered enough to resist the pressures this industry creates. We all suffer when a size six model is called "plus size," or a girl is made fun of for having armpit hair (okay, to each her own, but I'm not about to grow armpit hair.). There are so many things we could improve about how we teach men and woman to think and feel about beauty and their looks in relation to what is "ideal."
But come on. Telling a strong feminist woman that she is suffering under the trappings of male society when she gets her nails done isn't helping anyone.
Being a feminist means supporting all women and all of their choices, whether they are the choices you would make or not. That means not putting down women who choose to be stay-at-home moms, not thinking less of a woman because she doesn't want to have children, and not conflating your frustration at a larger societal issue with the decision of a woman doing her best.
I love to get my nails done as often as possible. In fact, I'm currently taking daily vitamins just so my nails can be strong enough to handle gel manicures again. I'm so weird about how my hair looks that it's 100 per cent my biggest psychological weakness. I have a collection of aspirational high heels that I'll wear once and then never again. I wear dresses all year long and I don't own pantsuits or even a blazer (okay, I know I probably should). I have a whole category in my personal budget for grooming; legitimately -- I call it "grooming." I have a Victoria's Secret credit card and a Vogue subscription.
I am so shamelessly girly.
Do any of these things take away from the fact that I'm an independent, confident woman who works hard, loves a lot, and is proud to call herself a feminist? NO.
And now I was going to go into a rant as a defense of my strength as a woman, as a feminist, as an advocate, as an ally, as an action taker and just generally a human. I'm not going to, though. First of all -- I'm not very impressive compared to the many women I look up to daily.
But most importantly, being a feminist should not require me to compare myself to others or justify my girly tendencies through other so-called "stronger" qualities.
Because these choices of mine -- to act and look very feminine, to like when a boy opens the door for me, to think too much about a wedding without a date -- are none of your business. And they have nothing to do with my worth, nothing to do with the level of respect I'm owed because I am alive, and nothing to do with the battle I fight every day as a woman.
So, ladies, let's stop this silliness. Let's stop fighting each other about the valid individual decisions we all make, whether you would do the same thing or not.
And also, stop this crazy talk about not wanting to label yourself or about loving all humans when people ask if you're a feminist. That's not an excuse. (okay, wait, that's a whole other essay.)
Own the word. Own your manicure and your stupid expensive heels. Own whatever you want to do when you have babies or don't have babies or anything in between. Own it all.
This article was originally posted on AliceMcAlex.com.