Why Feminism Is Sexy--and Should Be

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Feminism is sexy. It engages in the world. It sees the beauty in all sorts of body types and faces. It encourages mutual, equal love, consensual sexual expressions of every kind, and every orientation. It promotes safe sex and reproductive options. It fights sexual violence. It works toward more options for women to pursue their passions and have the full lives that allow them to be better partners, mothers, and lovers. (Hint: This involves partners who take on their half, and companies that allow them reasonably flexible work schedules.) If this isn’t sexy, we don’t know what is. 

When we called our website The Sexy Feminist, and our book Sexy Feminism, we got an earful about why many think it isn’t sexy, or shouldn’t be sexy. There are the traditional misogynists who choose to believe feminists are strident and “fat” and “ugly” and “man-hating.” And there are also many fellow feminists who are upset by the implication that feminism must make itself “sexy” in order to be palatable — that is, they feel the last thing feminism needs is to worry about attracting heterosexual men. That’s the kind of edict that feminism fights, they argue. 

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Image: © Courtesy of Authors

To that we say: absolutely. We fight that, too. It strikes us as telling that people assume that the word “sexy” automatically means “sexy to heterosexual males.” To us, sexy means fun, appealing, vibrant, and cool. Sexy, in the case of feminism, means sexy to all of us — women and men of all orientations. Sexy in the most freeing, life-fulfilling, orgasmic way. Sexy to men, sure, because it’s a better world when men embrace feminism. But most importantly, sexy to women. 

Does this somehow mean you get to do anything you want and call it feminist? Well, no. Every choice a woman makes isn’t automatically feminist because she chose it. In our book, we explore everyday lifestyle issues women face through a feminist lens: grooming, makeup shopping, cosmetic surgery, dieting, dating, working, falling in love. We found that these issues set feminist blogs afire because they’re surprisingly fraught. Wearing makeup goes against no major feminist principles, but the cosmetics industry objectifies the heck out of women to get us to buy their stuff. Getting a bikini wax is hardly a feminist act, but it’s not hurting anyone but yourself — so if it simplifies your life or enhances your sensation during sex, and you value those priorities enough to deal with the pain, so be it. (We just don’t get vajazzling; however, if you really want that, too, no harm done.) 

But if you get breast implants, you’re heading into trickier territory: The visibility of implants to the rest of the world makes them a statement that contributes to pressure on other women. Such procedures are also much riskier to your health (and are rarely presented in all their gory terrifying-ness to potential patients). Pole- dancing for fun? Sure, knock yourself out, but realize that many of these “fitness” trends glamorize what is not necessarily fun for many of the women exploited by strip clubs. And know that getting slobbery attention from guys isn’t “empowering” in a feminist sense. It’s just the thrill any of us get from realizing our own sex appeal, which is very different. 

Manifesta co-author Jennifer Baumgardner told us, “Feminists are often the sexiest people in the room.” Naturally, we couldn’t agree more. Slate blogger Amanda Marcotte summed our feelings up thusly in a recent post: “Humor, fun, and yes, sexiness are ways to make yourself feel valued and happy in a sexist society that frequently tells women they deserve neither. No wonder they have the power to piss so many people off.” 

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