When I first fell down the feminism rabbit hole in my early years at university I, and my classmates, were encouraged to apply our new-found ideology to our lives in whichever ways we felt comfortable.
My story was one which I’m guessing was mirrored by many other twenty-somethings; I stopped shaving and wearing makeup, avoided binding clothes and ditched heels. I also had some pretty uncomfortable conversations with my then boyfriend and learnt the hard way that ‘feminist’ is still a dirty word.
I eventually reached peak in my ‘radicalness’ (which I suspect some would rather refer to as ‘militarism’) and began to wind back many of the changes I had made. I started to wear makeup again, grew my hair and stopped yelling at men on trains who unwittingly invaded the personal space of their female co-passengers.*
Some changes however, I kept; I haven’t worn a pencil skirt or a pair of heels since 2007 except when in costume.
The truth is, that whilst I still appreciate the theory behind many of these feminist practices, they are not always, well, practical.
I recently had a discussion with a woman that I was friends with back when we share gender studies classrooms – she is undertaking a masters of law now and has recently started shaving her legs again. Some of her feminist friends have given her shit for it, but the reality is that she simply cannot expect to advance professionally if she continues not to.
“But that’s FUCKED!!” you say, “fight the power!”
And oh how I agree. But where do you draw the line between damning the man and damaging your opportunities? If wearing mascara and skirt is necessary to get you into the boardroom, then is it more important to take a stand and be left outside than to access your potential to be chairing the fucking meeting, skirt and all?
Because the way I see it, the end-game of feminism is to achieve equality. Pretty basic. But it appears that the path to success is paved with compromise, and sometimes I’m not sure whether the practice is still truly feminist if it prevents the end result.
I have no answers here. A part of me sees frightening parallels between the above and the argument that women should exploit their own sexual objectification in order to gain power. Which I do not endorse.
So tell me blogosphere: what kinds of compromises do you make to get by in the actual fucking RL? And what will you not change for anyone, anytime?
*Total bullshit, I still yell at people on trains.