“Feminist; a person who believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes.”
In today’s uncertain political climate, at least one thing seems to be sure; a new generation of feminism has been borne and the aesthetics of this unlikely group challenge all preconceived notions of what it is to look like a feminist.
While the first wave of feminism (also known as the suffrage) fought for voting and property rights by overturning legal obstacles to gender equality, second-wave feminism encompassed a vaster number of issues such as a woman’s place in the man’s working world, access to contraception and reproductive rights, as well as domestic violence and marital rape. They helped to establish a working infrastructure that got things done; there were soon changes in both de facto and official legal inequalities, as well as numerous safe-houses all over the world constantly being built to shelter women who ran from abuse and/or homelessness.
However, for all the good that came from this second wave, neither the ideology nor the representation could be described as particularly inclusive. This feminism did not represent women of colour, the LGBT community or really anyone outside of the white, begrudged, middle-class woman on the East Coast. What’s worse, it even went so far as to shame the women who chose to be stay-at-home mums or to cover up in the name of religious beliefs. For all of the incredible milestones achieved in the second wave of feminism, it was often and unfortunately eclipsed by its unbending nature that projected: “My way or the high way”.
Abolishing the tunnel-vision feminism of past decades, the millennial’s approach is inclusive, supportive and non-judgemental. So inclusive in fact, that Emma Watson ran her very successful UN Women’s campaign for feminism based on what had previously been deemed a mythical creature; the heterosexual male feminist. Soon picking up major traction as any endeavour by a well-loved celebrity would, ‘He for She’ became the new standard for a comprehensive approach to feminism and it was not long before the trend caught on; first with fellow celebs and then of course, the rest of us ordinary souls. This popularity, of course, came with its critics, branding it frivolous and merely a passing, fashionable feminism and therefore not to be taken seriously. So it begs the question; did the designer ‘This is What a Feminist Looks Like’ slogan wearing celebrities hinder the campaign? To this I reply with an appropriate showbiz cliché: “All Press is Good Press”.
The all-embracing nature of the millennial wave welcomed new faces into the fold; the women of colour who were previously overlooked have their own individual voice in this new feminist regime, stay-at-home mums are respected in their prerogative to make the choice as intelligent and conscious individuals and the hijab of a Muslim woman is recognised, not as a tool of oppression against a weaker sex in patriarchal communities, but as the personal choice of a woman who has just as much right to cover up as she has to uncover. After all, the good fight has never been in the interest of replacing one eclipsing standard of inequality for an alternative kind, but to present the choice to take a multitude of roads to our own nirvanas.
So what DOES a feminist look like in 2017? Just look to your professor, your mother, your Muslim neighbour, your brother or your gay best friend. Unless you can identify the aesthetic determination for someone who supports the rights of any human being to be equal with another, you will simply have to be satisfied with the possibly disconcerting truth that we look just like you.
Words by Ayaan Omar