Philobiblon: Being a 'Public Feminist' can only be a good thing

Monday, February 27, 2006

Being a 'Public Feminist' can only be a good thing

The story goes that tight-fitting T-shirts with the slogan "This is what a feminist looks like" are highly popular on US campuses. Great, I say.

Unfortunately some are complaining:

"I think these T-shirts feed into anti-feminist rhetoric that says that women who stand up for their rights are somehow unattractive, not sexy, humorless and not getting any," [Pamela] Paul told Women's eNews. "It may look like a proactive gesture, but what else should a feminist look like? Why shouldn't a strong woman look good? It's giving legitimacy to the criticism that is so ludicrous that it doesn't merit acknowledgement. I think it's kind of a sad way to represent power."

Pluh-leese! Someone is supporting feminism, publicly saying: "I am a feminist". There couldn't be a better message. And the shape of the T-shirt they put that message on, be it XXXL, or super-tight cropped, does not matter in the slightest, in fact it helps to say "feminists come in different shapes, sizes and lifestyles", as, of course, they do. And they should support each other in making whatever choices (wardrobe or more serious) they make.


Anonymous Jo said...

Each of the five young women interviewed for this article said that on their campuses the term feminist was often taken as a byword for either being lesbian, or not shaving underarm or leg hair, or hating men or preferring combat boots to all other forms of footwear.

And that's why these t-shirts rock.

1) To reclaim the f-word.
2) To let everyone know that if anyone wants to have a go at a woman who does any/all of the above, that they should re-visit their anti-feminist/anti-women prejudices as there ain't nothing wrong with any of it!

2/27/2006 06:11:00 pm  
Anonymous Antonia said...

You cna buy UK "this is what a feminist looks like" t-shirts AND support a great cause at the same time here.

2/27/2006 06:12:00 pm  
Blogger Cho said...

"not shaving underarm or leg hair, or hating men or preferring combat boots to all other forms of footwear."

But what about if I'm happy with my hairy armpits and legs, and don't give a shit about stilettos?

Making feminism public is definitely a good thing, but as Mary Debree said, its pretty much forcing feminists to comply with the dominant standard of heterosexual attractiveness. Basically, the message is: its okay if your a feminist, as long as you shave them legs, armpits look good in that t-shirt (i.e. don't be fat) and still adore men unconditinally, i.e. pander.

"be it XXXL"

Think men will listen to a woman that big?

Its bad.

2/27/2006 10:37:00 pm  
Blogger Cho said...

By the way, how do you use itallics?

2/27/2006 10:38:00 pm  
Blogger Molly said...


The funny part about this is:

Apparently, feminists only come in "small," "medium" and "large," at least on antonia's link. If you're larger than a standard "large" -- and 50% of American women are -- you apparently do NOT look like what a feminist looks like, or at least you're not allowed to advertise.

2/27/2006 11:51:00 pm  
Blogger Natalie Bennett said...

To be fair to the Fawcett society, that is a UK site, no doubt intended primarily for a UK audience. A chest size of 44 inches translates to about a UK size 18 (roughly a US 20, I believe), so it would include most - maybe 95 per cent? - of UK women.

I agree that it should go larger, but there may be commercial limitations in that - and the point is of the T-shirts is no doubt to raise money for the cause.

And my point is Cho that you don't have to shave your armpits or wear stilettos to wear the T-shirts. But someone who does should certainly NOT be criticised for wearing them, indeed should be encouraged, like everyone else, to do so.

2/28/2006 12:30:00 am  
Blogger clanger said...

The view from the other side of the gender wall.

Is this a personal thing, an age thing, or a gender thing? I've never felt the urge to send messages to strangers on T-shirts, but then Clanger has always been shy, and being over 30, is now technically an old fart.

A woman's armpits are very much her own, and not the sort of thing I'd mess with, critique, or offer unsolicited advice on.

Surely freedom is the freedom to wear what you want, and not feel pressured to dress a certain way. Experimenting with such things can be fun, and toleration of others on this score ought surely to be the way to go.

Jean-Paul Gaultier once remarked that UK street fashion was notoriously tolerant. Basically, you can wear what you want over here, which is nice. Perhaps in the US they have post-911 legislation on dress codes.

On the issue of clinical obesity (not *just* Americans): whatever the trendy stuff about the politics of being 'large' and BBW cults, your body is a biological machine. It doesn't work so well if you put excessive strain on it. Obesity, as well as smoking, other drugs, and unsafe sex, may be political issues for society, but for individuals they should always be a health issue above all else. No sane person dies prematurely as a fashion statement, or to prove a point. If your body mass index is in the red zone, go see your GP. Not to conform to a societal norm, but for the benefit of your own health and longevity. As the advert says, 'because you're worth it'.

NHS Online Body Mass Index Calculator.

2/28/2006 11:03:00 am  

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