feminism & femininity
Feminism - /ˈfɛmɪnɪz(ə)m/
1. the advocacy of women's rights on the ground of the equality of the sexes.
Femininity - /ˌfɛmɪˈnɪnɪti/
1. qualities or attributes regarded as characteristic of women.
I’m sure you are all well aware that I am a big fat feminist, that I am super passionate about women’s empowerment and sexual liberation. They are some pretty big ideas so let’s break these down even further shall we.
Women’s empowerment - promoting women's sense of self-worth, their ability to determine their own choices, and their right to influence social change for themselves and others. It is giving women their own sense of power, helping them foster that within themselves and within others. This can be on multiple levels; social, educational, economic, political and anything in between.
Women’s liberation - the liberation from inequalities and the subservient status of women in relation to men, from the attitudes causing these. I like to focus on women’s sexual liberation in particular (hello, sexologist *waves*), which is the facet of the movement that focuses on changing societal norms that place women in a sexually subservient role, that view women’s sexuality as belonging to a man, the fight against the idea that women exist purely to please men. It is the belief that women have a right to their own sexual freedom, and their own sexual pleasure, however that may look. It is the fight against the over-sexualisation of women in the media, against the male gaze, against the dichotomy of the virgin and the slut. It is the reclamation of our own sexuality. And it is my fucking froth.
But why? Why am I such a feminist, such a sexually liberated human being? Mainly because it’s how I have always been, I still remember being the girl playing kiss chasey with the boys in pre-primary, or getting my first boyfriend and ME being the one that was always horny. Or walking through school in year 9 or 10 and one of my friends turned to me and said “Chelsea… you’re really not like other girls” and not in that bad way, that like “Oh uR nOt LiKe MoSt GiRlS” thing that people say when they’re basically saying that most girls suck. But in the way that was like, Chelsea you take no shit, you demand respect from every person you meet even from such a young age, you walk with confidence in your step and the sheer knowledge that you are worth it, you’re strong-willed and strong-minded and stand up for what you think is right. And it was rare for girls to be like that, I think it still is, especially during high school. We’re taught to walk in the shadows, to hide our sexuality, to keep small and to not rock the boat. But goddamn I rocked that boat hard from straight out the womb.
I credit it to my folks that I was blessed with, who though they didn’t teach me what a feminist was, instead taught me that I deserved respect. That I should follow my heart and walk in this world with confidence. God they gave me so much freaking confidence. And I think that is what gave me my fundamental feminist beliefs without even realizing, they taught me that everyone should be treated the same and that no matter what, I deserved the best. They taught me about basic human rights, to stand up for what I believed in and how to lean into your own self-worth. Though my dad can be a total fucking asshole, he taught me how to be one too – but in the take no shit from nobody way, in the ‘this is who I am take it or leave it’ kinda way. He taught me to raise my middle finger high to anyone who hurt me and to anyone who hurt others; he literally encouraged me to take on my year 6 teacher who talked down to me. It's the essence of who I am to my core, my feminism and my trust in myself, my bad ass bitchery.
But then I also remember the reverse - some girls saying that I wasn’t a good enough feminist because I was only actually able to put the title to it in year 12. Fellow females telling me that that meant I wasn’t reallyyyy a feminist, that I was a late bloomer and that meant it didn’t really count, or that I was just doing it for attention – like what the actual fuck does that even mean?! But the reason that I finally was able to put the name to my face, that I felt that pull in my heart towards feminism, was my year 12 English teacher. To this day I will forever hold her as phenomenal; for me, for my studies and for my own personal understanding of myself.
She taught me what it really meant to be a feminist, because until then all I knew was they kinda sorta hated men and that they believed in women’s rights, though I had no idea what that meant, no understanding of the severe lack of equality that women experienced. I mean I had felt it, I had felt it from a young age this incongruence, this easy disrespect and disregard for women, and especially young women. But it was her who lit a fire within me, within my heart and within my pure fucking essence of femininity. It was my first experience of people actually fucking embracing women, respecting women and regarding women with actual high regard? Like why was that even a first for me only in freaking year 12?! Why for all those years before had I been a silent supporter of the women’s movement because I didn’t even know it existed, didn’t even know what it meant, because my language and my literal understanding of what it meant to be a woman was never fucking explored or even taught!
