04/09/2014 11:10 BST | Updated 03/11/2014 05:59 GMT

How Can You Tell If You're a Feminist?

Beyonce, in the middle of last month's MTV Video Music awards, performed her song "Flawless" in front of a gigantic screen with FEMINIST emblazoned across it. She also flashed up Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie's definition of feminism - someone who "believes in the social, political and economic equality of the sexes."

As the third most popular musician in the world, Beyonce will have prompted millions - especially young women - to think about the word. It's a hip new club and yes, it's marketable, but having such a high-profile star put her name behind feminism is a huge asset for the movement. The term feminism is being reclaimed. No longer taboo, it's exploding in energy and interest and drawing attention to gender inequality.

Deciding if you are a feminist is pretty simple. Do you think men and women should be equal? If you answered yes, then congratulations - you are a feminist! If you answered no, then get out - you don't have an opinion here. The feminist movement doesn't need you, it's already doing a pretty good job of tackling female disadvantage without pandering to reluctant allies.

There is no doubt that fighting for equality and against sexism is the right thing to do, but feminism can be exhausting. It's hard to go about your daily feminist business without coming unstuck against a variety of conundrums, thanks to the broad and often contradictory nature of feminism. Should we split the dinner bill even though I'm broke? Can I shave my legs if I'm a feminist? What do you do if someone offers to carry your bag for you (and it's actually really heavy)?

It would be great if someone could cobble together an encyclopaedia on what is feminist and what is not, but in the meantime, here are my personal musings.


Thanks to my Polish heritage, I have the ability to grow a full moustache within a day. And thanks to my polycystic ovaries, I can grow a full beard to match. So for me, hair-removal is about personal preference. I still want to be paid the same as my male counterparts and I still find catcalling offensive, but I think I look better without a beard. I don't wax, pluck or shave to seek approval from men. If you want hairy legs, go for it. If not, chop it off. Embracing your body in whatever way makes you happy is feminist.

Male feminists

What is it about women's rights that makes people uncomfortable? Most of my male friends are feminists or egalitarians (if I know you and you aren't, we're probably acquaintances). The question is, if you talk about inequality or women's issues and feel the urge to shout "BUT MEN!" - or if you secretly fear that in 20 years women will be keeping men as pets, then you are not a feminist.

Wearing heels

Unless you're wearing them for an FHM photoshoot, it's probably fine. Shoes are not inherently unfeminist. But what is one person's embrace of their sexuality is another's patriarchal oppression, as women are individuals, and therefore have different opinions on what makes a feminist. Personally, high heels are a logistical nightmare. At university, I would don towering stilettos and spend nights out being scraped off the floor. If you wear shoes that make you feel comfortable, stylish and confident, that's pretty feminist in my book.


Anecdote: My friend said she found it difficult to embrace her feminist beliefs while whipping up chocolate fudge tarts and macaroons. As she put it: "We spent so long fighting to have a career and vote, it feels a bit unfeminist to spend ten hours sweating in the kitchen wearing a Cath Kidson apron." She makes a good point, but she also makes good macaroons. Her baking is my hair-removal, but you only have to look at the ratings for Great British Bake Off to know that EVERYBODY loves it - regardless of gender. Just because we want equal representation in Government doesn't mean we can't get our bake on.

Paying for dinner

I shan't name names, but a certain tabloid once ran a piece with the headline: "The REAL price of feminism: Men expect women to go Dutch on dates now there's equality in the workplace." I like being bought food, and more often than not, I'm pretty skint, but it only seems fair to split the dinner bill. Unless they ordered the fillet steak and you had a sandwich. Saying that, while the pay gap still exists it's probably okay to let a man pay for your food once in a while.