Can I Love Fashion and Still Be A Feminist?

Feminist, Ashley Judd

Feminist, Ashley Judd

Can I love fashion and makeup and still be a feminist? This question has plagued me my entire life. Can makeup and fashion be a tool for self-expression and not a means to hide or conform to society?

When I was 19 I was in Australia visiting our high school exchange student and my best friend, Maree. We went to an all day picnic one Saturday with some other exchange students who had gathered in Sydney. At one point we were all sitting on a blanket, enjoying the day, when one of the guys turned to me and said, “You’re plastic. Why do you put that shit on your face? It’s like you’re fake.” I was devastated. Plus I felt ashamed, humiliated, and ugly. Why did I wear makeup? Was I plastic?

After years of therapy and considering this question I have come up with my own set of answers. When I was a young woman, I looked at beauty as purely an external thing. I didn’t understand that what made me beautiful was my Holly-ness. The only thing I believed was that if I could only get my hair right, my nose right, my skin right, my weight right (and on and on), then I would be pretty. And yes, my idea of beauty was fueled by the media, and the beauty and fashion industries.

But as I got older and began to learn who I really was and what made me me, I realized that the declaration of that could come in many forms. I have come to believe that expression through fashion and makeup is NOT a bad thing, but truly a way to say, “This is who I am.” It is powerful. Putting together a look and creating your own style is a kind of artform. It’s about expression and telling a story of who you are. And isn’t that what art is all about?

I began Speaking of Beauty because I wanted to help women discover their inner beauty, while exploring ways to express that outwardly. I loved the idea of linking one’s inner beauty with one’s outer beauty. I have found that this melding of the inner with the outer is an act of transformation and it is incredibly compelling. It is a way of communicating who you are visually. That, to me, is really cool.

I love dressing up, wearing makeup, and I adore red lipstick. It is a way I choose to express myself. It’s not the only way I express myself, but it’s one of them. And I am a feminist. I realize that a true feminist can look any way she or he wants to. There are no rules.