One day, while scrolling through Instagram, I came across an intriguing post from podcaster, speaker, writer, and feminist, Oenone Forbat, in which she brought up the term “Big Feminine Energy.” She said that she “(finds) it hard to reconcile how being an effeminate person intersects with being a feminist,” because, she “sometimes struggles with unpicking when makeup, beauty and externally labelled self-care” can be considered “oppressive versus liberating” in the feminist community. In her post, Oenone discussed how femininity in feminism should not be silenced or diminished. Instead, being feminine or indulging in cosmetics and fashion should be supported and validated.
Oenone’s new phrase was playing off of the notion of “Big Dick Energy,” which generally refers to someone who has an overt sense of authority, self-assuredness, and power. The term also assumes that influence, strength, and independence are solely male attributes. Our society has set up a framework where women have to choose between “prettying themselves up” to be seen as attractive or renounce conventional beauty norms to be acknowledged as intellectual. Unfortunately, there are self-declared “feminists” who perpetuate this belief.
I can count on both of my hands the number of times that someone has used their identity as a so-called feminist as a reason to shame me for wearing makeup, enjoying lingerie, and making the choice to shave. They have even gone so far as to say that I am not a feminist for doing so. Their oppressive and dismissive arguments are a hateful stain on the feminist community. Instead of shaming women who don’t use beauty products or dress in a “feminine” way they shame women who do. Even when women express that they indulge in these things for their own pleasure, they are ridiculed and placed on the judgement block for their life or grooming choices.
In the very institution that is supposed to preach equality and independence, women are being told that there is only one way to be taken seriously, and that is to diminish femininity. This notion is incongruent with the message behind the feminist movement and is just perpetuating the idea that being feminine means that one is inferior. It is entirely possible to be intelligent and wear heels, to argue the right for equality while wearing a full face of makeup, and to shave every last hair off your body and support personal autonomy. I should be able to feel sexy, beautiful, and feminine without being shamed in my own community or being objectified in another. I should be able to enjoy my makeup, lingerie, and grooming habits as it is my individual preference and makes me feel good about myself.
Instead of automatically scrutinising and shaming people because of their potentially problematic decisions, we should first educate them. By showing people how, historically, the beauty industry has aided in manipulating the definition of “feminine” to mean being weak, submissive, unintelligent, and incapable, we are allowing others to make informed personal decisions. My own education has actually strengthened my enjoyment of beauty products and fashion. I realized I don’t have to indulge in them for external validation or to please others, but because it genuinely makes me happy and I do it for myself.
Social media often acts as a primary culprit for intense social justice ridicule. It allows people to quickly judge others actions merely based off of a photo or short post. Followers don’t have the full context of the person, only a blip of their personality, experiences, and life embedded into a computer program. Granted, this does not mean we should let people be shitty; they should be called out when doing genuinely problematic things. However, while addressing the problem, we should also respectfully educate them.
Media influencers, more so than the average user, are susceptible to the harsh criticisms of online apostles. Supporting a cause as a prominent individual means the public expects that they “go all in.” They cannot falter; they should be involved in all types of activism, and they are considered “non-committal” or “fake activists” if they do not have all the answers. However, this is not an accurate expectation of humanity. We all make mistakes occasionally. Even influencers should be encouraged to continue learning about the causes they fight for. Using their furthered education, they can make their own informed decisions, just like every other human. Real feminism is “the social, political, and economic equality of the sexes,” as well as all genders, races, and sexualities. Part of that equality is understanding and supporting everyone’s right to autonomy. Real feminism does not mean belittling or rejecting other people because their life choices don’t exactly match with yours. The movement cannot successfully continue if we do not support personal choice, or can’t have open and educated conversations. We should be teaching the people around us, both in and out of the movement, to recognize “feminine” as being powerful. Simultaneously, we should be teaching about the history of oppressed groups and accelerating change. We should be lifting up our fellow full-femme friends, spreading the message that any kind of femininity is acceptable and promoting the power of “Big Feminine Energy.”
WTF Blog Contributor, @peri.seljord.art