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.