The Expectations of Perfectionism in Feminism

There is a fair amount of emphasis placed on achieving individual perfection in this life we have together. The pressure comes in lots of fun and exciting forms- from the Cat-calling tradie on the street to the crushing and paralysing effects of silent and ubiquitous judgement of an intangible patriarchal reign over our society. "What format of built up scrutiny will be bestowed upon me today??" I yell excitedly into the mirror of a morning before skipping triumphantly out the door. 

Usually it just looks like this

Such a joy.

You can’t be everything that another person has decided is good and right in the world, because it is their vision of their ultimate self multiplying and dividing like a virus. Albeit sometimes a rather beautiful, sparkly and warm virus, it is still the idealised vision of another.

That is why with Feminism, there is no one correct way of being a feminist.

In any subculture or community, there are going to be a set of ideals to follow and value, its members are not all going to reflect or place emphasis on particular facets. This is because, and repeat after Brian:


But there will always be an invisible pressure whether it comes from a voice inside our heads, or whether it comes from other people’s expectations and perceptions, that we action our beliefs and the rights that we defend and have them show on our bodies. When expectations are not met, usually a certain degree of disappointment will throw a tiny spear at you.

Feminism is a difficult (I would say impossible) movement to represent purely and wholly in one individual. That is of course because Feminism is about a human’s right to choose what type of individual they wish and come to be in the world. It is our wish to give those around us the opportunity to play sport, get an education, wear makeup, cut their hair off, scale a corporate ladder, be tough or be sensitive; without scrutiny, without judgement anchored in gendered expectations.

How can one represent a perfect feminist when Feminism literally encapsulates any possibility of positive human experience surrounding choice and gender?

The superficial expectations of a Female Feminist (because I can only speak from my experience) are:
To reject makeup
To wear comfortable and functional clothing
To be equally dominant in romantic relationships with men
To reject hair removal
To reject trashy reality TV and magazines
To abandon insecurities and fixations on one’s appearance
To know all the answers to curious questions about feminist perspectives on contemporary political debates
To be completely fine with the blood coming out of your vagina

Here is a list of just a few of the things that I do that could be labeled as ‘unfeminist’:
I wear makeup
I like wearing high heels sometimes even though they get really hurty
I shave my legs
And armpits
Sometimes I wear uncomfortable and impractical clothing because it’s beautiful and wearing beautiful clothing makes me happy
I also developed an unhealthy obsession with ‘Blurred Lines’. Obviously not the lyrics. BAD. But the beat and the bass. DELISCH.

I can’t be everything feminist. I also can’t agree with everything feminist academics have ever said. It’s alright. People disagree.

The other thing is that decisions are not made in a vacuum. Just because some idea exists in society that I would disagree with on a feminist basis, does not mean that I can trot over and disregard or rebel against said concept without expecting some kind of negative consequence. We are fighting to get rid of the negative backlash or judgement with such things but these things take time.

You might say yes but Feminist Gina must stand to normalise things that are stigmatised that should not be by being the fearless one and demonstrating might in spite of other people’s opinions. That may be so, but it can be exhausting swimming against a current all your life. Pick your battles, soldiers. Many of the things Feminists are up against are so heavily ingrained in society that a lot of people including women, don't realise they are feeding into them. I try super hard to be at least a good feminist or a mindful feminist, but I still find myself making judgements that reflect societal values that can be harmful to both women and men.

There is nothing wrong with caring about your appearance or wearing pretty and impractical clothes if that is what you enjoy doing. It’s about helping each other. Like “I’ll defend your decision to have pink hairy armpits if you defend my decision to become an astrophysicist”. Our life decisions may never have any cross over but we are supporting the causes of others because allowing other people to be happy and fulfilled is nice and it is just.

Sometimes this quest we are on as feminist movers, thinkers and shakers, can lead us into valuing feminine associated qualities less, because we come to be so focused on providing opportunities for women to participate in male dominated environments. We can find ourselves placing importance on things that are harder to obtain because that is part of human nature in our determined and ambitious states. And that can be problematic too.

Women join feminism because they are tired of living up to false and unrealistic expectations of femininity. Transferring idealised notions of what a human should be over to such an otherwise very open and accepting movement is counterproductive. The best thing you can ever be is yourself.

-Gina Robilliard


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