How One Generation Can Redefine Feminism For A Modern Society
If there's anything our generation will be remembered for, it's our continued efforts to empower women in modern society.
However, while generations before us have worked toward women's suffrage and equal pay, the Millennial definition of feminism has transitioned from finding feminine equality to establishing a newfound female masculinity.
In order to become equal to our male counterparts, many women believe it's necessary not only to relinquish the socially conditioned values they've been raised to uphold, but also to wage war on these feminine shackles, rejecting them as a weakness for those women who refuse to do the same.
Although this movement towards strength and empowerment speaks to a new and refreshing perspective in our modern age, the women who choose to embrace the traditional hallmarks of femininity as a part of their womanhood can be considered no less female warriors than their radical sisters.
Today we give a voice to the women in dresses, the women who go to sleep in face creams and wake up in hair curlers and the women who want their eyes to pop and their lips to sparkle. This is for the women who feel like they could carry the world in their designer handbags and walk a thousand miles in their 4-inch heels.
Today, we redefine feminism.
Degrading a woman's choice doesn't qualify as empowerment.
When a woman gets ready for a big event, she applies extra makeup, spends extra time on her hair and puts down extra cash on a nice outfit.
Back in the "Mad Men" times, we would have seen this beauty ritual as the fulfillment of an expected female duty, but in our modern times, we see it as a shallow show of vanity relying on tired standards and brutish misogyny.
Hold up, now. I thought we were working on evolving as a society, not giving strength to an ancient stereotype.
Forcing a woman to conform to a standard of beauty in the 60s and punishing her for trying to adhere to what she considers a personal standard of beauty now (whether that standard has been colored by years of societal norms or not) are one in the same. Neither of which falls under the category of empowerment.
A woman's choice to express her womanhood through the means of makeup and other staples of her beauty regime is a show of her own appreciation of her femininity, not merely the passive acceptance of a standard set for her by someone else.
A woman's choice to make an unfounded judgment of another woman choosing femininity as her means of expressing her feminist stance is only feeding a suffocating stereotype, not liberating it.
Choosing beauty means taking responsibility.
When a woman chooses to express herself with an emphasis on her femininity, it begs the question, for whom is she doing so for?
In today's society marked by hook-up culture and a reliance on a photogenic social networking identity, it's hard to tell where to draw the line between personal expression and social submission when it comes to the way a woman presents herself physically.
A girl wearing a short dress with heels she can barely walk in might scream male bait to onlookers, but one might reason that she's dressed this way for herself.
A healthy definition of feminism gives women the freedom to make the choice to expose her legs and celebrate her female form; however, it falls on her to hold up her end of the deal by thinking through the implications of her outfit choice.
A pattern of guilt and self-doubt, you might argue, is a violation of forward feminist thinking in itself.
Having to think through each and every choice she makes in constructing her physical identity (e.g. what kind of attention she's drawing to herself) is a shackle in its own right.
If women are looking down on other women's physical expressions of femininity, then they are recognizing the female form as a product available for exploitation, thus perpetuating the problem.
If men are looking down on a woman's physical expression of her femininity, then they are recognizing the female form as a product available for their own exploitation, thus also perpetuating the problem.
Choosing beauty means choosing the responsibility to uphold femininity as more than the exploitation of the female form, but rather, as an indicator of individuality and independence.
It's not just about feeling "pretty."
More important than what a woman's makeup and clothing say to others about her identity is what these things say to her about her own identity.
The automatic assumption associated with a woman wearing makeup and putting on high heels is that she does so out of vanity, or because she wants to feel pretty. However, as we have previously noted, an emphasis on femininity is a choice to recognize her powerful female identity for what it is, instead of denying it for what it isn't.
No matter how many years we try to fight this battle, the one crucial reality is that women will always be women and men will always be men. Though they may some day find equality, they will never be the same.
By choosing to highlight her gender as her identity, a woman is accepting her femininity as a difference and celebrating that difference as a strength.
Punishing a woman for celebrating herself is a fundamental violation of modern-day feminism. As long as our generation continues to look down on a woman's choice to embrace her identity, we will never move forward.
We might forever be remembered as the generation that changed the definition of feminism -- for the worse.
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