Feminism and Catering to the Male Gaze

One thing I have found particularly hard to navigate as a feminist is finding a balance between respecting women’s autonomy and ability to thrive in a male-dominated society, and denouncing practices and institutions which have their roots in patriarchal ideology. More specifically, how to find that balance in my own actions.

I partake in practices which, despite my claims that they are “for me”, have roots in my desire to cater to the male gaze: wearing makeup, dressing in revealing clothes, sharing provocative pictures on Instagram, and the like. (This is not to say that I do these things specifically because they cater to the male gaze. I used to. Nowadays I do them to make myself feel good, but I think deep down the reason that they feel good to me is because in the past I have learned to associate them with male approval.) There are some such practices that, through some work, I have managed to cease finding desirable or pleasurable, such as shaving my legs and underarms, but others I want to keep around.

Obviously I can do what I want with my body, but sometimes I wonder if I should actively try to rid myself of aesthetic preferences which, at their core, stem anti-feminist ideology. As a feminist and an activist, I wonder what my own responsibilities are with respect to this issue, and I also wonder whether or not it would be better for me (on account of my identifying as a feminist/activist) to speak out on such issues and challenge other women to be more reflective and critical of their actions. Or, should I simply accept that living under a patriarchy has placed impossible demands on myself and other women, and respect and support us in whatever way we choose to respond to those demands without challenging our choices?

Half-Assed Activism – A Rant

Something that bothers me so much and angers me to my core is people simultaneously calling for change and yet carrying out actions that directly go against their values.

For example, all of my friends claim to be anti-Trump and advocates for LGBTQ+ rights yet many continue to buy from Chick-Fil-A even though they know this company donates huge amounts of money to anti-LGBTQ+/homophobic and pro-Trump organizations.

Similarly, all of my friends claim to be concerned about the environment and climate change, yet are unwilling to adopt a vegan diet (and are financially within their means to) despite animal agriculture being the source of a huge chunk of environmental destruction and pollution – and certainly one of the easiest to change (as opposed to, say, transportation).

I feel like so many people are all talk and act only if it doesn’t limit them in any significant way. Otherwise, they’re unwilling to make sacrifices and find some excuse for not making them. It’s frustrating and infuriating to witness.