All I knew was that I was confident, independent and determined, strong-minded and strong-willed. I spoke up for what I believed in and what I thought was right, I demanded a respect from every person I encountered, and I was so totally fucking sexually liberated because I never knew any other way to be. All the basic fundamental key components of what it means to be a feminist.
But somewhere along the line, somewhere along history, within the different waves of feminism, the idea of what it means to be a feminist became distorted. You have the first wave of feminism, in the 19th century where women demanded the vote (ok gonna take a second to pause here and express just how fucking literally absurd the mere fact that women didn’t even have the right to vote, and in some countries still don’t, and yet some people still have the AUDACITY to tell me that inequality doesn’t exist, like just pls gtfo). Second wave feminism was the 60’s-80’s, the burn your bra movements and the fight for social and political justice, the idea that the personal is political, that women’s everyday lives needed to be equal, just as much as our right to vote did. Then you have third wave feminism, which kinda just accentuated the second-wave feminism, it introduced intersectional feminism and highlighted the faults within the second-wave, the white-focus and privilege that existed within it, and instead moved to address race, ethnicity, class, religion and nationality all within the ideas of feminism. Now here is the point where you could argue that there is a fourth wave, and maybe even a fifth wave feminism that focus on intersectionality and technology, empowerment and the idea of a multi-dimensional framework.
Now don’t get me wrong, I’m always gonna be a big fat feminist, and I believe that the work that our foremothers and grandmothers have done for the women’s movement and for women’s rights and equalities has been ground-breaking. It has paved the path for us and given us a place in this world (quite fucking literally). BUT. There are still issues to be had within the feminist realm.
I believe that along the lines, feminism did start to become a bit of a man-hating venture, though a lot of us aren’t, there are definitely those of them out there, and please be aware that that is not true feminism – true feminism fights for equality not a matriarchy, however there does need to sometimes be an over-shift, an imbalance, to be able to achieve that equality (especially after so many freaking years of patriarchy). But true feminism is about just that, equality. Equality of the two sexes (and all the sexes in between), equality of every human being. And I believe it should go even further than that, not just equality but CELEBRATION of the two sexes. For so long, feminism was about women trying to become men, so that they could be afforded the same respects and rights as men. They burnt their bras, started wearing pants, and stepped into their roles of the masculine, just to be accepted in the masculine world. Imagine every female CEO or boss bitch that you think of, usually the image that first comes to mind is of a masculine woman. A woman who has foregone her femininities to be accepted by the patriarchy. AND I AIN’T ABOUT THAT.
I believe in a fifth wave feminism, the idea that instead of having to conform to a masculine identity, or to fit into a masculine world, that instead women become accepted purely for being women, for being all the things that make them woman. Celebrated for their femininity, for their ability to create life, their curves and their sensuality and their sexuality. Not trying to be men, or for men, but just purely feminine – the divine feminine. And alongside that, a celebration of the masculine! No longer man-hating, but instead celebrating men for the things that make them men, for their strength, and their presence and their purpose. A celebration of the masculine and the feminine that is within both of us – because the patriarchy didn’t just damage women, it produced toxic masculinity, this belief that men have to be macho and masculine and mean. It destroyed the femininity in all of us and it is a time for reclamation of that power.
A celebration of humans in their wholeness, a celebration of the sexes. Because women will never be men, and men will never be women. The idea within feminism to become masculine to be able to fight for equal rights just doesn’t sit right with me. I want to have equal rights while still being able to do all the girly things I want to do, to wear frilly dresses and make-up when I want, but to also not have to shave my legs too. Instead of fighting it, or forcing ourselves to fit in to compete with it, I believe in a dismantling of the patriarchy for the benefit of all humans, to just be human. The reclamation of the femininity within all of us, the opportunity for women to be celebrated as women, as mothers, as lovers, as fucking female. The acceptance of humans as all that they are, the celebration of men for men, and women for them, and respect and equal rights given to all, of the uniqueness, the difference and the beauty within both the masculine and the feminine. The dance between the two.