The Vagenda

How To Tell If You’re Feminist Enough


Are you feminist enough?

Well, are you? Do you refuse advances by saying ‘no’ rather than ‘I have a boyfriend’? Do you leave your body hair unshaven? Did you refuse to take your husband’s name? Do you even have a husband? Do you negotiate pay rises? Do you wear mini-skirts, or are you more of a jeans and shirt kind of girl? Did ‘girl’ make you wince (you’re a grown woman!)? Are you body-proud? Are you beautiful? Or are you taking back the word ugly? Do you support sex workers, or do you think they’re betraying women? Is Beyoncé a feminist even though she dances around in her knickers? Do you like a bit of BDSM? Have you ever used Feminax? Do you secretly love the Circle of Shame?

You see, no matter how much progress women make, there are always some strange standards of behaviour we seem to have to follow. It doesn’t matter what we fight for; it just creates another way for us to fall flat. One minute you’re being told how to look and act by the patriarchy, and the next you’re being held to account by other self-identifying feminists. Are you good enough to join? Are you feminist enough to be a feminist?

If someone called me ‘unladylike’, I’d probably snortlaugh and throw Monster Munch at them. Then eat the Monster Munch. But if you call me ‘unfeminist’, I’ll have to prove that you’re wrong. I don’t even want to be a lady – sitting with your knees together, smiling wanly, and never having another slice of cake looks really, incredibly boring. But feminists are awesome: we do whatever the fuck we want, we eat ALL the cake, we swear, we don’t have to stay home with the kids and clean all day (unless we want to) and last time I checked, we don’t blindly follow arbitrary rules about how women should or shouldn’t live their lives. In other words, I really, really WANT to be a feminist.

I don’t think that we need another stick to beat women with – especially when the old ones are still working as well as ever. But it seems like we’ve reached peak in-fighting in Feminist Land. Some of these fights are interesting, completely valuable and worth having. But it would be ridiculously naive not to acknowledge that some of them are downright bilious.

I came to this realisation when a sex worker friend told me about the hate mail she receives – not from Christian fundamentalists or angry wives, but feminists who feel she’s betraying women (all women) by selling sex to pay her bills. Regardless of feminism, sending hate mail to anybody makes you an asshole. I’ve had arguments with feminists about my right to groom my body hair the way I want to; I actually had to justify my body choices to a group of people who claim to advocate for women exercising their own rights over their own bodies. It doesn’t just strike me as odd – it pisses me off.

Now, I’m not one to point at a problem without coming to a solution. The first thing I thought of was paring down the list. Instead of 100 Rules for Being a Good Feminist (which nobody can even agree upon), I thought, why not just say, ‘Are you doing what you want to and supporting other women?’ But then, on second thoughts, that criteria didn’t seem quite good enough. So I came up with something better: ‘Who the actual fuck cares?’

Here’s a manifesto I can get on board with: feminism isn’t a sliding scale. You don’t get rated out of 10 or have to sit an oral exam at the end of it. So just do whatever the fuck you want in your noble quest for gender equality, and don’t attack other women people for doing the same.

As far as I’m concerned, that’s the whole point.


14 thoughts on “How To Tell If You’re Feminist Enough

  1. I have a few female friends who are sex workers (and strippers), I find it horrific that they have ended up in the situation, but my hatred is reserved for the circumstance (varied as it is). When I told a prospective partner about their situation she was unequivocal in her dislike of the women. Again similar arguments; that they were kowtowing to a patriarchal society; that they were reinforcing gender stereotypes; and that they were weak. When I tried to defend them I was suddenly labelled a chauvinist.

    The same woman is currently posting on her facebook about how sexist the Nottingham Tram system is, and that feminists should take up the cause for more female Tram wardens.

    So I agree, no sliding scale of feminism, but people do have a sliding scale of stupid.

  2. Yes, feminism shouldn’t be about criticizing other people’s personal decisions (I had a different experience when a group of female friends tried to pressure me into shaving my pubes). But, as in every other philosophy, there are different branches and opinions also in feminism, and it is possible to disagree within it. It’s not a some kind of dogmatic religion after all, it’s a social theory and a very broad movement.

  3. Yes, using ‘bad feminist’ as another stick to beat women with sucks. Totally agree.

    BUT not all acts performed by women who call themselves ‘feminists’ are necessarily feminist acts. Feminism is about the advancement of women as a social class, not a way of justifying all women “doing what you want to”. This brand of Choice Feminism may be a good way of attracting followers, but it’s a terrible basis for a coherent movement.

    If we’re going to maintain that the personal is political (which is kind of the basis of second wave feminism, after all), then we have to scrutinise our own behaviour and debate it. This may be unpleasant and confronting, but simply labelling yourself a ‘feminist’ isn’t enough – you have to follow through.

    Those women who sent your friend hate mail are clearly douches. That doesn’t mean that there isn’t a debate to be had about (e,g,) the politics of sex work, remembering that there is a difference between “being told what to do” by other feminists and taking part in an impassioned discussion.

      • Well I can’t speak for Louise, but it seems to me that class does not have to apply just to economic sub-groups (as I presume you read it?). It was the peculiar (and intended) effect of Marxism to capture the concept of class in politics, but there’s nothing wrong with using a more open definition of a class as ANY type of subgroup.

        On that reasoning, women are a class of human beings, just as people with blue eyes or one leg longer than another are. What makes women significant relative to the two latter classes is that there are a whole bunch of social signifiers related to being a woman which can have real impacts on their agency and life-chances. What these signifiers are – and how powerful they are – is open to dispute, but a good example is how girls are still often discouraged from careers in STEM on the basis, presumably, of gendered assumptions, despite being academically superior on the whole to their male classmates.

    • Go Louise!

      This kind of simplistic argument: “So just do whatever the fuck you want in your noble quest for gender equality” is why I don’t really read Vagenda anymore.

      I think I’ll stick to the Female Eunuch.

  4. Just be yourself and do what you want! If an ideology hinders you, overcome it. You can be both ‘feminine’ and ‘masculine’ because everyone is naturally a mix of both.

  5. Absolutely! Agree so much.
    The whole “true Feminist” ideology has been bothering me for a bit and truly I could not agree with this more!

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