We all know the girl who is definitely a feminist - she hasn't shaved her armpits in months, she gets an extra hour of sleep in the morning because she doesn't fuss about her makeup, and she can always be seen flipping patriarchy the bird. I want to be her so badly, and I think I can be about 50% of the time. However, the other 50% of the time, I'm wearing low cut tank tops with lace lingerie and hoping my own Zac Efron will sweep me off my feet and carry me off to his castle to have his way with me.
My personal struggle begins every time my alarm goes off in the morning. Do I hit snooze and go to my classes as I really am, or do I spend an hour looking in the mirror to get my hair and makeup just right? I should be confident either way, but there's a cute guy who sits next to me in Shakespeare. Most days, the snooze button loses the battle.
Regardless of the fact that I know beauty ideals and standards are oppressive and superficial, that doesn't make me feel any less ugly. It is so damaging to hear, "You look sick," or "You look tired today," or "I see you couldn't get out of bed this morning," every single time I go without a lick of makeup and my hair in a messy bun. My own mother has said such things to me. It can be just as depressing to realize how beautiful I feel once I put on a nice dress, perfect my winged eyeliner, and style my hair just so. Gender stereotypes aren't the only burden, the added weight of understanding them is heavier to carry. If you reject these standards of beauty, society labels you as "less" than the woman who hasn't rejected them. But that woman has "failed" as a feminist. You can't win.
I ask myself the same question every time I slather my face with hundreds of dollars of makeup: am I doing this because I like it? Or am I doing this because society has taught me that I should? Every time I try on a dress that my mother would be embarrassed to let me wear, or bleach my hair an even brighter shade of blonde, or purchase a new, trendy, overpriced lipstick, I wonder who am I making happy? Myself, or the men around me? Do I dress and act this way because I like it, regardless of what others think, or do I dress and act this way because I know it will garner more male attention?
In a perfect world, gender stereotypes wouldn't exist (that means for men and for women). This is impossible, or at least it is at this point in our world. A more realistic approach would be to get to a point where I gain the same respect as a sexual being as I do as an intelligent woman. Perhaps I'm becoming a better feminist by embracing the "dark side." Someday, the morning will come when I don't feel like a bad feminist for putting lipstick on because there isn't any type of woman who isn't respected, whether she be promiscuous or bookish or anywhere in-between.