The Perfect Feminist.

I have good days and bad days.

Some days I am a badass bitch gliding across the waters of empowerment. I use my sixth sexist sense to flush out the misogynists; I hold assholes accountable; I stand up for my sisters. I should basically wear a cape those days with the level of super hero I am reaching.

Other days, the fucks are not given. I ignore the handful of disrespectful comments my friends say when we go out for dinner; I watch The Challenge and don’t think twice that they tell women not to be “such a psycho bitch” three times in a single episode; I look in the mirror and shame my own body. I hardly resemble the girl yesterday smashing the patriarchy.

And while I always try to hold myself to a certain standard, I take solace in remembering that there is no such thing as a perfect feminist.

No one is perfect, so there can be no perfect feminist. Everyone makes mistakes. Including you and me.

One day you will be chatting with your friends and you’ll remark, “what a slut.” Although we both know that definitely wasn’t a great thing to say, it doesn’t mean you will be banished to patriarchal purgatory.

Being a feminist is a big deal today. We are the salmon of society, swimming upstream against an oppressive paradigm. If that wasn’t enough, there is an inordinate amount of pressure on feminists to act a certain way… All the time.

And that’s just from society. Within our movement, there’s a gaggle of feminists who believe somewhere, just beyond the rainbow, rests the ten commandments of feminism. I hate to break it to them, but it doesn’t exist. Being a feminist means you believe in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Nothing else. Beyond that, how you act and what you believe, gets into the gritty details of varying streams within feminist theory. And sometimes, the deeper into the details you go, you just become a Judgmental Judy.

In Bad Feminist, Roxanne Gay said it best: “We put feminists on a pedestal and expect them to pose perfectly. When they disappoint us, we gleefully knock them from the very pedestal we put them on…We demand perfection from feminists because we are still fighting for so much. We go far beyond reasonable constructive criticism to dissecting any woman’s feminism and tearing it apart until there’s nothing left. We do not need to do that.”

I, because I am the almighty god of feminism and have the authority to speak on such matters, am here to give you a (curtailed) list of things you can do and remain a card carrying feminist.

You can…

  1. Change your last name.

Personally, the idea of changing my own name seems crazy. I get anxiety when I have to learn a knew postal code, so I can only imagine how I would handle changing my last name. That said, if you want to change your last name when you get married, go for it. Just because you want to share a piece of your partner’s identity, proudly sporting your significant other’s last name, does not make you any less independent.

Feminists have been fighting for autonomy; to allow women to feel as though they have all the choices men have. A prime example is changing one’s name for a marital union. So change it, or don’t change. As long as you are making the decision, you’re being a top notch feminist.

  1. Care how you look.

Just like changing your name, caring about your appearance, or certain parts of your appearance, is a choice. While feminists dismiss the stereotypes of being ‘butch’ or a ‘bra-burner’, sometimes we still criticize one another for taking care of/focusing on our physical appearance.

Do you shave your legs? Doesn’t matter. Do you follow a strict eating regimen? Doesn’t matter. Do you wear make up and high heels? Doesn’t matter.

I hope you sense the pattern here… you’re personal appearance decisions, are just that – personal. No one should be able to tell you that you shouldn’t wear make up, just as someone shouldn’t tell you that you should wear make up.

The joy of feminism is being autonomous and making your own damn decisions. The only thing un-feminist about this scenario is the ‘feminist’ judging/excluding others for their personal choices.

  1. Let your date pay.

As much as most men today are baffled by the idea of how to date a feminist, there are many women out there, self-identifying as feminists, who really don’t know how to ‘date as a feminist.’ They can sometimes overcompensate to prove their independence and alienate potential suitors.

But dating as a feminist should be just like dating as a ‘normal person’; one who expects courtesy and demands respect. (Because, yes, feminists are normal people.)

So if you are out for dinner or mini-golf and your date picks up the bill, keep breathing. The gods of feminism are not going to swoop down from the sky and curse you.

  1. Indulge in popular culture.

Entourage is probably, and by probably I mean definitely, my favourite television series. Does Ari sexually harass women in his office every episode? Yes. Do Vince and the guys say ‘don’t be such a pussy’ every seven minutes? Yes. I am acutely aware of how inappropriate this show is, and how degrading it is to women. It is not lost on me that by my viewing, I am creating a demand for this kind of detrimental pop culture. Yet I’ve seen every episode multiple times and cry with laughter when Ari verbally abuses his gay assistant Lloyd.

It’s like watching a car accident: I know it’s horrible, but I just can’t look away. It seems as though sometimes the entertainment value trumps my morals. I’m certainly not proud of this, but I am realistic. Just because I watch an inappropriate show or listen to offensive music doesn’t make me any less of a feminist.

Yes, I could do better. But I could also be better at eating my vegetables, spending less time on Pinterest, and wearing more sunscreen. I’m human, and my faults don’t define me.

  1. Let yourself be emotional.

From all the movies we’ve seen, one might assume there are two types of women: the emotional and needy woman who obsesses over men, and the corporate she-devil with a stone heart. As feminists, we are often painted as the latter.

Let’s get one thing straight: when a man sexually harasses me on the street I don’t shy away from yelling profanities. Yet, when I am watching YouTube videos of cute babies and puppies, I often weep into my bowl of popcorn.

Being a feminist means you believe in gender equality, it doesn’t mean that you’re a navy seal. You are allowed to be frustrated with the world, get upset when you witness a disconcerting event, or cry when someone attacks you. You’re no less of a feminist with tears streaming down your face.

  1. Enjoy doing domestic things.

If you haven’t caught on yet, there’s a theme here. That theme is doing whatever the heck you want and not letting yourself be confined to a stereotype.

Fun fact: you can be a bad-ass feminist fighting the patriarchy and still enjoy baking a pecan pie every Sunday evening. You can enjoy ironing your significant other’s work attire and remain a strong, independent woman.

  1. Disagree with other feminists.

Disagreeing with other feminists actually proves that you’re a great feminist.

Feminism is a movement. Just like any movement, there will always be divergent opinions. From activist priorities, to proper behaviour, to pathways to follow, there’s no universal feminist framework. Just like a political or philosophical theory, there will be certain schools of thought with which you don’t agree.

Build your own strong opinions and voice them. In order to successfully further the movement, you need to know exactly what your beliefs are. So talk to other feminists, engage in discussion, and don’t feel bad when you don’t see eye to eye on every issue.

Disagreement doesn’t diminish your beliefs; it strengthens them.

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4 comments

  1. Great points and very well said! It’s something all of us need to be reminded of from time to time so we stop beating ourselves up over being ‘bad feminists’ >.<

  2. […] The Perfect Feminist And that’s just from society. Within our movement, there’s a gaggle of feminists who believe somewhere, just beyond the rainbow, rests the ten commandments of feminism. I hate to break it to them, but it doesn’t exist. Being a feminist means you believe in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes. Nothing else. Beyond that, how you act and what you believe, gets into the gritty details of varying streams within feminist theory. And sometimes, the deeper into the details you go, you just become a Judgmental Judy […]

  3. Angela · · Reply

    Spot on Paula! Great reminder that choice is what we are fighting for, not another stereotype.

  4. Are you kidding me?! A little taken care young woman (dependent) of –by your father — your mother has not worked a day in her life — and you think you have the right to talk about about being independent/ feminist independent?! There is no “glass” ceiling for women for women who want to make it. But you have no role model to excel as an independent, successful woman. Your mother chose to take the “traditional art’ and be stay at home wife! Like your mother, dependent on their husband’s income!!!! Get off your soap box and live what you preach. Get out and try to make a difference as YOU.

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