What does a feminist look like?

beyoncevmaAuthor Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie posted a photo of Beyonce from the 2014 MTV Video Music Award with the caption: “On Monday morning I woke to images of Beyoncé, striking a dramatic pose – dressed as the world’s most beautiful disco ball – in front of the word “FEMINIST” and felt like an excited kid all over again. Or rather, an excited kid in a far more thrilling pop culture universe than the one I was an actual kid in.” The talented singer wore a sequined bodysuit reminiscent of a sexy disco ball, showing her derriere and legs as she moved with confidence across the stage. She kept the crowd entertained with her sensual and well rehearsed dance moves, expressive facial expressions, and strong voice. The whole performance was flawless. In the middle of the 16-minute show, her silhouette stood firmly and dramatically in front of the word “Feminist” as Adichie’s “We should all be feminists” speech played in the background.  What brings this discussion is a man’s comment under Adichie’s photo of her. (Sidenote:This  article is not about Beyonce and my opinion of her, but rather a small rant about what a feminist should or not look like.) He wrote, “But do you think she’s a good public figure with how she disposes herself in public(nudity)? And if that’s what FEMINISTS are composed of, then one day wen i have a daughter, I would not want her to be one.”

What does a feminist look like? Why do we always have to put women in a box? A feminist is anyone (woman or man) who believes in social, political, economical equality for men and women. And that’s it. So why do we have to look a certain way? Why do we have to speak a certain way? Beyonce is a pop culture performer. She has the right to dress however she pleases. She’s here for entertaining, nothing more. And if the way she entertains offends you, you don’t have to watch her. I don’t own a television. I am not obsessed with her, but I respect her. She is a hard working woman who deserves all she has earned. She’s constantly pushing boundaries, and if she claims that she’s a feminist, who am I to tell her differently? Are there things she does I’m not a fan of? Yes, but why does that matter? She’s a human being, and she’s not here to please everyone. Should I tell her that she should only dress like Michelle Obama if she wants to be a feminist? Or carry herself like Oprah? She is her own being, and that’s what’s beautiful about women. We are all different and carry our beauties and strengths in various ways.

As a feminist, I have my own beliefs. And while they’re not all listed here, I’m happy to share a few with you. I believe in equality between men and women.I believe that women should be able to do whatever they please without being oppressed just because of their gender. I believe women should be as natural or as made up as they want to be. You want to use African black soap and shea butter on your skin? Good for you, girl! Oh, you want to contour the hell out of your face and curl your hair so big you look like a cotton ball? Good for you too, girl! And you want to be the girl who does both? Ok! I believe in the strength of the woman. And I believe that each woman carries her strength differently. I believe a woman can be sexy if she wants to be without having to feel like she’s an object. And if she doesn’t want to be “sexy”,  leave her alone too! And I know that sexiness is not all about how little we dress either. I believe the woman should be proud of her body, and it’s her say in how she chooses to display it. If her body offends you, you can always look away or it’s simple, do not do what she does. But why do we have to put her down just because she’s doing to do what she pleases? And I get so mad when people blame women for being sexually harassed or raped because according to some ridiculous social law, “they weren’t wearing enough clothes, so they asked for it.” Please stop with that mentality.

There is this big division among women, and that’s partly because we all expect other women to act, dress, and behave the way we want them to. We don’t want them to be too sexy, but they’re boring if they’re not sexy enough. Nothing is ever good enough for us because sometimes we forget that we are all individuals. I think it’s ok to acknowledge our differences, but still come together for the bigger picture. We forget that if we stand together, the world would be a much better place. We glorify the wrong things, and we shut other people down as soon as they don’t meet our “expectations” of who we think they should be.

People have assumed before just because I have very “African” features, I’m dark skinned with natural hair, I will naturally despise Beyonce or any girl who looks like her. They think because I sometimes wear a long skirt and headwras, I will put other women down who wear extensions and tight little shorts. The truth is I just want people to accept other people for who they are. And if you’re not going to accept them, just stay away from them. You don’t have to make it your duty to follow them around and bully them into who you think they should be. I don’t care if a woman is covered with tattoos or have piercings to the point where she’s beyond recognition. I don’t care if a woman only like to wear loose clothing and tennis shoes. I don’t care if all she wants is that 6-inch stiletto. Or small shorts to “twerk” in. I don’t care if a woman wears an afro and only wears skirts past her ankles. All of these women I described are human beings. And they all have a purpose. They can all be feminists if they want to be. To me our outer appearance is just our costume.

