LadyFag’s real talk about feminist righteousness

The truly awesome Sadie Magazine just launched a new issue, packed full of awesome interviews, reviews, and other literary stuff-n-things. I was particularly interested in a Q&A with model, fashionista, and blogger LadyFag. When asked if she is a feminist, she had this to say:

Yes, of course I’m a feminist. I was once at a dinner with a group of women who I always sort of felt alienated from. They were slightly extreme in their feminism, and while I love people who are strong in their beliefs, the way they were speaking, and in fact judging, other women, it made me think, the only people who are making me feel bad about being who I am as a strong woman are them. So, I announced that if they were all the voice of feminism, then I guess I’m not a feminist. It didn’t go over very well!

Sometimes I think that happens with women; it’s a jealousy thing. They were sitting there and discussing how wrong and misogynistic plastic surgery, high heels, and such were and how we shouldn’t have to do these things for other people, let alone men, and I knew it was partially directed at me—the only one sitting there in too much makeup and stilettos, and I thought, what gives them the right? I do what I want to feel good about myself, and that’s what makes me a strong woman. Even though they were all women, telling them to turn the mirror on themselves and fuck themselves was probably the most feminist thing I could have done.

I’ve heard this critique of feminist circles, including our own dysfunctional family of a feminist blogosphere, before. Where is the line between feminist critique and holier-than-thou litmus tests? Linda Hirshman, and other veteran feminists, have argued against what they see as a “whatever floats your boat” feminism that has taken hold, particularly among younger feminists. I hear her. I’m one of those people who think that in order for feminism to really mean something, it’s got to have some definition that–by definition–excludes some people whose beliefs or actions are outside the scope of what we collectively think of as feminist. On the other hand, the last thing I want to be identified with is a movement that makes people feel unfairly judged or held up to impossible standards.

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  • nazza

    Amen to that.

    The best advice I can offer is that Feminism is not a competition. We should use it as a means of drawing strength and feeling united in common purpose. When it deviates from that it becomes symptomatic of all the things we rail against.

  • Mighty Ponygirl

    My problem with “whatever-floats-your-boat” empowerful feminism is that it’s a very unexamined, selfish position to take. Feminism has a lot facets to it, and that should be respected. It has involved a lot of women making very real, tangible sacrifices, including their own lives. These women did not give up so much of themselves so that you could have a little Magic Mirror to rationalize every aspect of your life. Their sacrifices were made so that other women could have better lives. If you wear makeup and high heels and do crazy dieting and surgery “because it makes you feel good” without examining why conforming to society’s expectations makes you feel good then what you’re doing is tacitly telling all other women “yeah feminism is great and all but shit, I got mine.” There are women out there who do not feel good for wearing makeup and heels and dieting. There are women who want desperately to be able to walk around in cargo pants with haiy legs and not be yelled at and called a dyke. There are women who feel that they’ll never be able to advance in the business world unless they put on those heels that kill their feet and spend money on makeup that doesn’t feel good. And by laughing about how fantastic it makes you feel you know, personally to do all of that work to put on makeup and wax your legs and wear those 6″ heels, you’re reinforcing the structures in place that keep those women miserable.

    No one raindrop thinks it’s responsible for the flood. We need to start thinking of ourselves less as special little raindrops and more as components of a flood.

  • J

    I have to be honest here. Sometimes it’s the judgment of other feminists that is hardest to deal with.

    I’m used to ignoring the opinions of others, but it took me a while to realize that I get to be the me I want to be, even if other feminists disagree with my choices.

    If I want to wear makeup, a bra, shave my legs, be submissive in bed, be a stay at home mom, that should be okay. Those choices should be just as okay as not wearing makeup, not shaving, burning bras, demanding total equality in the bedroom, and being a CEO.

    I believe that we should support and educate each other. The biggest thing for me is knowing I have choices and being able to make them for myself. Women and girls need to know that they have choices. Lots of choices.

