Feminism and Body Image

PHOTOGRAPHY - SaraShakeel

Nowadays it's hard to escape beauty. Perfect models look at you from covers of magazines and social media channels are full of women who are young, pretty and sexy and you feel overwhelmed by the pressure to be like them…

But wait a minute - aren’t these issues so 20th century? As a liberated feminist who believes brain is our sexiest organ you surely couldn’t care less about conforming to those sexist beauty standards imposed on women by men who see us as nothing more than sex objects. Is it really that simple?

If you don't want to compromise your feminist integrity and have firmly decided that your looks must reflect your views where gender issues are concerned, which direction are you going to take when it comes to choices on what to wear? How to cut your hair? Is make up a strict no-no for a feminist? What about shaving your legs? There are two ways of looking at it.

PHOTOGRAPHY - Kimber Beck

Option No. 1.

You follow the hard line and firmly refuse to give in to the pressure of looking cute, sweet, soft and feminine in the conventional sense of the word. Let your inner tomboy out, crop your hair, wear jeans and sneakers and baggy T-shirts at the weekends and sharp pant suits to work, forget make up, don’t wax your legs (or any other part of your body if you don’t want to), in other words, show the middle finger to the beauty standards that are imposed on women by the media and the dominating Western pop culture. After all, feminists of the 60s and 70s famously burned their bras that were considered a symbol of woman subjugation, so freeing your body equals freeing your spirit, right? And if men or narrow minded and conventionalism-blinded women find you unattractive, that is their problem, certainly not yours.

Now, option No. 2.

May seem like a radical swing towards the opposite direction. You decide that you do want to look cute, sexy and ladylike. You embrace your feminine look, follow fashion trends, you wear jewelry, make up, and try to be slim, sexy and pretty

in the traditional feminine way, yet you still claim to be 100 percent feminist. How come? You would probably agree that feeling beautiful boosts your self-confidence and empowers you, even if the beauty standards you aim for are rather conventional. Feminists often teach women not to be slaves to the male fantasies of what a beautiful woman is supposed to look like, but there is another way of seeing this. There are voices that claim that women dress up not for men, but for other women, or for themselves, and that seeing yourself as an attractive and sexy female simply feels good and this has nothing to do with wanting to please men. A woman simply wants to be beautiful for the sake of being beautiful, as simple as that.

PHOTOGRAPHY - Unknown

These are two extreme options. Is there a middle way?

Is it possible to be a feminist, be seen and treated as equal by men and yet be girly and pretty, just because you like it? Can you wear a miniskirt, pink nail polish, and run a multinational company? Is it possible to secretly worry that your bum looks too big in those tight new hot pants yet make correct decisions that affect hundreds of your employees? Can you spend endless hours choosing your new pair of killers heals but make snap decisions at a critical moment for your company and stand your ground at negotiations? Yes, these questions are tricky. Today being a feminist is no longer as simple as it was in the early days of feminism, when indeed many passionate members of the movement believed that the only way to be equal to men was to be like men. We want to be equal to men, yet we are finding various way of asserting our equality. What’s you path? It is up to you to find out the answer.

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