- Feminism is not a set category with a checklist to tick off to determine whether one is a good or a bad feminist.
- Being vulnerable is not a question of one’s feminism.
- Letting men pick up loads does not mean women are weak.
- Femininity and feminism are not antonyms.
- Having Religious Faith and Celebrating Culture is not against the ideals of feminism.
- Feminism is about respecting the choices of each other, even when we disagree with them.
Women are born with guilt, and then they are socialized into more of it. We feel guilty about everything—studies show that 96% of women feel guilty about something at least once a day. Feminism has taught us to put aside our guilt, leave the baby at home, and take our place in the professional world. Yet ironically, feminism became another thing women feel guilty about.
Countless women I have interacted with, including myself, have felt that they don’t deserve the tag of ‘feminist’ because of some of their actions or likes. I have felt guilty about doing certain stereotypically ‘feminine’ activities such as loving pink or wanting to do makeup, and felt that I was not a ‘good-enough feminist’. It’s amazing how women can feel insecure about their identity as feminists, the very concept that tells them that they are more than enough, just the way they are. But women have always been expected to do more, and this ingrained imposter syndrome never leaves us.
What is Feminism?
Feminism is not a set category with a checklist to tick off to determine whether one is a good or a bad feminist. We all have felt like bad feminists at times, when the truth is, there is no such thing as a bad feminist. Feminism is intangible and subjective and can mean different things to different individuals. For me, feminism is the belief that everyone deserves equitable opportunities, and consciously working toward that. It is understanding that, while we all might not be the same or ‘equals’, our differences just make us unique, instead of placing us in a hierarchy. And perhaps most importantly, feminism is a celebration of personal choice and autonomy.
In this all-encompassing definition, making certain personal choices that society deems ‘girly’ or ‘traditional’ does not make you a bad feminist. Society feels more comfortable having a new box even for feminists— hard, strong people who are unfazed by anything in their fight, but as Adena from the show The Bold Type said about her hijab being contradictory, “People get uncomfortable when they can’t put you in a box. But I have always liked to make people uncomfortable.”
7 Things Feminists Should Not Be Guilty About
This is indeed at the top of the list. Feminism is about a constant struggle with our largely patriarchal society. But that does not mean that feminists have to be warriors constantly. It is okay to feel tired sometimes, even to disagree with a sexist joke. In fact, it is quite common to feel hopeless when you see the constant dismay in the news.
Feeling overwhelmed with anything, and just wanting to be heard or held does not make me a bad feminist. If sometimes I do want someone else to protect me, it does not mean I am not strong. If I do not want to have to make the decisions once in a while, it does not mean I am not independent. It’s just me needing some rest before beginning again.
Vibing To Rap Songs
Countless times, I have caught myself swaying to a song before realizing that the lyrics are sort of sexist. And neither does that make me any less of a feminist. Of course, we must call out the sexism in the media industry to reform the perspective and portrayal of women—but no one can be politically correct all the time. Liking the beat of a rap song while recognizing the problems with the song itself also does not make you a bad feminist. You just like music!
Letting Men Pick Up Loads
Similar to being vulnerable, it’s okay if you don’t want to pick up a heavy package. Or want doors opened for you. Accepting chivalry with the correct mindset is completely alright. Just because you can’t pick up a 50 kg box does not make you weak. And yes, maybe my friend opened the door for me, and I pulled their chair. Both are fine as long as you are comfortable with them.
Or dresses over jeans, and heels over sneakers. Society taught us that our gender is inferior, and so we ended up wanting to be ‘not like other girls’. However, that mindset plays into the misogynist narrative, because it makes women competitive instead of supportive toward each other. Having said that, it does not mean that you have to like the above to be a feminist. The only sign of a feminist is being true to themselves in what they like and owning that—whether that be a pink dress or denim jeans. Owning our femininity, if we want to, empowers us instead of posing a question on our feminism.
Caring About Your Looks
Women were told that their looks were more valuable than any other qualities, and feminism emphasized that women are more than just their looks. But feminists can still care about how they look and want to look good for themselves. Both women who don’t know the difference between eyeliner and kajal, and those who can not step out of the house without their makeup can equally be feminists.
Daydreaming About Your Wedding or Wanting to Care for Your Family
Marriage has been a fundamental part of the patriarchal, heteronormative system, and for years women’s end goal was supposed to be to settle down with a good husband. Today, more and more women are rejecting this traditional understanding of marriage and the roles associated with it. But, there are just as many women who want to get married by a certain age and spend their free time planning the elaborate affair. That does not mean they are bad feminists whose entire lives are consumed by their marital life, they just enjoy the idea of a life-long commitment with a partner of their choice.
Women accepting the ‘traditional’ role and enjoying it for themselves, i.e. wanting to be a full-time homemaker or coming home to cook for the family is not against feminist ideals either. As long as they truly make an informed choice for themselves and are happy doing it—but also accepting help—it is their private life and right to choose.
Having Religious Faith and Celebrating Culture
Feminism is often seen as a revolution—a rejection of the old and progression towards the new, as indeed it is. However, that does not mean feminists have to deny everything of the past, the good and the bad. While some religious practices have been oppressive to women, if women want to align with other practices, it is again their personal choice. Feminism can not curtail freedom of religion.
When we look at any system objectively and balance the positives and negatives to make an informed choice, rather than follow everything in the name of tradition, we act as responsible world citizens. Women choosing to consciously participate in some traditions, follow cultural practices, identify with their religion and tribe, or have deep faith in God, does not make them bad feminists or less secular. After all, the definition of secular has more to do with respecting all religions than rejecting them all.
Feminism is intangible, and at the end of the day, it should help us respect and love everyone—ourselves in the first place—no matter their preferences in their individual sphere. You get to have your own definition of feminism, and your understanding is valid as long as it is not hurting anyone else. Similarly, you may not agree with someone else’s personal choice, but that does not make them wrong. As feminists, it is our responsibility to stand for autonomy and choice for everyone. This is best explained in a quote by Voltaire, “I disapprove of what you say, but I will defend to the death your right to say it.”
And yes, some of these may feel contradictory to each other. But that will always be the case when taking a stand on any issue that has multitudes, layers, and dimensions. There is beauty in that complexity as it means a wider base of people bringing in newer ideas, and their own effort to understand and respect them all.
When we accept ourselves with all our contradictions, we will stop shaming others, especially women, for their choices, and that will be a major milestone for the feminist movement worldwide.