  • Diana

    Defining feminism is a difficult thing to do. It isn’t just one thought or action that makes a person a feminist. I think feminism is about dissecting our own and others actions that are brought about because of one’s sex. The different treatment women and men receives based on sex is what I think feminism tries to critique and find a way to be equal to both sexes.

    But, you can’t just go around criticizing people for their actions. Most people aren’t conscious of a lot of things that are anti-woman. Explaining why you find such actions to be anti-feminist or anti-woman is a better place to start instead of being critical right off the bat.

  • Alita

    my goodness she complains about feminists looking down on her and then goes with with the “other women are jealous of me” line. seriously? ugh. pot, kettle, you know the deal.

  • ellen

    I only know a little bit about LadyFag, but as a Fag-identified womyn I can definitely say that it is hard sometimes to realize that you are often alienated from other powerful womyn. My femme styling and propensity towards drag-queen-ness mean I don’t quite fit in with dykes, but my unshaven legs and frequently un-made-up face aren’t enough to identify me as a fag.

    But you know, I have to say that generally feminists do get me, and what annoys me more is straight “sensitive” guys who want to tell me that I don’t need to wear false eyelashes because I’m naturally beautiful. I know they are trying to be nice but they don’t get that I’m a drag queen.

    I do not believe in “anything goes” feminism, but I think that the criteria that inform feminism really shouldn’t have anything to do with personal styling or lifestyle choices. Instead they should have to do with your politics and where your solidarity lies. People might see my desire to wear acrylic nails with french tips as selling out to straight society, but if they really knew me they’d know it’s more like solidarity with drag queens.

    anyway it gets complicated

  • a

    hilarious…high heels are oppressive because they were created by dudes to give other dudes boners. also, the fashion industry and makeup industry are created by dudes again, to make women look “ideal” that’s why we think it’s fucked up.

  • Emily

    While I think that shaming a woman for any of her choices is wrong, and I agree that feminism is about the ability to choose (whether that be to wear high heels, shave off my body hair, wear make-up etc…) I think that doing these things cannot be considered a feminist choice. Just because a feminist chooses to do something, does not suddenly make it feminist. Until we have the ability to make these choices and not be judged strongly either way (things like shaving legs and armpits, wearing make-up, spending hours on our hair, etc…) choosing to do the thing that contributes to oppression does not contribute in any way to feminism. It’s about choosing your battles, so I choose to shave my legs and armpits, I choose to wear high heels, I choose to wear make-up, because it makes life easier for me. Before I can help further the cause I have to look out for myself, meaning I need to get a job (many of which would require I look neat and tidy, which cannot be achieved without many things considered oppressive) and fit in with people who may not be as radical as I am. Until I can choose not to wear heels at parties and not be judged, until I can choose not to wear make-up to work and not be judged, until either I don’t have to do these things or men also have to do these things, we cannot pretend these things don’t contribute to oppression. Anyways, I’m saying we shouldn’t in any way try to prohibit these choices, but let’s not pretend they’re feminist choices simply because we choose them.

  • MKE

    Wearing heels does not cause, create, or reproduce oppression. Neither does wearing makeup, dressing in a “feminine” style, getting cosmetic surgery, shaving, or any other bits of aesthetic presentation.

    The thing that DOES cause, create, and reproduce oppression is the collective devaluing of, and disdain for, the things that women wear and do. It’s not the fucking heels. It’s the fact that women are ones wearing them. Blaming women for making socially irresponsible footwear choices won’t get us too far, because here’s the thing: women can all stop wearing heels (or makeup, or skirts, or whatever), but anything new that becomes associated exclusively with women will, inevitably, be the new thing to devalue. Fashion changes, but inevitably, whatever gets deemed “women’s clothing” is the thing that represents inferiority in the boardroom, or wherever else. Policing women’s appearances based on whatever the patriarchy thermometer is reading today isn’t going to change that.

    • A