The physical components of feminism – like not shaving or walking around in public completely topless – do little to advance what the movement is all about.
I have witnessed women on Halloween who aren’t wearing a costume as revealing as others, refer to other women as “sluts” and “whores” just because they are showing more skin. This also happens on campus, when one women’s skirt is deemed too short by another, or her level of cleavage is just “unacceptable,” according to someone else’s personal preferences. I can only imagine what other girls will say to those who choose to walk around completely topless in public, which is legal in Boulder and currently being considered by the City Council of Fort Collins. If being able to walk around without a shirt on is meant to advance the feminist movement, I don’t think it’s going to work that way. I think it will work to actually deconstruct the movement, because females have the tendency to target other females when they are more open about certain issues, like showing a lot of skin.
If women are even more pitted against each other and get caught up in petty degradation of other women, then feminism becomes insignificant. Even if we achieved total equality with men, what does that matter if we are at war with our own gender? If you are truly all for feminism, which includes empowerment, then slut shaming and other negative efforts against other women shouldn’t be part of the routine. Unfortunately, I think walking around topless will only make those who choose to do so more of a target of objectivity from the opposite sex, because breasts will always have a sexual connotation, and will add to the aggressive nature of women judging other women.
As far as refusing to shave in favor of the feminist movement goes, again I ask, how does that help? I understand that it is a statement of being natural and comfortable with the way you are made, but a lot of women feel incredibly empowered and confident – especially in their femininity – when they shave and rock an awesome outfit that shows off their leg game. Women should be free to either shave or not shave based on their own personal preference, not arbitrary stigmas surrounding the issue of body hair or the idea that you’re not a “real” feminist if you shave.
While I agree that shaving has been normalized by society as a mark of differentiation between men and women, I don’t perceive it as a negative factor contributing to gender inequality. Some women shave for aesthetic reasons, some because it’s simply more comfortable, and the same goes for women who choose not to shave at all – less those who don’t shave because they think it will aid the feminist movement and they feel the need to physically prove they are a feminist. Feminism ideals are internal – ingrained in the way a person thinks and acts. They are not defined by physical characteristics.
The choice to shave or go topless are up to an individual’s discretion, but I think there are more significant and productive ways to progress the feminist movement – ways that won’t cue negative social responses.
Although a core principle of feminism is attaining equality to men, equality in a physical sense is both unrealistic and unproductive to the advancement of progress when it comes to more significant, less tangible equalities, such as the pay gap and respect in the workplace, stigmas surrounding rape culture and victim blaming and stereotypes of gender roles in society, among others. Those who call themselves feminists need to stand together and find ways to lessen and eventually eradicate these issues through educational activism, events, videos with an important, hard-hitting message made to go viral, photo campaigns that highlight the efforts of men and women contributing admirably to the movement … the list goes on. Making a large-scale impact is key.
Feminism is more than the individual. Progress lies in what we do for the greater good, not the small-scale individual choices to go topless or stop shaving. If I saw a group of women walking around Fort Collins completely topless, my first thought would not be “look at this group of strong, influential feminists making a huge impact on gender inequality.” As a woman and a feminist, I say we can do better than that.
Collegian Opinion Editor Haleigh McGill can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on Twitter @HaleighMcGill.