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.