Last night, Daniel said I should write more blog posts about feminism. Feminism is a topic I've been interested in for a long time now, and was one of my main outlets for teenage angst in sixth form. Though I never refer to myself as a feminst, Daniel has, on a couple of occasions, described me in that way, and to be honest I never know whether to be flattered or to work on changing that characteristic pronto!
The reason I steer away from topics such as feminism and politics in my blog is because there is a danger that attempting one politically-minded post would leave me typing a rambling, inarticulate stream of ideas for the rest of eternity. I love debating these subjects, and I love reading about them and reflecting on them, but writing on here is such a one-sided affair; I simply wouldn't know where to stop!
So - back to the topic at hand! I know that feminist issues are important to me; if I were to dedicate myself to one cause, it would be trying to improve self-image of both girls and women, as this is something that actually does leave me lying awake at night, out of my mind with frustration at the state of affairs we are in. However, the closest I've ever come to burning my bras was an unfortunate incident involving an overheated radiator and plastic clothes rack. Far from turning to ashes, they are now covered in a rather alarming amount of dry melted plastic, which is not so much revolutionary but uncomfortable. I don't hate men, I shave my armpits, and sometimes even my legs!
But am I simply being stereotypical? Would the above characteristics really make a feminist, if she (or he) didn't actually care for women's issues?
No, it wouldn't. In a recent sociolinguistics class on gender and language, a female coursemate expressed her distaste for all things feminism. I hope that she meant the man-hating, bra-burning feminism, and I can't help thinking that this stereotype is what gives feminists such a tarnished reputation. Because feminism as it was is just about over; women can climb the ladder for as long as they like, or they can stay at home and bring up their children, or they can try their best to balance both. Given an opportunity I would love an exciting and rewarding career, but what I want most of all is to bring up my children, bake with them and teach them about the world. Not too long ago I probably wouldn't have admitted to that, but women are liberated full-circle; we don't just have rights, we also have absolute freedom of choice.
The current battle that women face is actually much deeper, and will be a lot harder to win, I think. It's not about society anymore, it's about self-worth and expectation, and these things are sadly embedded deep into the minds of women, and worse still, young girls. It's easy to blame skinny models and 'perfect' popstars, but it's coming at us from all angles. Almost all of my female friends wear make-up if they are leaving the house. It saddens me that I actually don't know what some of my best friends really look like, as I've never seen them without a layer of make-up to hide behind. Why do women feel the need to hide? I never wear make-up, and I hesitate to judge something I don't understand; I just want to actually understand, because maybe if we understand the issues they will be easier to deal with. Make-up is just one example; no one needs me to go on about the need to be skinny, to fight cellulite, etc.
Just like everyone else, I want to feel good about myself, and actually, more often than not I do really like myself. But that doesn't come from having a perfect figure, or expensive foundation or a new hair style; it comes from looking after myself and developing a good relationship with my whole body: nourishing it, treating it, exercising it, stretching it, resting it.
Overall, it's not whether a woman shaves her legs or not, or whether she wears make-up or not, it's why she chooses to do these things. Is it to match up to expectations, or is it because it makes her feel good about herself? If it is the latter, isn't covering up even the most spotty face a way to hide away and to apologise for the way you are? There are plenty of men with terrible skin who don't use make-up, after all (maybe because they are happy to be accepted how they are, maybe because they'd feel unmasculine to wear make-up, but that's another issue). I don't have the answers, but surely all of the amazing changes that have taken place over the past 150 years started out when people started to ask questions?