My mother is a product of the sixties. She was heavily involved in the United Farm Worker’s Movement, the Anti-Vietnam War Movement and most of all, the Feminist Movement. In the 1960s women began protesting for equal rights. It was a time of reform for the stereotype of “womanhood”. Many women began burning their bras as a statement of freedom. It was a statement of freedom from the tyranny of men. It was a statement of freedom from their limited, expected roles as housekeepers and mothers. And it was a statement of freedom from the expectation that women need to alter their natural state in order to appeal to men with makeup, stiletto high heels, bras and girdles.
In 1968, women came from all over the United States to protest the Miss America Pageant, in the attempt to wake up the nation about the fact that women are treated like prize cattle. It was an attempt to alert the nation about how harmful it is to buy into the idea that the most important thing about a woman is that she physically attractive.
Fast-forward 28 years. There my mother stood at the bottom of the stairs, watching me walk towards her in my first pair of high heels with a look on her face that clearly said, “you are betraying me and everything we stood for in the 60s”. I had recently become interested in high fashion modeling. Fashion and beauty was a whole other world for me, having grown up in the rural wilderness of northern Utah with forest service rangers for parents. The world of beauty and clothing and makeup was a magic world to me. I could lose myself for hours flipping through the pages of vogue magazine. I began to notice the difference in the way I was treated when I picked my outfits according to form instead of function. Sometimes people would introduce themselves to me when I was dressed for gym class (sporting a pony tail and exercise clothes) only to introduce themselves again later that same day when I was dressed in a mini skirt with my hair let loose, thinking I was two different people. I started to value the art of self-presentation. I loved that I could wear my personality on the surface through my choice of clothing, my makeup, my posture and the way I moved my body. But I still had to contend with the increasing disapproval of my mother, who saw this newfound love of mine as a disgrace to womanhood. And I could hardly blame her. I was not an idiot. I had noticed the way that my appearance made other women feel “less than”. I had noticed the way that men stopped caring about anything except what I looked like. I began to feel like the real me (which was often miserable) was trapped beneath a beautiful exterior that no one cared to look past. I had seen the harm that these magazines and TV programs were doing to young girls. I saw the idiocy behind the fact that still, the most prized thing about a woman is her looks instead of her mind. And yes, on occasion my looks invited trouble from men who decided that my choice of outfit was an invitation for assault. It was a sentiment my school principal shared.
One day in art class when I was 15, a classmate of mine pushed his hand up under my skirt beneath the table we were sitting at. He had been yelling out sexual obscenities towards me in the hallways between classes for months. I went to the school principal to tell him what had happened and to ask him to do something to stop the encounters. He looked at me while sitting back in his chair and said, “do something about the way you dress and then maybe I’ll do something about it”. What a statement. My mother’s solution to such incidents (which no doubt she encountered plenty of in her day) was to stop being “sexy”. My mother has been wearing men’s clothing since as long as I can remember. She does not wear bras and she doesn’t believe in wearing makeup. To her, dressing deliberately to look attractive is the same as playing into the idea that a woman is a sexual object. It is her opinion that on top of it being highly impractical to dress that way, it also invites all kinds of trouble. To me, that rationale is just another kind of female oppression. And at the end of the day, I still felt better about myself when I dressed in a way that suited my body and my personality best. I still found it more aesthetically pleasing to wear high heels than flats. I still loved my mini dresses and skintight body suits and lip-gloss and eyeliner.
What does it say about us as women if we are going to buy into the idea that we deserve to be assaulted if we are going to dress in an attractive way? I personally, would like to have more faith in men. I would rather not see them as animals that cannot control their libidos. There is a certain loss of freedom when a woman has to dress in a certain way to stay safe in her own society.
As a teen, I had accepted that my mother’s feminist movement had died with me. I felt guilt that I had disgraced an entire social movement for my own gender. But then, I realized that I had not disgraced anyone and the feminist movement had not died with me. In fact, I represented the next evolutionary step in the feminist movement. I was in fact, a “stiletto feminist”.
