Lucky for me, my Dad is a feminist. He grew up with a series of strong female role models; his grandmother was a business owner, his mother the kind of formidable Mam who clearly ruled the roost, commanding the utmost respect and indulgence from her typically Irish-sized brood. So, I was one of those lucky people who grew up pretty insulated from present-day feminist issues (insulated, honestly, until I started working in media.)
I consider myself to have had a lucky upbringing in this respect, but it did make it difficult to reconcile all aspects of myself: My father's feminist paradigm was a narrow one. You see, for Dad feminism was about women doing serious and traditionally male jobs without question. It was not being a housewife (despite the fact my Mum was always one). It was about getting a university education. And it was not necessarily getting married and having children.
The truth is that these ideas of strong, highly intellectual, seriously-applied and softness-shunning women made me feel limited in many ways. My penchant for "fluff" has always been strong... I've always loved collections, art, beautiful objects... I seem to have always been fueled by a heightened aesthetic sense. And this didn't just mean art and literature; it meant stuff—fashion, decor, gardens, beautiful food, sublime vignettes...
All this stuff is given such constant and reinforcing iteration on the blogosophere that it's easy to forget how alone I felt loving all of it growing up. Nowadays, in the context of our blog-world, my aesthetic charge seems wholly average. But growing up, it felt like an extreme and singular distraction. And it was one I kept mostly secret. The fact that I spent as much time thinking about how I would decorate my first apartment as I did thinking about going to university was something that I secretly squirreled away in notebooks full of lists and magazine clippings.
Of course, I see the "ordinary arts" a lot differently these days. I think there's great beauty in thinking of your immediate surroundings, seeing your everyday gestures as aesthetic expressions, as something worth charging with beauty. I do think it can sometimes get too self-conscious, too styled, too convoluted and I, personally, shy away from that kind of approach. But I think that's an individual balance. I like my home, my art, my wardrobe, my entertaining to come together with some deliberation but also spontaneity and a distinct letting-go. But others love to fuss over the details. It all has its place.
Somebody left a comment on my blog over the weekend about the "diversity" of posts on my blog. I know it's true... I jump between poetry and fashion, deeply personal, reflective posts and lust for a leather chair with ease. But for me a blog is about exploring and expressing all parts of myself. I feel just as limited being serious all the time as I do being shallow. I love the fluff but I know that's not all there is to life. I'm crazy silly as well as deeply pensive. I often feel lonely and loved all at once.
For me, my blog is a feminist blog. Not in the sense that my Dad thought of feminism - it's not all swashbuckling intellect here. And not in the sense that I'm constantly reflecting on the world in the context of my gender. It's feminist for me because, contradictions and all, it's me moving through the world in a manner marked by autonomous thought, by individuality and a sincere attempt at honesty, by an expectation of respect and refusal to set any preset limitations on myself.
In general, I struggle with identifying myself with an "ism" of any kind. At times, I have complex and contradictory feelings about my own gender. I want feminism to be broader, gentler than my Dad's definition. But I still wince when I hear women implicitly describe themselves as wives- and baby-makers-in-waiting. And I sometimes wince too at the dominant, most popular "voice" of the blogosphere and what that implies about gender (Hila wrote about this and linked to this article too).
At the same time, I don't like when the feminist lens is applied to every nook and cranny of our world - I don't think of every tale or female representation as a whitewash gender statement. Sometimes, I feel like I'm a bad feminist for all these contradictory thoughts. And then I think about this post Jessica wrote about contradictions and I try to embrace that. Because, for me, feminism isn't just a single doctrine or outlook. It isn't a paradigm you're either in or out of. Or a lens that needs to be applied to every thought or action...
Rather, it's one part of the complex ethical life we each try to live and adjudicate for ourselves, to assert when necessary (which is still too often). And, ultimately, it's finding the freedom to express the unfettered individuality that lies far beyond generalizations of gender, race, sexual orientation or age.