Is this what a feminist looks like? And why do we care?

Kate Beaton, who does the great webcomic Hark! A Vagrant! did this great comic on strong female characters. The image at right is just a snippet — you should check the whole thing out.

I love her stuff in general, but I love this bit even more because it gets to what I’m feeling about the whole “SlutWalk” phenomenon. Honestly, I’m torn.

Don’t get me wrong — the message behind the SlutWalks is great. The cop who told women to “not dress like sluts” if they wanted to protect themselves from rape was an idiot, and he should really be chastising the people who think rape is acceptable under any circumstance, not potential victims of rape. And I love that these SlutWalks fire back at the old “Feminists have no sense of humor” line. And hey, it’s great that there are people standing up for my right to dress like, and be, a slut — although that’s pretty much a theoretical benefit at the moment, as no one in S.G. is really set on jumping my bones (or me theirs). Still, it’s nice to have the option, I guess?

But once you get past the surface, it starts to get a little ridiculous. Huzzah, I can prance around in panties and a bra! This is what a feminist looks like! And if that’s your thing, great. But honestly, if I go up to Toronto, I’m probably going to be wearing a parka. It’s not because I’m bowing to pressure from The Man, it’s because it’s really fricking cold there, and pasties look uncomfortable, and I have to believe that fishnets chafe. It’s great that we have the right to dress any way we want, but what the hell is making us “want” to dress like porn stars? Can’t I embrace my (thus far, theoretical) sexuality in jeans and a t-shirt? Do I have to put everything on display to prove that I’m a strong, powerful woman? Isn’t part of feminism the idea that I’m NOT a dress-up doll for men to look at or project their fantasies on?

Same thing with the “This is what a feminist looks like” campaign. On the one hand, I love it — it’s busting the ridiculous stereotype that feminists are all ugly women who can’t get a man. Anything that makes feminism more palatable to the vast majority of “I’m not a feminist, but…” girls out there is a good thing.

But for christ’s sake, why the hell should we care what a feminist looks like? Why are we even talking about it? Do we talk about what a Republican looks like? What an anti-choice bigot looks like? What a socialist looks like? (The good people of S.G. will say a socialist looks remarkably like our current president, but that’s another story.) No. Because 1) those movements are about ideals, and 2) those movements are made up of quite a lot of men. And men can look like whatever the hell they want. But women are supposed to have ideals and passions and causes while still spending approximately 18 hours of the day staying thin and having perky boobs and making sure we’re physically attractive.

Look, there’s nothing wrong with wanting to look good, but I wonder why we’re still buying into the idea that a feminist has to look like anything. A feminist can run around in a push-up bra or in a muu-muu. She can be fat or thin, expertly coiffed or messy-headed, a “slut” or a “prude,” covered up or letting it all hang out. Who cares? As long as the world is focusing on what a feminist looks like, is it paying attention to what a feminist thinks? What a feminist does?

So yeah, it’s great to have SlutWalks and Strong Female Characters who revel in their own bodies and own their sexuality. But when the hell are we going to get to the point where looks really aren’t everything? When will “what a feminist looks like” be irrelevant? Is anyone having a protest march for that? Or are we all afraid of being told that we’re not pretty enough, or sexy enough, or slutty enough to have an opinion?

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About Bloody Hell Leah

I'm a blue state girl in a red state world. Yes, I am in hell.

Posted on June 30, 2011, in Uncategorized. Bookmark the permalink. Leave a comment.

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