Wednesday, June 4, 2014

Indie Feminism

Last Sunday, an amazing hashtag sprung up on Twitter, in the wake of the horrific killings in Santa Barbara (allegedly) committed by loud and proud misogynist Elliot Rogers. One brave woman (who's now predictably had to go into hiding) started an online conversation talking about how widespread male violence and harassment of women really is, using the hastag #YesAllWomen. Stories poured in, much faster than anyone could possibly read them all. @RahRah wrote a deeply moving piece that I think captures the sheer overwhelming volume of this outpouring, and naturally, I got good and involved.

At first it was thrilling to be a part of a conversation so huge, to know that there were so many other women out there with experiences just like mine. But then the trolls arrived, and it quickly turned from exciting to frustrating, to stressful, to distressing. By Friday I was just DONE. I couldn't handle one more man telling me how I should do feminism better, one more asshole calling Mr.Reluctant Femme names for defending feminism, one more cowardly deadshit telling my friends who've been assaulted that they deserved it. I usually put a great deal of effort into remaining reasonable when I talk about feminism. I don't actually think saying things like "Kill All Men" is all that helpful. But I was burned out, angry, hurt, and just DONE. I was really starting to feel like killing all men. So I made this, because it made me laugh and I needed a laugh.

In case you can't read it, the little label says "Male Tears"

And it glows in the dark!
I shared it to Tumblr, because I thought some of my Tumblr people could probably use a laugh too. Some people did laugh, and that was neat. Some people, however, were not laughing.

Incidentally, I'm the one remarking about feminism and
humourlessness. The rest is strangers on the internet.

I'm not going to bother addressing the later responses that accused me of being a psychopath, a sociopath, a "radfem" and other such charming terms of endearment. Nor am I going to go near the horribly patronising assumption that women in third world countries need us western white women to run over there are save them from their evil oppressors. There was however one response in the middle of all this nonsense that I did want to address, because I think it raises a pretty fair point.

A couple of people criticised this pendant by asking rather pointedly "What are you doing to actually help women?" As a feminist who talks a lot on the internet about feminism, the question of words versus actions is one I think about a lot. It's very important to me to make an effort to keep my actions in line with my words. In terms of this necklace and what it does to help women, the answer is obviously nothing. It wasn't meant to. It was a joke, a release valve for steam that had been building all week, and it's not intended to help anyone but me, and maybe others who find it amusing.

But in terms of what I do every day to help other women, I think it is a fair question to raise, and one that deserves an answer. I talk big about feminism, but what do I do about it?

I don't generally go to rallies, I don't have significant amounts of money to donate to anything, and I don't have the time or energy in between earning enough money to survive to volunteer anywhere. I'd like to, one day, but right now I just don't have it in me. I put a lot of energy into supporting my female friends, which is part of feminism, I guess. But I don't do that in the name of feminism, I do it because they're amazing people and seeing them happy and succeeding makes me happy. There is one thing I put time into though, that I think really demonstrates my interest in supporting women in general - this blog.

Subversive Femme's kickass Mardi Gras 2014 signage
No, I don't mean Brainy Femme and my endless meandering ruminations on the nature of gender relations and variance and presentations. My intellectual musings aren't useless, but they're also not particularly practical in terms of addressing the disadvantages women face every day. I mean this blog, Reluctant Femme. "What are you talking about, Cassie?" you might be asking yourself right now. "You used to write about feminism here, but now it's all pictures of pretty things. What does nail polish and eyeshadow swatches have to do with feminism?"

When I first started this blog, I wasn't 100 per cent where I wanted to go with it. I knew I had things that I wanted, nay, needed to say, and I knew I had pretty things I wanted to enjoy and share. For the first couple of months, I didn't really know how to bring these things together. If you go back and look at those early entries (please be kind, if you do) you can see that I'm very clearly flailing about, looking for something to really drive me. But then, through a group of unashamedly enabling ladies (you know who you are), I discovered Australian indie nail polish.

There's so much's's too beautiful!
I bought a couple, then a couple more, and now I have....well, I don't actually know. I haven't counted them for a while, but there's at least a couple of hundred. Through various communities, and just through buying from them, I also got to know a lot of the people behind the brands, and the more I got to know them, the more dedicated I became to helping their little businesses succeed.

There was, however, a little bit of cold hard reality between me and my ambition to make all the indie creators rich. While I'm happy to spend all the spare cash I have on the beautiful things these talented women come up with, my spare cash stash is too small to really help anyone in a significant way. But it occurred to me, what if I could convince OTHER people to spend their spare cash on these goodies as well? What if I could help pool together MANY small amounts of spare cash? I'm good at writing words, and taking pictures - surely I could convince some people to throw their money at indie creators. Surely if i could convince enough people, THAT would make a noticeable difference! Suddenly, I had no interest in reviewing mainstream brands anymore, and suddenly my little blog had a purpose.

Image by Raw Poetry on Deviantart
And this is where it all comes back around to feminism. I have something to confess, and you might want to sit down for this one - even my posts that are 100 per cent pictures of pretty things have a feminist agenda. It's true. I don't mention it in every single post, but feminism is the driving force behind this whole blog, and all the hours I put into it.

