I came across this fascinating post, that expresses quite a lot of my own sentiments quite eloquently.
I was particularly impressed by this part;
"Now, don't get me wrong. I am not trying to argue that no women should
ever wear makeup. I realize that a big part of navigating our way
through a patriarchal world involves choosing our battles. It's not the
makeup itself I have a problem with. There's nothing inherently
oppressive about cosmetics. It's the fact that makeup (along with
thinness, hairless bodies, smooth skin, styled hair, fitted clothing,
shorter clothing, low-cut clothing, accessories, purses, uncomfortable
shoes, etc.) are considered a requirement for women. These are all
components of an entrenched system of compulsory femininity for those
members of our society who are born without penises."
As I said in my opening rant, feminist=choice for me, always and forever. If you want to wear makeup, wear makeup. If you don't want to, don't. In my idea of an ideal world, it wouldn't make any difference to the way you are perceived. As this blogger points out, there is nothing inherently oppressive about makeup - it's just powders and liquids and chemicals. They are inert. But I do think it's important to be aware of the context in which we use these things, and the contribution that makes to the experience of women as a whole.
There are certain things I do in terms of personal grooming that are very deliberate choices in order to not only contribute to my own comfort, but the comfort of other women.
I shave my legs sometimes, mostly for work, because your average office is not part of my ideal feminist utopia. People will judge me on whether or not I conform to societal ideas of good grooming, and while I wish this wasn't so, I don't feel like I would be proving anything by being unemployed.
But all winter, I don't touch the damn things. I'm lazy, and I hate doing it, and the fur keeps my legs warm, and I live in pants or long socks all winter anyway. Plus, is it just me or are other people capable of shaving the backs of them without cutting yourself? Because I'm really not. I always end up running out the door with a super classy little trickle of blood slowly trailing into my shoes...okay, maybe that part IS just me. So anwyay, by allowing my leg hair it's freedom, I'm contributing to my own comfort.
But I also feel, in some small way, by exposing my boyfriend and my friend and all the people who see my furry legs to the idea that it's not so horrific for a woman to have hair on her legs that I am making a space for other women to make that choice if they want to. I feel like I'm contributing in my own little way to normalising a range of choices for women, by presenting an alternative.
The same thing applies to my pubic hair - sometimes I get it into my head to go and get it all off, because it feels nice and it's an interesting change. But if anyone was to ever try and tell me I didn't have the choice to grow it back again, they would get a faceful of rage. A lot of the time, I refuse to acknowledge the ridiculous notion that pubic hair is gross and somehow "dirty", and I leave it how it's more comfortable for me - totally untouched. Not only is it obviously less work to maintain, and you don't get any nasty little ingrown hairs (which, unlike natural pubes ARE genuinely gross) but I actually really dig playing with the tufts. There's something deeply comforting about wrapping it around your fingers - something like how I imagine holding your balls is for guys. But I also feel that by exposing the people I sleep with to a natural bush, I am little by little exposing people to the idea that's actually okay, and thereby creating a space where other women have the same choice.
I also don't think the women who DO choose to subscribe to these habits for whatever reasons of their own are directly contributing to the ongoing patriarchal oppression. If they do it because it makes them happy, and comfortable, then whatever, it's none of my fucking business. If they're doing it because they feel like they're not attractive unless they do, I feel sad that they don't like themselves more. But making them feel bad about "giving in to oppression" and shaving their legs isn't going to make them feel any better, to my mind.
At the end of the post I referenced here, there was an anon comment that I thought was quite sad.
"Ugh! I am so sick of these internet articles that discuss feminism but
never give a conclusion! It's like 'Here's our patriarchal problem, but
sorry, we don't have an answer for you. Just keep being miserable and
confused. Cool.' I need answers! Insight! Something!"
As usual,someone more eloquent than me has gone and expressed my answer to this plea for insight for me.
point of feminism isn’t to proclaim how women should be. In fact,
that’s the opposite of feminism. Feminism is about people choosing for
themselves, without societal, familial or any other pressures getting in
This is my conclusion - do what makes you happy. If you want to wear makeup, wear it. If you don't, don't. Shave your legs, shave your pubes, shave your hair. It's your body, and you have every right to wear it however you want.
If we all make an effort to unpack our motivations, and then stand by what truly makes us happy, then we open up choices for everyone. Which sounds pretty feminist to me.