What Does It Mean to Be a Modern Feminist?

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Glory and galore, oh Lorde. | ELLE

Everyone’s favorite f-word is having a moment of limelight and galore. Ideally, we would all celebrate by reading some Woolf, waving flags with "We can do it!" or “Votes for women,” and feeling beautifully independent or independently beautiful, but there are some issues to tackle first.

Apparently, many women feel like they don’t need modern feminism: all is fair in the land of casual ignorance. Others take it to the extreme and allegedly take bubble baths in the tears of our noble male counterparts.

What does it mean to be a modern feminist in its practical-personal sense? Should we all stop shaving and start performing Bechdel tests on our favorite movies? Or is it enough to have an engineering career? Let’s discuss the matters of gender, feminism, and, ultimately, humanity.

The Lipstick Debate and Media Revolution

Is it fine to wear a lot of make-up and not a lot of clothes in an attempt to seduce men (or “a man”)? Of course it is, says the third wave feminist. Is it okay to do so in an attempt to express yourself? Yep, it’s all good, says the third wave feminist.

But then the radical feminist interrupts: the second cause is superior to the first one, because the reason you want to impress men is that they have the power of the planet Earth. But what about her power? If he finds her attractive, she has the power, right? Well, she shouldn’t need to be sexually attractive to get the power.

Female attractiveness is greatly exaggerated in importance. My mother usually makes sure my suitors are smart, funny, and kind and that my brother’s girlfriends are pretty. How boring. Don’t get me wrong, we all engage in objectification. Sometimes when this pale, thin, and tall senior walks by, I gaze longingly after him and think “I would,” too, but, hey, I don’t see attractive men selling me products all day, every day.

As famous actors get older, their partners in movies get younger. Female youth and beauty cult in the media and, so, in life needs to stop. And for this we need more feminist screenwriters/directors. Become one, girls! There’s a revolution waiting to happen.

Lena Dunham

Lena knows best about new femaleness in media. | ELLE

Think about all the trouble girls go through to look good. Primer, foundation, concealer, bronzer, mascara, lipstick, nail polish, healthy eating/calorie awareness, shoes you can’t properly walk in, hair straightening, hair removal, etc. Is it un-feministic to do so? Again, no.

What’s un-feministic is girls’ possible insecurity to go without all of these. You need to ask yourself if you can accept yourself without looking sexually attractive; if your own opinion is the most important one. Because it should be.

Pie or Pi

All women love pies: apple pies, cherry pies, and, of course, mathematical Pi-s. Just kidding, not all, but some. I have come to anticipate the look of disbelief and newfound respect in people’s eyes when I tell them my major: Applied Math.

It is understandable: we can’t just make-believe a world where my classes are not dominated by men. Yet feminism has done its job - if you had the choice to be in Applied Math, you just didn’t like it and the reason you didn’t like it is not because you were expected not to like it. Can you follow my logic? I’m sure you can. None of those “women-cannot-logic” sitcom myths.

Pumpkin pie

No one should feel bad for preferring pie to Pi. | ELLE

So, as feminists, how should we battle the stereotypes? By being in engineering and being awesome at it, too. For example, Maryam Mirzakhani recently won the Fields Medal (the Math Nobel prize) for the first time. It seems like she has done more for feminism than anyone dedicating his/her life to “raising awareness about women in engineering.”

Gender Trouble

No, but can we talk about women’s rights before talking about women? What is gender? One of the main points of third wave feminism is inclusivity. It has elements of queer theory and men’s rights activism, includes transsexuals and other non-binary genders, speaks for people of color, etc., thus turning feminism into this all-encompassing spokesperson for Human Equality. Ultimately, and as a tendency, the world goes from natural to artificial and then back again. Erasure of the social construct of gender is a part of going back to natural, but “new natural.”

According to rather over-simplified Judith Butler, gender is performative. Try it; it’s fun. Dress like a man, hide the hair, look grave and confident in a photo, and voilà: you may just start feeling attracted to yourself. Just kidding! (I guess. And some wouldn’t need to change genders to feel like that.) So, we are not attracted to “sexes,” we’re attracted to superficial “genders,” and anyone can be any gender or non-gender they want. In fact, we can invent a third gender or a fourth one independent of genitalia.

Elliott sailors elle 3

Elliott Sailors is the confuser. | ELLE

Sadly, the world we live in operates in majorities, so it is very heteronormative. Target markets of my copywriting class are still either female or male, the gender associations and links are still present, and maybe the destruction of these is too ambitious of a goal.

Instead, listen to a Camus quote:

“The only way to deal with an unfree world is to become so absolutely free that your very existence is an act of rebellion.”

Try ignoring gender for a while in your mind. See only humans. Mix up the hes and shes and don’t apologize. This is where feminism is headed.

Being Human

The message of anti-feminists is the end goal of feminism. They say: “I already don’t see gender. Maybe the reason most politicians are male is because they just happen to be male. Maybe the reason most protagonists and assumed audiences are male is because they just happen to be male.” However, we must remember that just because a person has reached a point of gender irrelevance, doesn’t mean that the society has reached that point.

If women are sexy damsels in distress in ten movies, it may be a coincidence. If women make up about 20% of the US Congress for a few years, it may be a coincidence. But if it is a constant, not a variable, it means feminism is still necessary and significant. Personally, we may see humans before we see females/males, but the world doesn't. Just like personally, we may not understand murderers or rapists, but they do exist. We must remember that the society as a whole is always lagging behind individuals in its views.


Any examples of daily feminism? Do you think the movement should go “a little less conversation, a little more action, please?” Let us know your thoughts by leaving a comment.

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