WHY I'M EMBARRASSED TO CALL MYSELF A FEMINIST
As a disclaimer, I want to say that I wrote the original of this post a few months ago. It’s actually one of the first posts I wrote, months before even launching The Hungarian Brunette Blog. And then I scheduled it, and I cancelled it. Three times.
I just couldn’t bring myself to publish it. First, I knew it was gonna get some backlash, and I thought it might not be smart to launch a blog with such a controversial post. I didn’t want the amazing girls I met through social media and blogging to think I was a misogynistic bitch, before even knowing what I was all about.
And then time went on, and I kind of stopped scheduling it altogether. I thought it would be better to just keep sharing easy recipes, beauty tips and wellness-related posts that wouldn’t be too controversial and (most importantly) would bring you guys some value.
But then something happened that just triggered something in me. And I thought “OK, that’s it, I’ve just had enough of this bullshit”.
Long story short, a girl I collaborated with was bashed for posting pictures of herself showing her body.
Just to be clear, I’m talking more-or-less revealing clothes and poses that are barely suggestive. Nothing distasteful or uncouth, nothing to be alarmed about.
The pictures are also part of a series that has for goal to empower women to be proud of being women, to feel confident in their own body and to flaunt whatever it is about themselves that makes them feel sexy and empowered.
Isn’t that a beautiful, powerful message? I think so. But for whatever reason, someone had a problem with that, and thought it appropriate to call her a slut.
When I saw it, I exploded. My response, which didn’t even begin to cover everything I felt, went something like this:
I'm so fucking sick of women putting down other women and then calling themselves "feminists" and wearing pussy hats. Either you're FOR female empowerment, or you're NOT. Pick a damn side and stay there! I even wrote a blog post about it but I can't bring myself to publish it, because it's way too damn harsh and I know I'm gonna get crazy backlash... Ok, rant over. On a more positive note (that's the main goal, right?!) I have to say I loved shooting with you girls (TWICE!!) and I think what you're doing is amazing.
I'm usually not the one to participate in every women's march and proclaim that I'm a feminist, but I can truly say that I was proud to participate in the amazing place you're creating for women to be proud to be women and celebrate their femininity in a way that makes THEM feel badass and sexy and empowered. I don't know how anyone could be against a concept like that and denigrate it, but KEEP YOUR HEAD UP because what you're doing is AMAZING AF.
Then, to my surprise, someone I have incredible respect for saw it and told me I should just publish it. And that’s what I’m doing now, after totally re-writing it in a way that showcases exactly the way I feel now, months after my first draft.
I’m sharing it today because I want to bring something to the general conversation on this topic. Because this week is International Women’s day and I feel like in 2018, there’s a lot to be said about the status of women in America and feminism in general as a movement. Because I feel like we, women, need to realize that gender inequality is in part due to our own attitude towards each other.
At a certain point, I feel like women are gonna have to realize that it’s one thing to complain about society and men, but it’s pretty worthless if we don’t look inward first and ask ourselves: “Are we (and our shitty attitudes) part of the problem?”.
If I’m even asking the question, I don’t think it’ll come as much of a shock that my personalanswer is yes.
It might be a bit of a stretch, but maybe if women weren’t so busy competing with each other, they would have more energy to actually get in the big leagues that were (up to recently) reserved to men only.
After all, what’s the major thing we constantly hear women in the corporate world complain about? That the higher ranks (read: management) are like a boys’ club where men put each other first, which is why it’s so hard for women to get these coveted positions.
Ironically, I know A LOT of women who, if they had one of these positions, would much rather hire a man because they can’t handle other women.
To me, the situation is as ridiculous as an olympic track & field athlete shooting himself in the foot and then crying about coming last in the race.
And it’s not only about the workplace. Female friendships are BRUTAL.
I just can’t get over how easy it seems to be for (some) women to put down other women like nobody’s business and then call it friendship. Or rather, pretending to be friends, when in fact they can’t stand each other.
Without wanting to generalize or single out one gender, I feel like this is mostly something women do. Honestly, I don’t know a single man who’d pretend to be friendly with a dude he considers a moronic asshole.
In popular culture, relationships between men are described with words like bromance. And then there’s the famous bro-code. And women? We have the less than glorious “frenemies”. Uh, no thanks!
I’m obviously simplifying a lot here, but you get the idea. It seems to me that female friendships are a lot trickier than male ones. And it sucks, because in my opinion, there’s nothing more satisfying and fulfilling than women empowering women and having each other’s backs.
Entire societies have been built in history around women sharing everything and helping each other out, while men were hunting or at war. And those were times when women’s rights were not even a topic of conversation, because no one gave a flying shit.
So why is it that in 2018, when feminism, catchy slogans like “The future is female” and pussy hats are all the rage, women don’t stick together, but instead, throw each other under the bus? Wouldn’t it be the best time to be friends and stick together?
If you’re asking yourself what the hell I’m talking about and what female friendships have to do with feminism, let me backtrack a little.
