Why can’t I be a feminine feminist?


Liana Yamasaki

Carisa Joyner ‘21 played dress-up at a princess-themed party for her friend’s third birthday in 2006.

Growing up, my favorite plush doll was a pink, sweet-smelling baby that I called my “bebe.” My bebe and I would spend time together reading, cuddling, playing outside and cooking in our faux kitchen, much like a typical mother and her child would. I liked the feeling of being responsible and caring for something, and I have always felt connected to this nurturing aspect of myself. My mama would take my baby sister to Target with her, so I’d follow my mama’s lead and bring my bebe to the store as well. Since then, I’ve continued enjoying girly things and the idea of motherhood.

I have always been comfortable in my femininity; I enjoy cooking and wearing dresses and skirts, among other girly things. Even so, I still agree with the overarching ideas of feminism: equality, free choice and empowerment. 

Having attended an all-girls institution for the last four years, I’ve been exposed to various aspects of feminism. We’re constantly being pushed towards making something of ourselves career-wise and towards making our own choices. Teachers and students alike consistently empower one another, resulting in a healthy environment where girls thrive. At the same time, FSH reflects a lot of the same feminine ideas that I relate to myself. We wear skirts as a part of our uniform, we scream and squeal a lot and we wear beautiful, white dresses at graduation. 

At times, I feel conflicted with my traditional ideals and feminist values. All over the vast expanse of the internet, I see memes and posts tackling the issues that feminism faces today. As someone who values traditional gender roles in a relationship, I’ll always appreciate when a man (specifically my boyfriend) holds a door open for me or wants to protect me from the creepy male gaze. But I’ve observed how certain feminists on social media don’t share the same appreciation for those little things like I do, like on this subreddit. Instead, they believe that traditional behavior feeds into the patriarchy. These are also the same women who judge other women for making certain life choices, like desiring marriage or choosing family over a career. 

This brings me to my primary problem with feminism today. I’m a feminist, but I don’t think that you can be a true feminist if you don’t empower women by giving them the freedom to make their own choices, even if those choices don’t align with your own. Women should be free to do as they please without fearing the judgment they’ll receive from other women. 

The other day, as I was scrolling through a Reddit thread, I noticed a feminist on there was arguing that “marriage is a patriarchal insitution.” While this user may have a point, I don’t want to criticize people who choose to be married, nor do I, myself, want to be criticized for wanting to get married. I don’t think it’s wrong to commit to someone you love for the rest of your life. 

Seeing feminist content online often makes me feel ashamed of wanting what I want and enjoying the things I enjoy. Being a girly girl was once totally acceptable, but seeing criticism of heteronormativity makes me feel less-than. I already face loads of criticism when wearing a short skirt or a crop top, being told by boys and adults that I’m only dressing that way for “attention.” Not only am I facing criticism from my elders and those of the opposite sex, but I am also facing criticism from other women. 

Women used to be criticized for not wanting a family, but now they’re being criticized for wanting one. Although I still have a lot of my life ahead of me, one of the things I am sure about is my inclination towards being a working mom. Taking care of my future husband and kids ranks at number one on my list of priorities, but so does having a career and my own sense of autonomy. Feminists on social media are so quick to criticize a woman for wanting a family, saying she is “socially conditioned” to desire those things. The tone of this criticism can be rather aggressive, which can often lead to people like me feeling attacked. 

Recognizing that traditional marriage was created to destroy the matrilineal family, destroy bonds between daughter and mother, and grandmother, to isolate and enslave girls, and continues to isolate and oppress, is the very beginning of a feminist understanding of patriarchy,” commented one Reddit user on a discussion about “abolishing the family.”

Society may blame men for criticizing and discriminating against women, but some women are just as guilty of doing it to each other. In order for there to be any change within this part of the feminist movement, we need to look within ourselves and go from there. Don’t disparage a young woman for wanting to focus on being a mom, but also don’t criticize another young woman for wanting to be the CEO of a Fortune 500 company. Everyone has different aspirations in life as well as different ways of expressing themselves. As long as we continue to respect each other’s goals and opinions, we can set a precedent for how everyone should be treated, both male and female alike.

I like what I like, but this doesn’t mean that I want to tell anyone else how they should live their lives. Although I enjoy traditionally feminine things, I’ve embraced the principles of feminism that push me to be financially independent and make something of myself. Feminism is about freedom of choice, so I am free to embrace both feminine and feminist ideals, but you can’t be a true feminist if you think that all women should think a certain way.