Two weeks ago, I stumbled upon a book about feminism. The introduction sounded promising. It was aimed at changing misconceptions about feminists: (mostly unattractive) women who do not shave their legs or other body parts, do not wear bras and, of course, hate the colour pink as much as much as they hate men. I was intrigued and bought the book. Unfortunately, this collection of short stories was a big disappointment.
The first story was by an actress who worried that she might bleed through her period pants. The second one was dedicated to what the contributor called an exaggerated view on paranoia: linking random words in alphabetic order to kidnapping. My favourite: “L – Lemonade Stand. He’s thirsty for more than beverage. He’s thirsty for kidnapping you.” There was no explanation whatsoever why paranoia instilled by her mother lead to this collection of paragraphs and what this had to do with feminism.
I read the book on the plane and not noticed that my boyfriend was reading that short story over my shoulder. He cracked up and burst out: “That’s the problem of feminism, stuff like that!” We flipped the book over and decided to choose one other short story to give the book a last chance. We picked the one by Keira Knightley. First sentence: “My vagina split.” And this was when I had enough and closed the book. My boyfriend kept making fun of me for buying the book. (He actually still does.)
This book illustrates one of the main problems about feminism: It might have had good intentions and may aim for making feminism more accessible. But it actually achieves the opposite and alienates even women like me: those who openly say they are feminists and contribute to the movement. I do see the argument that we should be able to talk about whatever we want – including taboo topics such as our periods. However, feminism is not a topic relating to a small radical niche only. Feminism is about 50% of our population. It is about working mothers, fathers helping in the households, daughters being treated equally, or, sons being taught to respect women.
When people ask me about the target group of The Pink Lookbook, I reply that this website is for women like me: career women (feminists) who also enjoy the beautiful things in life. Most of the time, I can immediately see the frown, followed by the “ah, ok…” and a long pause. “But why is it pink and don’t you think that advice about business and lifestyle topics are two completely different things?”
Let’s do a brief experiment: I just opened GQ online, a lifestyle magazine for men. Among content about travel and fashion advice there are interviews with business men, tips for business travel and professional wardrobes. Hence, the magazine assumes that its reader base is as interested in lifestyle topics AND business. But it is for men. Is that why this mixed content is ok? Just because women know what they want career-wise does not make them monsters. We also want to enjoy the beautiful things in life. We want to look good, travel to cool places and have a social life.
Let’s take a step back: The word “feminist” itself has a very negative connotation for most people. A lot of women refrain from calling them feminists. According to the Encyclopaedia Britannica, feminism is “the belief in the social, economic, and political equality of the sexes”. Ask yourself if you are a woman: Don’t you want to be treated equally? And as a man: Don’t you want that your wife, mother, sister, daughter are treated the way you are? This is the basic definition of feminism. It has nothing to do with running around without a bra, not shaving your armpits or hating men. It is about equal rights for all of us.
However, some of these measures – not wearing a bra, for example – are used as statements. A statement against the corset of society imposing a certain view on women. We also need that extreme expression of feminism to draw attention to the topic. Nevertheless, not every feminist wants to take those measures. If feminism wants to achieve its goal of equality, it has to democratize itself. It cannot be a small group only which sometimes even alienates other women. In my opinion, stories about splitting vaginas and period panties do not work in favour of “marketing” our movement to more women AND men. They just make us seem even more extreme and unreasonable.
We have to embrace that every woman and therefore every feminist is different. Some women choose to express feminism by not shaving their armpits. Others wear pink as a statement. Pink does not make me a weak girl, it makes me a strong woman. Among all the grey suits at work, I love to be a dash of colour who is different. I was very often criticized for my fashion style – being too feminine, too girly, too pink. But you know what? We do not have to look like men to be successful. We can have fun and express ourselves and at the same time stand for feminist values. I myself am alienated by feminist texts about free bleeding and not letting your daughter play with Barbie dolls. And because I could not find (online) magazines for women like myself, I decided to create The Pink Lookbook and contribute to the democratization of feminism. This is my way of feminism. And “pink” stands for that.
To sum up, I think that feminism is facing a kind of a crisis. When #metoo finally sparked an open debate, it definitely had a positive impact and it brought feminism back into the headlines and to our dining tables and offices. At the same time, it has created anti-feminist sentiments, accusing feminists of asking for too much and hating men.
I would like to use this postcard as a reminder that it is not about hatred, it is not about asking for too much. It is about asking for being treated equally. And I intentionally address this to every woman who makes a negative comment about “those women” being “irrational”: Is it really irrational to ask for being treated the same way as men are? Do you really enjoy being at a disadvantage? Do you really want your daughter to be worth less than your son? Think about it… It does not have to be a radical way of feminism. But tomorrow when your daughter wakes up, remind her that she can become whatever she wants. Be a role model for your sons and teach them to respect women. Encourage your female colleagues at the office to finally go for it. This is also feminism. No lemonade and kidnapping needed for that.