The example I mentioned earlier, I lived it myself, too. Except it was painful not only because I was called a slut, which I don’t really care about, but because it came from someone I considered a really close friend.
I’d known that girl since high school and we stayed in touch through college. I knew her parents and siblings and got along well with her boyfriend.
When I had my own business, she’d come to my place and we’d talk for hours. We went out, had nights in with bottles of wine and delivery food… She really felt like a good friend I could talk to about anything. I can’t speak for her, but it seemed like she felt the same way, because she was constantly sharing and asking for advice, too.
Then I got out of a long-term relationship and started seeing someone I’ll just describe as a bad habit. You know, the type of guy who just gets by sleeping with a bunch of girls and pretending he doesn’t. The guy who’s so emotionally unavailable that he could give SATC’s Mr. Big a run for his money. You get it, just the gift that keeps on giving.
It didn’t take that long for me to realize that this was not what I wanted. So I started putting myself out there more. Aka, going on Tinder dates.
To be completely transparent, there really were only a few, and none of them ended with sex. Not that there’s a problem with sleeping with a bunch of people if that’s what you’re into. It’s just not my style and it’s relevant to the story that I, in fact, didn’t.
That being said, there might have been one or two weeks when I had dates with more than one guy. Shocker, am I right? Then I met Sasha and deleted my Tinder account shortly after our first date. It was just that good, that I didn't want to see what else was out there.
Here’s when shit became weird: When I was seeing toxic, unavailable guy, my friend was always there for me, and she was supportive. She listened to me rip my hair off, wondering if I was being played, if that guy was worth the angst, and she was happy to give me advice… Because I was miserable.
When I decided I was done with that BS and started dating, she started making snide comments like “So, how are your million dates going?” or “Are you gonna have sex with all these guys?” (which, once again, I WASN’T). And it felt like the happier I was, the more judgmental she became.
Especially when I met Sasha. If I mentioned something sweet he did, she would find something bad to say about it. Once, I mentioned how he helped me out when I was in a tough spot, and she found a way to spin it to make it look like he was trying to control me.
At first, I gave her the benefit of the doubt. I made excuses for her. I told myself she would change her mind if she met him. I tried to act like she was just trying to protect me.
But after a few weeks of this, it became harder and harder to ignore it. I had to see the evidence: No matter if she was jealous or just salty, she couldn’t be happy for me. Not if my happiness made her look like her life was not as extraordinary as she wanted it to be.
The last straw was when I tried to organize a dinner to introduce her and my new man. She cancelled it because she had made other plans, which included going to a bar, bumping into my ex, calling me a slut repeatedly and talking shit about me, not in front of one, but many people I knew.
Then and there, I decided that I didn’t need that negativity and straight-up bullshit in my life.
I take my relationships, whether romantic ones, friendships and family seriously. Which means I’m a loyal and honest girlfriend, friend, sister and daughter… And the only thing I ask in return is the same courtesy. Which is why I have absolutely no tolerance for liars and people who are nice to your face but shitty behind your back.
That said, I understand that there is bad people everywhere, that everyone has issue, and that some people handle their issues better than others.
When I have a hard time shutting up is when I realize that a LOT of girls who behave like this actually define themselves as feminists. I know my friend did, and she wasn’t the only one.
In the past few weeks, I’ve been doing some research and thinking about how I would approach this post, and I asked a lot of fellow girls and women what they thought about feminism, if they were ever shamed by other women for their choices or appearance, and just to share their general views about feminism and being a woman. I wanted to have some perspective, so I asked around.
One thing that hit me with the responses I got, is that calling yourself a feminist doesn’t mean you’re a good person, and ironically, it doesn’t mean you actually support women either.
When I had my first blog, there was a group of girls that I barely knew from high school, who were reading my blog almost everyday and then sharing my posts on Facebook, to spend hours of their time saying how disgusting I was, and how I loved myself so much. More than half these girls not only needed hobbies, but they were also “hardcore” feminists, with social profiles covered in feminist propaganda and female empowerment posts.
Preaching a certain set of values doesn’t mean bat shit if you can’t even back them up with the way you act as a human being.
I think it’s incredibly sad that these women don’t realize that they’re turning feminism into what pedophile priests turned the Catholic church into. A big embarrassing shit-show.
Not only are they giving feminism a bad name, but they’re also devaluing the term. That makes it harder for younger girls to feel safe and understood in a movement that should be WITHOUT JUDGMENT.
When I was reading the responses to the many questions I asked my friends, peers, Instagram followers and basically annoying every woman I know (ha!), the responses that stuck with me the most were the ones that went like this: Feminism should be about choice. The choice to have a career or be a stay-at-home mom. The choice to wear what I want, the choice to be who I want to be, WITHOUT JUDGMENT AND WITHOUT SHAME.
Honestly, if it felt like that’s what feminism was, I might call myself a feminist. Actually, I probably would. Because I believe everything about that statement, and not just for women. I believe that’s how EVERYBODY should allowed to live their lives, no matter if they’re woman, man, straight, gay, trans, whatever. As long as your not harming or endangering someone else, YOU DO YOU.