Part of what I want to do with Reluctant Femme is entirely intellectual - I want to encourage everyone to embrace femme fashion and cosmetics, and be a bit more comfortable with all that "girly" stuff. But the main reason I continue to write this blog is to convince you to spend money on products made by women, and support their businesses. (Well, most of the time - sometimes I'll tell you not to spend money on THAT particular product, but the general point stands). I don't point it out specifically very often, but almost all the creators I feature here, and the main beneficiaries of any sales I happen to generate, are women. I post here in order to convince you to support these determined, talented women, who are trying to carve out a corner of the marketplace for themselves. That's what drives me to spend hours looking at endless photos of my own nails, and cover my arms with eyeshadow, and actively seek out new creators and new products. I want to convince you to take money you might have given to Revlon, and give it to a woman trying to make ends meet instead.

This is my way of contributing to what other feminists call "sisterhood", my way of showing solidarity with other women. Even if I don't agree with them on all fronts - hell, some of them I don't agree with on many fronts at all - I still want to support them, because I think they deserve it. When it's so easy for women to get locked out of the workforce after having children, when women who are in the workforce tend to get paid less than their male co-workers, I think it's vital to support women with the courage and determination to step outside these boundaries and create their own sources of income and creative expression. 

Enamel badge "issued by Cath Tate Direct in conjunction with the trade union movement"
There are a few male creators in the world of indie cosmetics - for example, I recently learned the owner of blog darling Fyrinnae is in fact a man. I just received my first package of goodies from them the other day, and since they're AMAZING I was planning on doing a little post. But once I realised it was a male owned brand, I kind of lost interest in blogging about it. I didn't set out to create a woman only blog - but I find myself simply less interested in covering products created by men. I'm not saying I'll NEVER cover ANY brands owned by men here EVER - but they're undeniably further down my list of priorities. This isn't because I think products created by women inherently better, or that men can't make good cosmetics, or that men aren't welcome in the world of indie cosmetics - I'm just not as personally invested in helping them succeed. I have limited blogging resources - there are only so many hours in the day, and I want to get the most utility from every post I write. I want every post to make an impact on the people who need a hand most - which is incidentally why I also tend to cover new and lesser known indie brands. Another blog post on how awesome Fyrinnae products are won't make that much difference to their overall revenue - but the first coverage ever for a new creator might make the world of difference. If people ask whether Fyrinnae is any good or not, I'll be sure to tell them how impressed I was. I'm not interested in actively holding back male run businesses - but I don't feel like this blog is the place to cover them on a regular basis. Even though I didn't consciously plan it that way, this blog has become primarily a space to promote women's creations, and try and support women's small businesses.

Maybe that's not enough practical feminism enough for you - I know to some people it doesn't look like much, and compared to what some people contribute to "the cause", it isn't much. On the other hand, maybe you were just here for the pretties, didn't realise I had An Agenda, and now you feel horribly tricked by my revelation that it was a feminist trap all along! Regardless of how you judge my contribution, what I do here means a lot to me, and I know it does make a difference, if only to a few people. I know there are people who've bought from the creators I feature here because I featured them. I know there are at least a few dollars in the pockets of creators that I put there, even though they're not my dollars. And that feels really fucking good.

I don't know about you, but I think "feel good", I think Calvin and Hobbes.

I guess the TL:DR version of all this is that while I do make stupid, childish jokes sometimes about misandry and the suffering of men being delicious, I also do practical and helpful things to contribute to the lives of women around me - even when it looks like I'm just drooling over polish. But I couldn't be able to contribute anything of value if you all weren't willing to listen to me - so thank you, my loyal and lovely readers. Thank you for looking, and listening, and buying when you can. Thank you, both from me and the creators I feature, for running with my crazy idea of a feminist beauty blog, and making it so much more of a success than I ever anticipated.

EDIT: It's been pointed out I don't mention trans or gender variant people anywhere in this post - this is largely because to my mind, if you're a trans woman, then you're a woman, and therefore included everywhere I speak about women. BUT just to clarify, if you're non binary, or androgynous or not subject to cis male privilege for whatever reason, then I include you under the banner of people at a disadvantage in commercial marketplaces, and I will prioritise boosting your business over that of cisgender men. Hopefully that makes my position clearer.


  1. I recently decided I am done with Revlon (and the like), and this post outlines one of the reasons why. Thanks Cassie, for expressing all the goodness in what our little community is all about!

    1. The Australian indie community in particular is especially lovely. I'm not sure I would have fallen in so deep if I was in the States.

  2. " the horribly patronising assumption that women in third world countries need us western white women to run over there are save them from their evil oppressors" best thing I've read all week and so so true. Love, love everything you stand for Cassie!

    1. Yes! Not to mention "3rd world countries" isn't the preferred term anymore, and anyone that had any interest in the women of developing countries would know that.

  3. Read every word. United we stand! And thank you for running your blog :)

  4. Sometimes I think writing and making people aware of women's issues is definitely taking action. Not everyone can donate time and money and resources. But people can share their intellect and their and ignite change with that. So I'm okay with people not always being able to physically commit to helping out a cause.

    Also...some quick hunting on the net reveals RawPoetry on deviant art to be the owner of that image :)


  5. This post is literally the best thing I have read all week. Thank you for creating and running such a wonderful, lovely, welcoming blog. :)


  6. I just wanted to add my voice in support of this piece. You have managed to articulate the very same reasons why I feel the need to focus primarily on small indie businesses run, in the main part, by women.
    And for those crying ~misandry~ all I can do is hope my eyes don't fall out the back of my head from rolling too far.
    Anyway, you rock and so does your blog <3

  7. Excellent post! Though if anything it proves the male tears pendant is too small, it should be at the very least, Olympic swimming pool sized.


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