Are You a Faux-Feminist?

Let’s play a little game.

You might be a faux-feminist if…

  • you don’t tug at your tampon string as foreplay
  • you wrap a towel around yourself in a locker room
  • you don’t see a young female porn star and think “now that is one empowered woman”
  • you think Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie is not empowering but rather just one more self-serving, vacant gestures in a career defined by them.

It’ll make a sense in a few minutes.

****

There’s an argument being made by this newest wave of feminism that as a woman, anything you do to or with your body is an act of empowerment. That to be unafraid to make public what many consider to be private, you are necessarily establishing your autonomy, and thus fighting against misogyny in general. And the underlying corollary to that is that if you’re not willing to expose yourself—if you do want some corporeal privacy—then you must be ashamed of your body.

Taken to its extreme, I was confronted with this argument in a fascinating, beautifully-written, and ultimately disturbing article on the website The Establishment (one of my new favorite sites), called “The Dirty Politics of Period Sex.” In it, the author recounts how, in one relationship, her boyfriend would be the one to take her tampon out—an act of foreplay. And then:

“The sex is wetter than wet; my insides are all over him. I’m matted in his pubic hair; I’m spread slick and crimson all over his stomach. I can see the almost-black edges of my blood in his cuticles. There are pink handprints on my back and splotches on my neck…It wasn’t a kinky thing—it was just a, “this is what your body is doing right now” thing.”

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{photo credit: Guardian II via photopin (license)}

You can see why the article has stuck with me.

Now, I’m not saying that this doesn’t reflect something bold and empowering—I think it does, and I’m really glad I read the article. I am always better for being pushed beyond my comfort zone.

What bothers me is the insinuation that if I’d rather, oh I don’t know, go to the bathroom to take my tampon out before sex, that I must be ashamed of my body.

So for every woman who has coyly whispered, “I need to go to the bathroom” as you’re about it get it on, and then darted to the bathroom to frantically tug out a sodden piece of white cotton before darting back to bed and apologizing . . . I’m here to say this moment of revulsion was actually pure revelation.

Why the hell are we apologizing for what our body does—perfectly—anyway?

For one thing, I’ve never frantically tugged at my tampon once in my life. And while I don’t deny being embarrassed in the past by coitus-in-the-red, I haven’t apologized for having my period in many years—as far as I’m concerned someone owes me an apology for my goddamn period. And I’m not forcing anyone to have period sex—he’s a big boy and if he’s there it’s because he’s weighed the risk/reward ratio and has decided he likes his odds. I don’t feel guilty in the least.

The simple fact is that I’m not ashamed of my period. And yet, I still do not want to roll around in its contents, nor do I want anyone else pulling a bloody piece of cotton out of me. (Thanks chief—I can take it from here.) But neither am I interested in rolling around in a man’s bodily fluids or pulling anything bloody out of his holes. Just because it’s natural doesn’t mean my period needs to be a group activity, and just because I’d rather do some things in private doesn’t mean I’m ashamed of my body or its processes.

I guess what I’m wondering is how modesty fits into the scheme of feminism. Or, if not modesty (a word I happen to hate, along with all of its Victorian-era connotations)—maybe it’s about privacy. At a time when more and more of our lives are lived on display—a time of instafame and Kim Kardashian—can you value privacy and still be a feminist? And if you don’t agree that every bodily act is necessarily liberating—if you think that sometimes there are things women do with their bodies that actually set feminism back—does that make you a slut-shamer who embraces rape culture (as the case has been made)?

In other words, if I don’t automatically think that every non-private bodily endeavor is a feminist battle-cry, does that make me a faux-feminist?

****

A woman includes tampon-play in her sex life.

Kim Kardashian flashes her tits.

A woman breastfeeds in public.

A sexual assault victim stages an S&M photo shoot in front of the frat house where she was raped.

A college student puts herself through school by doing porn.

A mother breastfeeds on Santa’s lap. 

A new mom posts a picture of herself in nothing more than an adult diaper and the baby slung across her.

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Beautiful. {Photo credit: Sakura Bloom}

Not all bodily acts are created equal. Context matters. Each situation is layered with varying intentions and levels of intimacy–and therefore varying degrees of empowerment. Some of the women are brave; some are braver. Some are seeking attention. Some are seeking attention and brave. Some of them are not necessarily what I would call “empowered” but neither are they setting feminism back. Some are.

And this isn’t about slut-shaming—it’s not that I find any of the above scenarios “shameful,” nor am I offended by any of them. I’m not appointing myself the official arbiter of what’s appropriate and what isn’t. This is not about morality. It’s not even about the acts themselves—it’s about how we talk about them. How we define words like empowerment and even feminism itself. We certainly throw those words around enough, but I’m not even sure what they mean anymore. What does it mean to be a feminist? Is it about selfies, or is it about shaping people’s perception of who women are and what they’re capable of? Is it about how naked you’re willing to get, or might it be about all the girls who are looking to you to help them shape their sense of self-worth?