Another discussion to have is why the word “feminist” either offends or scares people so much. I think sometimes we read too much into things to the point where we make matters worst. Just relax, people. Live a little!

5 Comments on What does a feminist look like?

  1. Sabirah
    August 27, 2014 at 2:23 pm (2 years ago)

    I love this post Paola!
    You’ve said it all!
    “Our outer appearance is just a costume”
    We women are multi faceted and we should celebrate that

  2. Muriel
    August 27, 2014 at 1:05 pm (2 years ago)

    (i just typed 2 whole paragraphs nd accidently clicked on something else before i could post lol)
    it was something like…
    Hi Paola, i’m Muriel, I am too excited about this post? i read it then i went on to watch the performance for the first time. it was really great and it made me happy. I love anything that gives me good vibe and if Beyonce’s song does than i love it too. Not long ago I really started accepting the fact that there is way too many things in this world to just be confined to one or two little rules that were made up by other people we don’t even know, and just decided that that’s how we have to live our lives. i’d say me as an idividual, a citizen of planet earth who grew up in Port au Prince is a femenist. I beleive in the first name we were given which is Human, and if human isn’t the first name than whatever else it is. I beleive that female and male are the same, Human, therefore are equals. I refuse to limit myself to one country, one culture, one fashion style, one type of food, one type of education, one law and the list goes on because there are too many, and the diversity of things is what makes the whole of what i am part of, and what is part of me.
    to me, the word feminist refers to females, and i think that’s what causes the confusion and therefore doesn’t match its definition if male can also be feminist. But i will say that it had to be Feminist because the world we lived in does not beleive that female are equal to male. Female are always limited and that’s what created a movement to make them equal. if you are a feminist than it means you beleive in the equality of sexes, you do not have a specific way that you look, but you respect yourself and others, you treat people like you wish to be treated, you encourage people to always go after their dream and you do the same, you are open to differences, you welcome and love them, you don’t question them as you are different to something or someone different to you, you do what you gotta do, you wear what you like, and you present yourself to the world as something that is part of it and not something exclusive and you know for a fact that we are all connected and that makes us ONE.

  3. naija
    August 27, 2014 at 11:46 am (2 years ago)

    Hmmm. The word “feminist” has become increasingly more loosely defined, or another way of re-reading it’s definition is that feminism in this country has both evolved and devolved alongside the changes in our society and culture. Beyonce is a performer who has reached international success through a well-crafted long career, good, singing ability, relentless promotion and a universal sex appeal. She’s fun to watch and looks good doing her thing. I will say this, though, most feminists (in whatever form they take) don’t have to stand on a stage and declare it in such blatant and literal terms. She is an entertainer and that’s how she will be remembered. One of the bigger issues here is the constant criticism of this woman motivated out of jealousy that make ANY legitimate criticisms of her as a public icon deemed as “hate”. Is she a feminist? Not in the way I define feminism which may be a bit more narrow than others.

    • findingpaola
      August 27, 2014 at 11:51 am (2 years ago)

      How do you define a feminist?

      • naija
        August 27, 2014 at 10:49 pm (2 years ago)

        Anyone who embraces in action and thought the equality of both men in women in all facets of life and does not use stereotypes or perceptions imposed on their sex by societal norms to further their success, point of view or agenda. Feminism is not exclusively embodied by women–it is a perspective. Also, women who dress “sexy” are not precluded from declaring themselves as feminist. As Ms. Adichie said her her lovely talk with Zadie Smith earlier this year, “Shouldn’t you have the choice to shake your booty”. I say yes, shake that thang. The question for me remains, what are the motivations for shaking it? Because you feel like it or because you know others will be feeling you if you do? Perhaps this is policing feminism..perhaps. Just my thought though.


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