“Girls can wear jeans, cut their hair short, wear shirts and boots because it's okay to be a boy. But for a boy to look like a girl is degrading, because you think that being a girl is degrading.” – Madonna
There I stood straightening my stubborn hair in the bathroom mirror, when my longtime friend, Kayla, told me to “cut it out”.
“Aren’t you supposed to be a feminist?” she asked, bewildered that I would take the time to iron my hair which was starting to look like Hagrid’s bushy locks from the Harry Potter series.
“Of course I’m a feminist,” I say, coating a sparkly pink gloss over my lips. I blot them. “Why wouldn’t I be?”
“Because look at you,” she muttered, sighing at my reflection. “You’re changing yourself to meet the patriarchal beauty standards of our society when you should love yourself exactly the way you are.”
My freshly glossed mouth dropped.
“But I do love myself,” I pouted. Didn’t I? I mean just because I wasn’t so fond on the idea of approaching the world with my tangled tresses and make-up free face, didn’t mean I held some kind of shame when it came to my natural self. Right?
Kayla, with her au naturel hairy leg and armpit pride, pushed me to really think about it. How, she asked, could I be a true feminist if I was happy to change myself on a daily basis in order to meet a certain standard?
I let her ideas sink in.
Although I didn’t quite agree with Kayla, she did have some valid points. Our society does hold a history of ridiculous beauty standards for women that border on detrimental to one’s health. For example, in the Victorian Era women would have to wear corsets underneath their clothing in order to maintain an hourglass shape, which would cause damage to their internal organs.
With more modern examples, the need to be skinny because the media deems thinness as beautiful has caused millions of young girls to develop eating disorders around the world. Even less drastically dangerous “beautifying” methods such as wearing high heels can result in severe pain and discomfort for a woman who is simply trying to look her best.
To my dear friend Kayla, the whole idea that “beauty is pain” sounded like nothing more than another excuse into accepting the impossible beauty standards we hold. In these extreme cases, she is right to be worried. No woman or man or human for that matter should ever have to endure pain in order to look a certain way.
To that regard, I was fully able to understand where my friend was coming from.
Although I respected Kayla’s passion for natural beauty in the form of self-acceptance, I knew that just because I made some moves to alter my appearance didn’t mean I had any less self-love than she did.
I know now that loving yourself means being true to yourself.
When I choose to get all dolled up with mascara, gloss, and hot ironed locks, I am being true to myself because I personally feel more comfortable when I am feminized.
It’s who I am.
This has always been the case. I’d go to school in pink frilly skirts that some would find over-the-top and restraining, but to me, these unapologetically feminine clothes were what I felt most comfortable in.
What I felt most like myself in.
Wearing a girly sundress with long sparkly earrings and high heels didn’t make me less of a person.
Adding hair extensions to my look had nothing to do with my intelligence.
Strutting around in a pair of high heels didn’t make me a bad person.
Putting time into my appearance played no role in my values.
I was a person who liked to dress up. Simple as that.
Growing up, I have always faced a certain stigma for my femininity. To many of my peers, the girliness of my nature was somehow problematic to the feminist cause. According to them, I was adhering to some sort of out of date gender normative approach to society that lacked any sort of social progression or respect.
This confused me to no end.
Isn’t allowing a woman the choice to pick what kind of person she wants to be the definition of feminist empowerment?
Allowing women to be the most comfortable versions of themselves should be considered a vital step towards the achievement of female liberation.
A woman who decides to cover up from head to toe has the right to be heard as much as a woman who enjoys showing more skin. A woman who cuts off all her hair and wears male clothing should be allowed to do just that if it makes her feel like the best version of herself. And if a woman wants to straighten her hair and embrace her femininity, what’s stopping her from having the same amount of respect as a woman in a pantsuit?
Ultimately, in the words of Albus Dumbledore, “It is our choices that show what we truly are” rather than our personal style. This idea that being feminine is somehow degrading has no logic to it. Feminizing myself doesn’t limit me in any way from changing the world- and I can do so in heels!