I love making lists before I write (and all the time, really) of evocative phrases, of places I’ve only seen in magazines, of things I’ll never pay full price for, and things that never go on sale. But I’m struggling now to make a list that I thought would be easy, a list of feminist things, and it’s a sort of relief that there are some categories that defy the exercise of list writing, that the stuff of feminism doesn’t fit neatly into et cetera or et al., a small victory for the ill-fitting and the out of character.
[Clockwise from top left: Lochness plankton original painting from ancientpocket; 1980s geometric candy mug from Kultur; Vintage tent dress from BILBOBABILO; Mini abstract cotton clutch from kindah; Geometric shapes skirt from twigandspokevintage; Furry legs button from ModernGirlBlitz; C.U.T.I.E. all girl rock ’n roll band figurines from nutmeg vintage.]
I mean, I think it’s maybe an unspoken marker of being a feminist — that you know even as you search for balance that you’re actually not “too” emotional nor “too” hardhearted, not “too” strong nor “too” sweet, not “too” ambitious, not “too” maternal, not “too” feminine and not not feminine enough — that you long to know what it might feel like to be unpresumed and not just more or less, that you long for murkiness.
[Clockwise from top left: 1980s plaid wrap coat from twigandspokevintage; Circle screenprint from sandrathomsen; Simple abstract print from littleprintpress; “I like girls” button from BonyPonyTrappings; Geometric linen Donald Brooks dress from GoodKarmaVintageCo; 1950s swim trunks from bohemiansway; Googly eye covered iPhone case from ClubhouseDrop; “Twin girl” kids cup from shinosworld.]
So I guess here are my questions. I’d love to unpack them with you, and I hope it gets really heated with positions deeply felt: What are feminist things, and what is feminist art? Not just that the things that declare their feminism loudly or the iconography of the feminist movement, but what makes these shoes feminist and those not? So what if they’re sensible?
[Clockwise from left: Totem racerback dress from iheartnorwegianwood; Zuni pettipoint ring from origin vintage; Zuni Native American Old Pawn mother of pearl and turquoise ring from HometownVintage; Galaxy hand-dyed scarf from hoakonhelga; Striped long-sleeve bodysuit from redleatheryellow; 1990s grunge heeled sneakers from 33vintage; Ceramic coffee cups (set of six) from viruset; Bakelite cuff bracelet from JorgeCaicedoMdeOca; Riot Grrrl Revival zine from ModernGirlBlitz.]
Or maybe that’s just it: that feminism has become something purer in its broadness, that refuses to be redirected into the shorthand of things, that insists the only way to assuage the small insults is to fight, hard, the really grievous assaults, the ones of body and work and unfettered freedom. But that seems to me to be, perhaps, the crisis in the word — the vast gap in polls between women who call themselves “feminist” and women who know the world is stacked against them and believe in gender equality — and maybe you should be able to feel like a feminist and not have to do anything other than live your life, though doing something is awesome too.
There’s this really famous feminist, one of the most famous, who rails against depression, who once said of the writer who has meant the most to many of us, “Ask her how come, if she spends all her time crying … she finds the energy to write so much?” And I think that might be the murkiest thing of all — whether you can be a feminist if you are sad and crippled with fear and struggle to get out of bed most mornings, if you have to deserve it, or if, I hope, it’s a vaunted term that supports you even when you’re not a badass.