****

So let’s play again.

You might be a faux-feminist if…

  • you don’t tug at your tampon string as foreplay
  • you wrap a towel around yourself in a locker room
  • you don’t see a young female porn star and think “now that is one empowered woman”
  • you think Kim Kardashian’s latest selfie is not empowering but rather just one more self-serving, vacant gesture in a career created by them

So are you? Are you a faux-feminist?

photo credit for featured social media image: feminist! via photopin (license)

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11 thoughts on “Are You a Faux-Feminist?

  1. Carolyn April 6, 2016 / 11:55 pm

    Thought provoking & insightful!
    👏🏻👊🏼

    Like

  2. Carol Cassara (@ccassara) April 7, 2016 / 9:56 am

    OMG. Shoot me now, if this is what feminism is about. NOT ABOUT THAT. KK is the furthest thing from feminist. And thank God I no longer get periods so I don’t have to worry about that part of new feminism. That whole line of thought? A crock of shitz. Seriously. Let’s worry about job equality. Pay equality. Child care. Maternity leave pay. And a host of others that are so MUCH more important than using tampons as foreplay. Which in my opinion, is disgusting especially since blood borne diseases are around. Just saying. Let’s get real about the important stuff. And thank you for calling this out.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sumofmypieces April 7, 2016 / 9:59 am

      Thx for reading and supporting! I just think we’re starting to lose our grip a bit…

      Like

  3. Mary Woodland April 7, 2016 / 9:09 pm

    Yes, yes – a million times yes! Thank you for articulating (so perfectly) what I couldn’t quite put into words. Sooo happy that I’ve stumbled upon your site!

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Kim April 8, 2016 / 11:50 am

    I will admit that I think some of the latest feminist/not a feminist issues as of late have been pissing me off and you nailed it. What you (collectively speaking) do with your body is your damn issue, not mine. It doesn’t make me less of a feminist because I choose to handle my own tampon rather than let my husband remove it before sex. Sorry, but that’s where I draw a line. Nothing wrong with period sex (if that’s what you’re into), but the idea of smearing it everywhere just makes me gag.

    Liked by 1 person

  5. babayaga112 April 9, 2016 / 7:50 am

    By those standards, I’m most certainly a faux-feminist. And proud of it, I’d say. To me, the new feminist movement is right up there with the self-righteous hipster mentality. Everything’s taken to the extreme.
    I’d say, here in the US, we live in a post-feminist society. There are differences within and among states, and some states are going to great lengths to undermine our reproductive rights. But we’re not a man’s property, we have access to birth control, we vote, we run for President, and now we can fight on the front lines. But if being a feminist means rolling around in my own bloody discharge or voting for a woman just because she has a vagina, even if I consider her to be a fraud, then I want no part of it.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Steven s April 10, 2016 / 9:55 am

    Girl there is only one place left for you, stand up.
    Thanks again for making me chuckle

    Liked by 1 person

  7. ERIN FRED April 13, 2016 / 12:18 pm

    YES! I totally agree we’re kind of losing our grip in America… I understand the negative connotations with the word modesty in this context, but the very concept in itself is not inherently anti-feminist. I don’t understand why we can’t value modesty and uphold it within feminism. I understand that people feel the need to push boundaries and employ the shock factor in order to somehow create change but at the same time there needs to be balance in everything we do. I really appreciated what you wrote. I don’t like to identify myself with the feminist movement although I definitely believe I am a strong feminist (my husband knows I’m all about girl power lol) because of all the other associations it comes with that I don’t necessarily agree with…

    And I have no apologies nor ever have been apologetic for my period… but I gag at the sight of ANYONE’S BLOOD, nevertheless my own. To be covered in it after sex would just disgust me to no end. It’s not about feminism, it’s just about my own preferences with personal hygiene! Again, it’s all about balance. We shouldn’t be ashamed or apologetic of nature’s course with us, but it doesn’t mean we have to be literally rolling around in it to demonstrate that.

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Rosemond April 13, 2016 / 3:19 pm

    Dear Feminist Lord in Heaven Yes! Empowering doesn’t equal exhibitionism. Guess I’m as Faux as they go too!

    Liked by 1 person

  9. Jessica April 13, 2016 / 4:51 pm

    Well, guess I am a faux-feminist! I would NEVER let my husband take my tampon out (well if I used tampons, Diva Cup FTW! lol). I don’t care for period sex either way. Personally, I think it’s a bit messy and I’d rather not ruin my sheets lol. My husband feels the same way. I think that feminism has gotten out of control. In fact, I think feminism today is not at all what feminism used to be about. I was always under the assumption that feminism was about being treated equally, or as equally as possible. Who cares if you have sex on your period? Women are still getting paid less than men doing the same job they are!

    Liked by 1 person

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