I Like To Look Good. Here’s Why That Makes Me A Better Feminist
Back when I was in college, I remember a guy friend remarking how he doesn’t understand why feminists don’t wax. I don’t know where he got the idea from, but it was reminiscent of the bra-burning feminist who gave the notion of feminine beauty a big middle finger. This stereotype of the shabbily dressed women’s right activist still lives on, but what’s refreshing is that now we see many women who ardently believe in equality, yet embrace their inner feminine nature,unapologetically.
I am reminded of a friend who writes about beauty. At 25, she lives alone in a big city, takes cabs instead of having her boyfriend chauffeur her around, splits the bill at dates, doesn’t think it’s a big deal that her boyfriend enjoys cooking, is body positive, is not shy about the fact that she enjoys having sex, and wears beautiful hand embroidered dresses that always match her eyeshadow and nail paint. She likes to look good, but that doesn’t make her less of a feminist. When she came into my life, she served as a validation of the reconciliation between my own inner feminine and feminist.
We are told that beauty – whether that comes to wanting to achieve a certain body size, or dressing up a certain way, or wearing or not wearing makeup – is a way of pandering to the male desire. Men want to see women well-groomed, and dolled up, and we, allegedly often unbeknown to ourselves, give in to this male-driven notion of how a woman should appear. But, this idea does more than box a woman in yet another set of guidelines on how to look. It implies that we don’t have self-awareness, and are not capable of it, and simply modify our behaviour in order to fit in into this patriarchal world.
I had a phase when I banished all things feminine because I thought I was too cool for it. But, when I found myself separated at the age of 27, when my contemporaries were just finding their forever ones, I discovered that dressing up and making myself look good served an important function – it made me FEEL good about myself. I did not change my wardrobe from casual racer-backs and ill-fitted palazzos to “lady-like” dresses because I was seeking male attention. Heck, I was running away from it! Neither did I start wearing makeup to look Insta-ready. Instead, I began doing these things because they stood for me taking ownership of my life, and looking after myself. For the first time, I cared about myself, FOR myself, and not for male attention, or to put other women down. Now, on my worst of days, I look the best.
What this has done, though, is that it has killed any sense of competition I felt with other women. Pitting women against each other is patriarchy’s strongest and most cunning tool. In embracing my inner feminine, I stopped judging the women who spend hours at the salon, or the ones who wear stilettos to the local mall. In embracing my inner feminine, I also stopped resenting men, or feeling that I must be a certain way to get their attention or approval, because of the simple fact that I no longer groom myself FOR them, or for anybody else. I do it for me. This also means that on days when I don’t want to doll up, I don’t, regardless of my company, venue, or occasion (unless, of course, if I am going to a party). In embracing my inner feminine, I liberated myself.
Virginia Wolf, in her book, The Beauty Myth, wrote, “She wins who calls herself beautiful and challenges the world to change to truly see her.” Every time I dress up, I challenge the world to see me as more than the colour of my lipstick. I challenge the stereotype that girls who wear makeup are dumb, or don’t have opinions. I simply suit up, and go about my day, writing, reading, and making people question their beliefs so they can grow.