When I went to the March for Women’s Lives on the Mall in Washington, DC, in 2004 (a march for reproductive and women’s rights), over a million marchers went as well. I’m pretty sure about a quarter of them wore the above t-shirt. I did too (although now it has found it’s place pinned to the rear seat in my car, with the hot pink words blazing off the black background). In our discussion of what it meant to be a feminist, a lot of questions were raised about a feminist’s appearance, likes, and dislikes.
Can you be a feminist and still want to look like Betty Page or a Playboy model? Should you be wearing mascara and curling your eyelashes? Wearing only jeans and baggy t-shirts? Cropping your hair short, or wearing it long and uncut? Be a stay-at-home/soccer mom? Watching “chick flicks”? Dying your hair blonde? Changing your name to your husband’s name once you’re married? Does it even matter?
For feminists, it’s the ideals that make you a feminist or not. But some do not see it that way. Like many of us, I had friends in high school who would not say they were feminists because they assumed being a feminist meant looking masculine (or at least not feminine). I once had a co-worker tell me I was “brave” for displaying my feminist shirt in my car, and that she would never have done that. Why? For fear of being made fun of? Being called “butch,” perhaps? That’s exactly why the t-shirt is there.
I think the whole point of the “This is What a Feminist Looks Like” t-shirt is not just another way to force feminism down the throats of society, but a way to show that feminists do not have a specific look. In my book, if you want to be treated equally in all forms of society (or for men, if you want women to be treated equally), then you’re a feminist. I think it’s a sad review of our society that there even have to be feminists anymore. But the beat goes on.