When I was in film school, I sat through a lot of student work by self-proclaimed feminists where they burned doll heads as an artistic representation of their desire to unshackle themselves from society's oppressive beauty ideals. I was totally down with what they were expressing. But when a fellow film major, a guy, asked me to shoot his student film about a story of a young man's unrequited love for a beautiful woman, I was scorned by this group of feminist artists. They claimed I was perpetuating the portrayal of women in movies I should be fighting against.
I felt terrible until I realized: I was the only woman who had been asked by a man to collaborate with him as his cinematographer, a role tasked establishing the visual language of a film and, important in this particular case, how we are viewing its characters.
I'm sorry, but how does that not make me a f*cking feminist?
Since then, I have been acutely aware of how much women are being forced into these narrow qualifiers, including the identity of a "feminist." But being a feminist doesn't mean setting fire to Barbies or belittling the advancement of a female filmmaker because of the movie's subject matter. I believe it means supporting women in the efforts towards gaining equal footing in the world. It means you deserve to take up as much as space in the world as anyone else, and to pull others up to join you.
And you can do all of this while wearing a tiara.
I have no problem with my daughter's proclivity towards being super girly. Though the author of Cinderella Ate My Daughter may disagree with my parenting style, which embraces princesses like this and this, I think I'm doing a damn fine job as a feminist mom. Here are some reasons why:
Because Feminism Is Inclusive
I am a feminist who is teaching my daughter that everyone is born entitled to equality and fair treatment, while we all look and dress different. Feminism, for me, doesn't require a dress code.
Because Feminism Means Not Bashing Women
Or girls. Even the ones who choose frilly clothes and intricately braided hairstyles.
Because Feminism And Femininity Are Not Mutually Exclusive
Being a feminist means shattering the notion women have to look a certain way. We can be as girly, butch, flamboyant, drab, or mixed up as we wanna be.
Because You Can’t Prescribe Your Brand Of Feminism To Anyone Else
Even when I cringed hearing my toddler daughter say she wanted to be a princess when she grew up, after admitting she knew no real-life princesses, I never took that dream away from her. It was simply that — a fantasy, one that she outgrew by the time she was 7 years old, when she set her career sights on becoming a pop star.
Because I'm Not Telling Her What She Can’t Be
I can’t be a good feminist while discouraging my child from expressing herself. If she needs that cherry Chapstick and my silk scarf to feel like her true self, I tell her to go for it.
Because Playing With Dolls Is Not An Unfortunate Byproduct Of Oppressive Patriarchy
I have never known my daughter to take cues from Barbies on how to look. The much bigger influences in her life are me, her grandmother, her teachers, and (somewhat unfortunately) some TV characters. But dolls? They are gateways to imagination. She knows full well that she is not a doll. She creates rich, fantastical lives for her dolls, and in no way confuses their pretend world with her real one.
Because Make-Up Can Make You Feel Powerful
She asks me why I always put on lipstick before I go out. "I like how it feels, and how it looks on me," I answer. It's not about how others see me; it's how I see myself and a strong red mouth dials up my kick-ass factor. I'm fine with my daughter learning that.
Because Drawing Strength From Beauty Doesn’t Mean You Can’t Do Math
My daughter can be girly and smart and shy and a motormouth and love ballet as much as she does dueling with pretend light sabers. We are never just one thing.
Because It Takes Confidence To Dress Up
She sports ponytails, a cat-ear headband and a bunch of hair clips, and that’s just for a trip to the supermarket. She doesn’t care what people think about how she looks, and I love that about her.
Because I Suck At Doing Hair So She Learned To Do It Herself
Gaining independence is part of growing, and a big part of early feminist movements.
Because I Tell Her She Sparkles, No Matter What
Whether she’s flitting around in elbow-length gloves and a tutu, or practicing knuckle push-ups in her karate gi, she shines.
Because I Love Pink Too
I think it’s wonderful to have more gender-neutral clothing choices for kids. We didn’t find out the sex of either of our children before their births, so my daughter and son both wore “neutral”colors (yellow and green) for the first three months, until people started loading us up with gendered clothing. I hate pre-conceived notions of what kids should wear, but I love pink. My daughter looks good in it. I love that some stores are stocking up on gender-neutral products, in addition to the pinks and blues.
Because Her Girliness Is Not For You To Judge
If we want to walk the walk of feminism, it means looking past the personas our girly girls try on when they raid their mothers’ closets or salivate over Katy Perry costumes. If my daughter’s only goal was to look good because she thought that would get her a job, or a partner, or a new best friend, I would not have done a good job as a feminist mom. But she goes full-on girl because she feels safe in this world to try on that identity. She's 8 years old. She's got the rest of her life to figure out what she wants to wear.