But quite frankly, I often feel like if I did call myself a feminist, I’d be constantly judged by the “real” feminists.
I’d be judged for not hating men. For not believing that men should apologize for being men and give-up a spot they’ve earned to a woman, just because of some quota. I’d be judged for believing that the most competent and capable person should get the position, regardless of their sex, age and sexual orientation.
I’d be yelled at for thinking that the word “equalitarism” would be more appropriate than “feminism”, should we hope to build a society that considers people for what they have in their heart and brain, rather than what they have between their legs.
I’d get backlash for trying to express my opinions on feminism and raising questions on points that I disagree with, if it meant questioning anything about feminism.
So I don’t. I don’t call a myself a feminist, and I never have.
Maybe it comes from my upbringing. Maybe it’s because I didn’t grow up being told that I was special just because I was a girl.
My parents told me I was special because I was outspoken and smart. Because I questioned authority if it didn’t make sense to me, until I understood why certain rules were in place and actually wanted to abide by them.
I could play with boys or girls. I could do ballet and Barbie fashion shows, or I could chase frogs in the swamp. I could be and do whatever I wanted, but it was never just because I was a girl. I know for a fact that my parents would have raised me just the same way if I was a boy.
I wasn’t told as a child that because I was a girl, I should be a secretary, nurse, teacher or flight attendant. In fact, my dad pushed me to become a lawyer. And when I gave up on that path and decided to go to fashion school, he respected my choice, because he wanted me to be happy.
I realize that all of this makes me sound incredibly privileged, like I grew up in a perfect bubble. But I assure you it’s not the case, and I’ve had my arguably more than fair share of hardships.
But I still want to put it out there, because I am, in fact, privileged. I am privileged to be a white woman in America. And I wish more women in America would realize how lucky they are to be just that.
Because American women don’t get raped on the way to get water from a well that’s kilometres away from their homes.
American women don’t have to go through clitoral ablation because our genitalia is considered unclean. And the American judicial system requires more than 3 men to sentence a woman for a crime she didn't commit.
We, American women, are lucky, because we have access to things as basic and simple as education, clean water and a global society that valourises us. There are no obstacles in our way to becoming exactly who we wanna be, and be as powerful as we wanna be, except our own damn selves.
Once we all realize that and take a minute to be fucking grateful for all of it, I think it’ll be much easier to take a step back, chill the fuck out, and start supporting each other a little more.
It’ll be easier to be the woman Sophia A. Nelson describes in her Woman Code.
Be a woman other women can trust. Have the courage to tell another woman direct when she has offended, hurt, or disappointed you. Successful women have a loyal tribe of loyal and honest women behind them. Not haters. Not backstabbers or women who whisper behind their back. Be a woman who lifts other women. -Sophia A. Nelson
And that’s the kind of woman all women need to be. Because these women are the “real” feminists.
“Real” feminists are not the women who backstab each other. They’re not the women who attack and judge other women for raising questions about feminism.
They’re women like Emma Watson, Chelsea Handler and countless more, who, like any smart CEO, understand that the best way to make any organization better and stronger, is to discuss its flaws and include as many people as possible in the process of solving them.
They understand that it’s pointless and stupid to complain about things men have been doing for decades and then do even worse, just because now, we can.
They also understand that being feminine and wearing heels, skirts and makeup doesn’t make you stupid. More importantly, they understand that being feminine doesn’t mean being weak. For that reason and many more, they don’t see women as poor little creatures in need of rescue. Grown women in America, in 2018, can very well stand up for themselves. Even if that seems hard sometimes. Because guess what? It’s hard for everyone at times, not just women.
But the truth is, you can’t love something you hate. When women put down other women and backstab them, when they act driven by jealousy and envy, they forfeit their privilege to call themselves defenders of women’s rights.
While I still probably won't advertise myself as a feminist, I will say this:
On this International Women’s Day and every following day, I pledge to always do the best I can to empower other women and support them, helping whenever I can.
I pledge to not let jealousy get in the way when it comes to celebrating women and their success.
Also, I pledge to respect other women’s opinions, even though I might not agree with them. When I don’t, I pledge to let it go and move on. But really move on and get over it. Not pretend I did and then be a backstabber.
I pledge to not engage in petty cat fights. And I pledge to be a good friend. And to make room in my heart for as many great women as I can.
And more importantly, I pledge to do all these things for women, but also for men. I pledge to be a kind, understanding and respectful person to all other human beings.
Because I believe that’s the real key to happiness.
And because I’m convinced that happy women make the best friends, business partners, girlfriends, wives, sisters… And feminists.
And that’s what I aspire to be.
Happy International Women’s Day.
I love you all very much,
Love, Jenny xx
Pictures from a collaboration with Bad Bitch Bandits (@badbitchbandits). I chose these because they're some of the only pictures I have with another girl, and I think they turned out beautiful. But Also because Bad Bitch Bandits is a non-profit that aims to make women feel good being themselves, and to support one another. Isn't that on point? I think so.