Let me preface this post by saying; I’m a noob. I’m not going to pretend I know everything about feminism, and I don’t want anyone reading this to take my opinions and quandaries as facts, or even as a ‘voice’ of feminism. Like I said, this is a new thing for me, and while I’m proud to consider myself a feminist, I know that I still have a lot to learn, and a long way to go. The reason I’m writing this post is to ask for clarity. I want to hear other people’s opinions. (and, yes, I’m aware that I just invited a bunch of assholes to comment with sexual innuendos and/or oppressive rape culture talk. I know that comes with the territory. I just hope that there are also intelligent comments from people who actually care about this topic, as well. Fingers crossed.)

So… what is feminism? Seriously. I’m asking you. What does it mean? I started this discussion yesterday with my friend Steve, who I credit for introducing me to feminism. (I did do some kicking and screaming at first, so he deserves a lot of credit.) And Steve has done a lot more reading than I have, and he’s always telling me that I’m ‘stuck in the patriarchy’ or reminding me to check my opinions because of the ways I’ve been raised and shaped by gender roles and the patriarchal society, blah blah, blah. (just using these terms makes me cringe. I’ve always hated douchey people who want to be modern day hippies and throw out these terms in casual conversations. But, much to my chagrin, I’m becoming one of these people. Because, let’s face it, once you open your mind to these ideas, there’s no going back. You question everything with these terms. And while a part of me still cringes and screams ‘Mags, you sound pretentious!’ I can now recognize another part of me that (finally) sees the potential and the importance that these words bring to people’s lives. I guess what I’m saying is that there’s a constant struggle in my head, between being ‘normal’ and fitting in with the society in the way I was raised to, and the part of me that is rebelling against the norm. I know that these questions need to be asked, and these ideas need to be researched. It’s just a matter of adjusting to the ‘big change’ that happens when you except that everything you’ve ever known is being questioned.So forgive me if I shudder a little when I use the terms ‘gender roles’ and ‘patriarchal society’ because I’m still adjusting. I’m still adapting. It’s a process, and I’m working on it.)

But I digress… back to my conversation with Steve. He made the comment ;(and I honestly don’t remember what we were even talking about to provoke this comment. It really doesn’t even matter.) “Of course you think that, you’re still caught up in the patriarchy.”  Now, for me, this is becoming a slap in the face. When I hear the word ‘patriarchy’, my first thought is “that means I rely on a man.” Whether he meant it that way or not, him telling me I’m stuck in the patriarchy basically challenged all of the personal independence that I’ve spent my whole life fighting to achieve.

So it hurt. And I got defensive. I demanded that he explain to me how in the world I’m ‘stuck’. I want to know what it is about me that makes him think he has a right to say I’m not independent. (What can I say, my independence is important to me, and I am very defensive about it. I don’t want to be another woman that relies on a man. And I don’t want other people seeing me that way, either.) -And again, I know he’s not attacking me, he’s challenging me to think differently. But in the heat of the moment, I got lively and uppity in my defense.)

So, what was his response? What was his reasoning behind the comment? He very simply said “You paint your face every day. You care about what you look like, or more specifically, what men think when they see you.”

And, again, I got defensive. I mean, his comment isn’t totally wrong, but I don’t want to be thought of as a girl that does girly things to get men to notice her. I don’t like the idea he was projecting, the idea that I need a man’s attention to live. Or, put another way, I live my life based on how men will see me, and I’m desperate for their approval, their attention. (again- it’s not what Steve meant, but you can see why I would jump to this thought, right?)

So I told him; “I wear make-up when I go out with the girls. I wear make-up when I’m simply going to a girls house. If I wore make-up solely for the purpose of getting a man’s attention, why would I waste my time dolling up for the girls? ”  I feel like this is a fair point. But he responded with something along the lines of; Society has taught you to wear make-up. Society is stunted by the patriarchy. Therefore, by following the rules of my society, I’m not fighting the patriarchy.

Long story short (at least this is what I heard during the debate) I am not allowed to be a feminist because I wear make-up. I mostly wear women’s clothes and I accessorize like a woman. Being feminine is anti-feminist. (and this isn’t the way Steve thinks, he was just re-iterating the thoughts of some feminists.)

So I asked him; what is a feminist? What does a feminist look like?  If the only way to truely stick it the the patriarchy is by being a butch-y dyke, (to prove you don’t need a man’s approval) then how do we stay true to ourselves? There are ‘feminists’ who believe that, just because I like men, and I like to have relationships with men, I’m allowing myself to be taken over by the oppressive patriarchal society.

And I don’t think that’s fair.

I don’t think it’s fair that there are hard-core feminists out there who are excluding me, are not letting me in their feminist club, just because I like the color pink and I like to dress up and go on dates with boys. And because I like to date boys, I’m allowing them to oppress me into their societal norms.

But I don’t feel oppressed. And I like to think that I respect myself enough to tell the guy to take a hike if I did feel oppressed.

So being independent, living alone, and taking care of myself without the assistance of a man is apparently not enough to make me a feminist. All of that is negated by the fact that I like boys.

(and, just to be clear, I’m not saying that all feminists think this way. And I’m not trying to imply that a feminist can only be a feminist if she hates men and is androgynous. I’m just saying that, apparently there are a lot of people that do feel this way, and I find that hurtful. Because where does that leave the rest of us? How do I get them to let me into their club, without changing who I am to conform to their ideas?)

Does anyone else run into this problem? Am I just being insecure? Am I allowed to call myself a feminist? (who decides if I am or not?) Should I even be this upset by their thinking? Or should I just call them antiquated bitches and move on with my life? Is just wanting to be a feminist enough to make you a feminist?

How do I join their club?!  (Do I even want to? If I have to conform to those rules?)


et cetera