You might think most people have already grown out of the old stereotypes concerning the appearance of feminists. Surely no one thinks feminists have a certain recognisable look? Well, I wouldn’t be too sure.
I was once told I don’t look like a feminist. I asked, “What do you mean?” and the guy explained, “Well, you’re wearing feminine clothes and make-up!” Indeed, I wear make-up quite regularly and I take a long time to do my hair. I shave my legs and my armpits and I like to wear dresses. I don’t look masculine or even gender neutral. And that’s okay because feminism is not an effort to dispel gender differences. You don’t need to look like a man in order to support gender equality.
I don’t have a problem with people who want to fight the strict appearance standards women have to live up to. I know some women who refuse to shave or wax their legs, arm-pits or their bikini line, and that’s fine, but they shouldn’t say that you need to stop shaving to be a proper feminist. You don’t have to shave or wear make-up or use push-up bras, if you don’t want to. But if you want to do these things, it should not affect your value as a person. The point feminists are trying to make is that everyone should be able to express their gender, or not to express it, in any way they like, and still get treated equally.
I hear bikini line waxing is increasingly popular among men. That’s a new development but hairlessness has long been the ruling beauty standard for men as well as women. When was the last time you saw men with hairy legs or chests modelling swimming trunks? I know, somewhere in the 90s, right? Circa David Hasselhoff? Since then, magazines have paraded smooth chested men, and in the past few years I’ve noticed that more and more men shave their legs, too, before going to the beach.
I see that as a major advance in gender equality. Think what you will about removing body hair, it’s no longer only women’s issue! The same goes for all grooming, really. You can protest against the pressure to wear make-up and to have hairless armpits, but you can’t say feminists have to denounce mascara and lady shavers to be convincing.