My twitter timeline was flooded with pictures of women flaunting their nail polish and lipstick. Was this the new saree Twitter, I wondered. But the culprit behind this onslaught of fifty shades of red and much more, was a tweet from a user, lamenting women for showing their nail paint and lipstick on social media to seek attention and then demanding equality. "Women on twitter showing their lipstics and nail polish shades in photos and asking which shade suits them more..Height of attention seeking and low of self worth...." when replying to a comment on women posting trial room photos on her tweet, the user further added, "Funny women..And then they fight for equality."
- Women are often criticised for wearing makeup or dressing a certain way and then demanding equality.
- Why is it hard to believe that feminism and femininity can coexist?
- While femininity isn't subjective to looking or behaving a certain way, must wearing makeup be seen as anti-feminist?
- Feminism advocates equality and inclusion, doesn't that meet that you can wear high heels and advocate gender rights, right next to the person wearing sneakers?
Through some contorted logic this woman ought to have arrived to the conclusion that wearing make-up or painting your nails made you less qualified for demanding equal rights. But then, isn’t this the stigma that us feminists have to fight everyday?
Can’t femininity and feminism go hand in hand? While femininity isn't subjective to looking and behaving a certain way, should feminist women be ashamed of wanting to dress or act in a way that caters to the common perception of womanhood?
This is a misconception that leads many people to discredit feminist women time and again. Why do you wear lipstick if you are a feminist? How can you even talk of empowerment wearing that dress or those heels? Aren’t you pandering to the male gaze if you “doll up”, what right do you have to speak on sexism and gender inequality? But who on earth said that feminism is opposed to wearing makeup or high heels? That it advocates not having your eyebrows done, or leaving your underarms unshaved?
Feminism basically advocates equality. It backs the right of people, women and even men, to live their life on their terms. It champions your individual agency, and thus no way does feminism force any virtues on us, and that’s the beauty of it; it is all-inclusive.
What matters is that you get to make a choice, as to how you want to live, what you want to wear and who you want to love. I can wear make-up, iron my hair, leave my underarms unshaved, manicure my nails or vice versa, and still be an advocate of equality. It is my personal choice to apply lipstick, not because it caters to the male gaze, but because it makes me feel good about myself.
I wear a short dress despite those huge thighs, I team it with a pair of sneakers and earrings which are a complete mismatch, but it doesn’t matter. Because it is my choice. I value my own agency and that of others around me and that is what makes me a feminist.
Alas, it is often women and not men, who criticise their kind for the choices they make. We have internalised patriarchy to such an extent that we have developed this compulsion to one up each other. Instead of calling out the system which cripples our mindset and prevents us from forming a sisterhood that offers unconditional support, we call out each other. It is not the fault of these women entirely though. When you brought up on black and white definitions of good and bad, right and wrong, it becomes difficult to fully embrace the concept of inclusion.
Which is why we need to discuss the stigmas around feminism vociferously. If we choose to shame women who question why we wear make-up etc, we are further alienating them. What we need to do instead is to tell a sister carrying such notions that feminism never asks any woman to shun the common notions of feminity. It'll be ages before our psych can rid itself of the idea that we can't look good without makeup. We cannot afford to give up on advocating equality until that day comes. So instead of questioning each other's brand of feminism, why not try and be more accommodating?
Image Credit: Darren Nunis on Unsplash
Yamini Pustake Bhalerao is a writer with the SheThePeople team, in the Opinions section. The views expressed are the author’s own.