It should go without saying, but specific actions does not a feminist make. A person cannot become a feminist simply by choosing not to shave or choosing not to wear pink; One cannot become a feminist, instead, simply by choosing to do whatever our society has decided is a "feminist action" that fights the patriarchy and sticks it to misogynistic norms. Sure, you can do all of those things and be a feminist, but it's not merely an identity built by amassing isolated Feminist Badges™ (although, those sound fun and we should make them a thing).
The point is, being a feminist is less about how you look, and more about what you believe. If you're down with gender equality and believe that social, political, and economic playing fields should be the same for all genders then you, my friend, are a feminist. And contrary to a still (sadly) popular belief, there isn't a personal preference that could change that. And that includes something I'm a fan of that has often garnered me shade from the are-you-feminist-enough police: wearing high heels.
You can be incredibly girly and still be a feminist, you can shave every hair on your body and still be a feminist, and you most certainly can wear that breathtaking pair of six-inch stilettos and still be a feminist (although you might not be able to walk; you can be a sitting feminist). The idea that a woman is a "bad feminist" because of her likes and/or dislikes is just another form of oppression; a subtle attempt to control women by shaming them into acting a certain way or liking a specific thing. Women shouldn't be beholden to other people's narrow-minded views of feminism, and as feminism continues to become more of a popular belief and less of a taboo concept, women (and men) are transforming society's view of the stereotypical feminist to include people with varying preferences. We're moving towards a concept of feminism that allows people to truly be who they are (which feels like it should be a given, but totally is not yet).
Here are 7 reasons why wearing heels doesn't make you a bad feminist because — and it bears repeating — a specific fashion choice does not a feminist make.
You're Exercising Your Right To Choose
The fight for gender equality is also a fight for choices. Women want and deserve to be able to have as many choices as men do, whether it's choosing to stay at home or choosing to work, choosing to have children or choosing not to, choosing to shave it all or choosing not to shave at all. If you're rockin' those high heels like you're walking down a catwalk at Fashion Week, you're exercising your right to choose to wear whatever it is you like. The point of feminism isn't to strong-arm women into making the life decisions that other women make, but to give women just as many opportunities as men have, so that they can choose for themselves.
Stereotypes Are For The Birds
Let's face facts: Looking at someone and making sweeping generalizations about their beliefs (or anything else, for that matter) is old news. A woman choosing to wear high heels doesn't mean anything other than, on that particular day, she felt like wearing high heels. It shouldn't be an indicator of her intelligence, her political affiliations, or anything in between. It's time to leave outdated stereotypes behind us, guys. It's 2016, after all. I know Trump is happening, but we're still better than this.
Being Fashionable Isn't Fascist
It's no secret that the fashion industry can be extremely damaging to women. Whether it's enforcing unrealistic beauty expectations, or appropriating cultures, or designers knowingly creating "fashion-forward" trends that are unhealthy (i.e., Christian Louboutin recently claimed he didn't care if his high heels caused women pain), the fashion world can be incredibly unkind. It can also give women a place to fight the patriarchy, and there have been numerous women who've changed the fashion industry for the better.
Fashion is a form of self-expression, and choosing to express yourself with a pair of high heels doesn't mean you blindly cater to the misogyny of our culture. Women can turn the fashion industry against itself, and create new opportunities for body positivity.
You're Not A Martyr
You shouldn't feel the need to sacrifice your personal preferences in order to prove a political point. While some women do see high heels as a symbol for a patriarchal society that has systemically oppressed women since always, others do not. It's honestly that simple. And if you do not feel that high heels are a tool The Man uses to keep women down — or if you feel good about re-purposing that tool to make you feel awesome and powerful as you trounce The Man on the daily — then you should feel free to wear them whenever you like. Forcing someone to do (or not do) something just so they can be easily identifiable or move a specific belief or cause forward is not something you ask of people if you want them to be empowered individuals. We're women, not martyrs.
You're Allowed To Feel Sexy
According to science, and a new study out of France, high heels are the sexiest thing a woman can wear. While I have my doubts about this particular scientific breakthrough (I mean, how many dudes do you think were on that study? What is or is not sexy is all relative, after all.) there's no denying that, for many women, high heels can be a source of confidence. Every woman deserves to feel sexy in whatever it is she is wearing, if sexy is what she wants to feel. That's true whether she's wearing flats or flip-flops or six-inch heels.
Heels Aren't Just For Women, After All
Make no mistake: Women aren't the only people who can rock a pair of high heels. People of all shapes and sizes, spanning all conceivable gender identifications, can (and do) enjoy high heels. High heels aren't a "girl thing" — they're a "whoever chooses to wear them" thing.
Sometimes, Heels Are Just Heels
Whether it's a naked selfie or the choice to go back to work after you have a kid, women seem to be perpetually forced to justify their actions (or inactions). Everything a woman does, or doesn't do, tends to be scrutinized by a society that is hell bent on making choices for women, not supporting women in making their own choices. But to the surprise of many I'm sure, sometimes a woman's actions don't mean anything at all. They're not indicative of some greater, hidden, complex meaning that needs open letters and long-form essays to dissect and discuss specific actions ad nauseam until it's found. Sometimes, a shoe is just a shoe.