This physical dimension is a dimension of duality. This is why as we digress away from the unity of source energy, we can see two polar energies arise. For centuries these polar energies have been referred to as yin and yang or the god and goddess. The goddess represents the divine feminine; the god represents the divine masculine. On a manifested level, this translates to a physical woman and a physical man. Today’s world calls for the return of both the divine masculine and the divine feminine. For thousands of years, this human society has been a patriarchal society. Patriarchy is not representative of the divine masculine. It is a bastardization of the divine masculine. It is essential that the divine masculine and the divine feminine come into its full potential here on planet earth.
Every woman is a unique expression of the divine feminine. Coming into alignment with the divine feminine within us is not about conforming to an archetypal idea of what divine feminine is or isn’t. It is about releasing the things that disallow our own unique feminine essence from radiating through us. It is about reclaiming who we really are.
Many of us have built our lives and our image either in resistance to the traditional idea of what “female” should be, or in support of the traditional idea of what “female” should be. This is a problem because neither course of action represents our true selves. Neither allows us to be who we really are. Instead of being genuine to our true feelings relative to our feminine identity, we spend our time either rebelling against expectations or embracing expectations that we don’t actually enjoy because we desperately want acceptance and approval. We should ask ourselves is there any part of the traditional female gender role that we actually enjoy? For example, do we actually enjoy wearing high heels or makeup? Are we using these things to highlight our femininity? Or do we do it because we feel we are not adequate without it, or must simply because we are female? Do we enjoy the idea of a man being the “provider” because it is fun to experience a person loving us enough to support our physical needs and wants? Or are we embracing the idea of a man as a provider because we do not feel capable of providing for ourselves? The answer will vary from woman to woman. We need to ask ourselves, does the answer we receive come from a positive emotional space or a negative emotional space?
The thing about life in general is that if we are committed to living the kind of life that makes us happy, we need to commit to only keeping the beliefs and practices that add to our happiness. This means that many of us will be embracing things that are traditionally seen as feminine; while some of us will be discarding things that are traditionally seen as feminine. The goal as far as embracing our own femininity goes, is taking the time as individuals (not as a female race) to decide what works for us and what doesn’t. We do not have to (and should not) get rid of beliefs and practices that work for us based on the fact that other people have decided it doesn’t work for them. We simply need to be very honest with ourselves about what does and does not work for us.
Stiletto feminism (or lipstick feminism) is the third wave of feminism. It is a movement that recognizes that things like lipstick and high heels do not have to disempower a woman. In fact, they can do just the opposite. By fully owning our sexuality and attractiveness, we can embrace womanhood and empower ourselves further. To me, there is little that compares to the graceful feel of walking down a hallway in the perfect pair of stiletto high heels. To me, there is little that compares to the liberation of choosing the color and cut of my outfits to fit my mood. To me, there is little that compares to the gratification of being happy with my reflection in the mirror.
We shouldn’t throw out the baby with the bathwater, which is what many of the early feminists did. We can still wear lipstick and high heels and stand for women’s rights. In fact, I dare say that it is even more effective than burning bras and protesting at the capitol. It is more effective because it does away with the stigma of the “ugly feminist” and “anti-sex feminist”. It is more effective because it suggests that we do not have to resist men to be pro-women.
We need to be willing to heal our negative emotions relative to anything we identify as female to set the femininity within us free. Divine feminine does not need to be cultivated or created within us as women. It is us. It is the essence of our choice to come into this life as women. And so, it is an ever-present energy that is always there. It is merely obscured by our thoughts and actions. If we begin to clear our minds and lives of the things that are obscuring that essence, it will immediately shine through on its own. It is exhausting suppressing the essence of who we are… Whether we suppress it by wearing lipstick or by boycotting lipstick. And so, it is time to quit suppressing it.