Feminism in the 21st Century- Zoe Williams and Mari Marcel Thekaekara

Recently, during a conversation about the anti-rape Slutwalk marches, a friend of mine claimed I was a ‘slut.’ Despite the fact that these marches wished to reclaim the word from its harmful negative connotations, I felt offended and hurt. When asked why he decided to label me in this manner, my friend responded saying it was due to my attitude to sex, “You love sex….” he said, “you talk about it, and look for it and seem to really enjoy it.” Ah, yes. Well, of course. And because I am a young woman that automatically categorizes me as a dirty slut? It is at these moments, when faced with such degrading opinions, when I feel proud to be a Feminist, when I wish to shout and bellow from the rooftops precisely how liberating and inspiring feminism can be.

Yet, if I am to be completely and utterly honest, there are times when I do keep my Feminist views firmly to myself. Many young women I know are often reluctant to accept the terminology, feeling it cannot embody all the contradictions of a modern 21st century girl. But why not? Perhaps I am a prime example; I dye my hair blonde, I wear make-up, high heels and short, frilly dresses.  Of course,  I make these choices because for myself  but I would be lying if I didn’t admit that I also want recognition from men. Not reliance. But I am attracted to men and I do want to attract them to me.  Surely I cannot display all these traditional trappings of femininity and still believe adamantly in the fight for complete equality and liberation? Furthermore, what about patriarchal systems such as marriage? If I want to get married, am I still a feminist? Zoe Williams’ article in the Guardian highlights this conflict superbly,

“There is an argument that marriage reinforces the patriarchy… And a vision of feminism that involves eschewing reproduction altogether is like a vision of environmentalism that involves ending reproduction: it might work, but it would have the iatrogenic consequence of species suicide. This is not standard feminism; nobody would try to live by it. This is separatist feminism, the sort that makes young women say “I’m not a feminist”.”


Although all these arguments may appear trivial, or somewhat superficial (because surely in this day and age the colour we choose to dye our hair or paint our nails is not a cause for debate?) I do feel they present very real and tangible issues for young women who may want to approach feminism, or who may even involve themselves in feminist ideas without realizing it. When it comes down to it Feminism with a capital F is a label and within a label, certain boxes have to be ticked in order to reach a criteria. What happens if we feel we don’t match up?

I feel this poem by Mari Marcel Thekaekara really epitomizes these contradictions and fears-

Us (Non)Feminist (Wo)Men

However, for all our sisters who fought and protested and demanded our worth as women, I believe that what they ultimately wanted was the individual happiness of each woman; for women to feel contented and comfortable in whatever they do and to be able to express themselves in any way possible. And whether we label ourselves by any word, be it a ‘Slut’ or a ‘Feminist’or anything else in between, these labels are incredibly powerful yet actions speak louder than words.

feminism: nude back

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2 thoughts on “Feminism in the 21st Century- Zoe Williams and Mari Marcel Thekaekara

  1. jonolan says:

    Some of your quandary and/or ambivalence is do to a deep-rooted logical flaw you’ve fallen victim to.

    You state:

    However, for all our sisters who fought and protested and demanded our worth as women…

    There’s the flaw. Those 1st and 2nd wave Feminists didn’t fight, protest for, or demand your worth as women. They fought and protested and demanded your worth as men.

    They eschewed femininity and feminine roles and took the easier and more materialistic route of demanding demanding gender congruency instead of equality. In doing so they framed women’s new “proper” role as the same as men’s.

  2. Argus says:

    Your friend is betraying his own lack of confidence, his insecurity. If we love sex and seek it out, I guess we are all sluts (male as well as female)(or I was until I got married. I take the ‘forsaking all others’ bit seriously).

    ‘Slut’, to describe someone with a good old Anglo Saxon approach to life and living? Why not? Spouse and I love the movie “Chocolat” …

    Is the Ayn Rand approach (namely sex as a celebration of life) desirable? If you’re alive: YES.

    Or does the pejorative use of the word stem from various male-supreme (i.e. missionary position) religions that taint its use? Dammit! I like slut, put me down for slut; if that be the case then Slut should be worn with pride by all who delight in Life and are frowned upon by the constrained.

    The only sin, if there be one, is in aiming low. Aim for the best in a partner, achieve your standard or go without for that night.
    The only crime, and there is one, is the use of violence in any form.

    As for wanting to be feminine (frills, makeup etc)—delight in it! Revel in it, wallow in it if you can. Life is too brief not to.

    And there is only one opinion of you in the whole universe that matters a damn: your own.

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