All The Ways I’m Not A ‘Real Feminist’

There’s been a whole lot of debate lately about what makes someone a “real feminist,” as opposed to being a big, fat phony feminist I guess. Things like wearing high heels and red lipstick are apparently no-no’s in the world of womyn. Even women’s rights icon Hillary Clinton is being called out as a Feminist In Name Only. The Daily Beast‘s Andrew Sullivan told Bill Maher:

“Unlike Hillary Clinton, Margaret Thatcher made her own political career, [and] didn’t latch on to her husband. That’s called real feminism…[W]hy did she subordinate herself to her husband’s career in politics? She made a choice to put a man ahead of her. That’s not a feminist.”

So guess what? All of the speeches about women’s rights have Secretary Clinton has given around the world, those simply don’t count. Because she chose to put her career on hold for a little while to support her husband, it doesn’t matter what she does afterward. After that choice, she can never claim to wear the feminist mantle ever again.

No wonder so many women have a hard time with the label.

I suppose I could pull out the normal writer cliche and quote Merriam-Webster on the definition of a feminist. I could write, point-by-point, why Hillary Clinton and many other women who wouldn’t make it through Sullivan’s purity test should be able to use the title if they want to. I could pull apart his argument based on the true definition of this often-debated label.

But I won’t.

Because feminism has little to do with what one person, or even one book, claims it is or isn’t. Being a feminist does not mean passing a test or agreeing with a couple bullet points. Being a feminist means believing that both sexes deserve to be treated fairly and respectfully. That’s it.

I am a proud feminist. I’m also a mother, who has considered sacrificing some of my career success to stay home and take care of my daughter. I don’t think that it makes me less of a woman to believe that every parent should have the right to prioritize their life in a way that they see fit.

I am a proud feminist. I’m also a wife, who chose to take my husband’s last name. Not because he owns me, but because we’re a family and I like the idea of sharing a name with him.

I am a proud feminist. I also am a woman who chooses to wear high heels, because I feel attractive in them. I wear make-up on occasion, because I enjoy the feeling of confidence it can give me. I don’t have a problem showing off a little cleavage because it’s my body and I should be able to cover it or uncover it as I see fit.

There are plenty of other ways in which I might not pass some type of feminist litmus test. But I don’t care. I’m still a feminist. And I will continue to wear that label with pride, because I believe that women’s rights are important and that equality should be a fundamental part of our society.

Hillary Clinton was our First Lady before she became a Senator or Secretary of State. That doesn’t discredit her efforts to help women around the globe. Just two weeks ago, Secretary Clinton was answering the question of what it means to be a woman of the world. She said, “It means never giving up. It means getting up, working hard, and putting a country or a community on your back.” She didn’t even have to mention gender, but she sure sounded like a feminist to me.

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    • E.D.

      Feminism – the radical belief that women are people too.

    • Lindsey

      Uuuhhh. I feel like being the spouse of the president is it’s own full time job. I’m sure the first First Man (First Mister? First Sir?) will take a break out of his career to stand by his wife.

    • LCT

      Amen, sister.

      The very conformist non-conformity of that kind of feminism was what turned me off to the movement and the label in college. I’m only now returning to it, and finding that there is too much truth in women’s rights to ignore.

    • Cee

      Thank you!

      I hate that feminists or womyn think you betray feminism by wearing pink, liking a boy, watching Love Actually, or shaving anything. I am all for equal pay, birth control coverage, pro choice, and equal treatment in general, however, I will wear dresses, I like heels and many other things which I don’t think define where I stand in the fight for women’s rights. If anything sometimes I think those womyn do a disservice to women as they alienate any woman who isn’t a “real feminist” and has them get as far away from any interest in women’s rights in general.

    • Elle

      So why didn’t your husband take your name? Why doesn’t your husband stay at home to watch your daughter? Have you ever even questioned why women wear make up and high heels in the first place? Feminism doesn’t mean the freedom to participate in patriarchal traditions free from any criticism. This is why “choice feminism” gives me ulcers.

      • Lindsay Cross

        My husband didn’t take my name because we have rather traditional families and it was important to him. I respect that because I love him. And we made that decision together, as two grown adults who respect each other.

        My husband does stay home with our daughter two days a week. And when my job got too demanding and I needed to focus my energy there, my husband took over most of the household chores and childcare duties. We are co-parents.

        Feminism means respecting equality for both sexes. That doesn’t mean that we all have to make the same choices, it means that we all should have the opportunity to make our own decisions.

        I took my husband’s last name, but I would never suggest that some one else had to do the same. I guess that does make me a “choice feminist.”

      • Cee

        So if you cant go all the way don’t bother coming to the party at all, huh?

        Isn’t one of the many points of feminism to have a choice? If all women follow what a”real feminist” wants it is simply conforming to another person’s wants and expectations that our not our own.

        So some women wear heels and make up, some don’t; it doesn’t matter what is on our faces or feet, what matters is what is in our minds. At some point women figured out to take off their heels when a man, zombie or other is running after them (duh)..and I don’t think a man had to tell them so.

        Lastly, this in fighting of “I’m more of a femnist than you” sounds like another token cat fight. Let’s stop worrying about clothes, make up, and shoes (because it all sounds rather…girly) and focus on the issue here.

      • Eileen

        See, and this is what gets to me. Yeah, gender roles are social constructs. But we as humans are social animals, and recognizing something as a construct doesn’t exempt one from being a part of the society that creates those constructs. I know the reasons that I think long hair on women is attractive are tied to social expectations (e.g. young, unmarried women wear their hair long and loose; desirable women are healthy enough to be able to grow luxuriant hair), but does that mean I should cut my hair short? Am I not then submitting to another social expectation?

    • Jenny

      Hallelujah! I couldn’t agree more. To me, the biggest travesty, is the idea that feminists fought/continue to fight for women to have the right to do whatever they want (vote, burn their bras, equal pay in the workplace, etc.) just to punish certain women for exercising that choice in a manner contrary to what they would have chosen.

      Regardless of the reasons behind why, if you tell me how I have to act/think/speak/work/live under the threat of social pressure (i.e. you aren’t a “good feminist” otherwise”) you are no better than the patriarchy.

      LCT – I especially love you pointing out the “conformist nonconformity”. I find that to be true of all groups (mainstream or otherwise).

    • SSS

      Ugh…I am disgusted with today’s feminism. They demand that in order to be a feminist you have to embrace radical leftist ideology (ie: the emphasis on a hierarchy of “privilege”, that says that only certain voices count ) and that makes me uncomfortable. I support equal right’s for women, but really don’t like how they try to tell everyone how to think and “punish” anyone who doesn’t toe the line. I have seen tons of despicable behavior by feminist online from victim blaming to race baiting, and it seems today it is all a bunch of virtual finger wagging. Women deserve better than that.