On Building an Identity as a Female Feminist


“…we try to consolidate the people we are inside, our perceptions, with our external world.”

A lot of what shapes us and defines our identity is the culture around us. We base who we want to be around what society deems as normal or even desirable. For women in our culture, our desirability lies in our outer appearance.

Makeup and beauty products are marketed towards us. We often focus on the clothes we or other women wear. The media fixates on our looks and so we also do so in our personal lives.

For a while, I struggled to find the logic. So many people don’t like being judged by looks. We feel the pressure and a lot of people are fed up. So, why not just abandon it all and say we’re not going to buy into these industries making money off our discontentment anymore?

But then I saw a deeper issue that stops many of us from abandoning this way of thinking: our identities. It is not always about looking pretty for the male gaze or anyone’s gaze. But, instead, altering our outer appearance is often a means of self-expression.

As humans, we try to consolidate the people we are inside, our perceptions, with our external world. I believe this is a way to connect when it’s so hard to get to know people on deeper levels. We are doing this through the only medium we know how: our appearance.

The way we do our makeup, the way we style our hair, the clothes we wear, the tattoos we get, and the piercings we get can all be a part of this.

In my own life, I’ve felt torn. On this one level, I don’t want to give makeup companies or similar businesses my money. I don’t need to do that; I can live happily without looking like the ideal woman. I feel I’ve done a pretty good job of casting that demon out of my life.

On another level, there are things and people I’ve been influenced by and built my identity upon. Sometimes I dress in a flannel with a sweater over it in the image of Tina Fey, my ultimate role model. Other times, I want to do my makeup like Penelope Cruz in “Pirates of the Caribbean: On Stranger Tides,” because she’s dark and mysterious and I want to emulate that.

The act of building an identity isn’t inherently wrong by any means, but for women in our culture, it mingles with a means by which we’ve been oppressed since the beginning of advertising. We should be aware of that and fight to break free from it.

I’m not suggesting we all become identity-less, androgynous blobs. But, perhaps there are new ways to build our identities that we haven’t explored. But, this post is getting a little too long to think about that today. I’ll save it for another day.


photo credit: <a href=”http://www.flickr.com/photos/christinielsen/64372218/”>Christi Nielsen</a> via <a href=”http://photopin.com”>photopin</a&gt; <a href=”http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-nc-nd/2.0/”>cc</a&gt;


10 thoughts on “On Building an Identity as a Female Feminist

  1. This is a very interesting point. I had a professor who is a socialist and is from Ethiopia. I really valued the very different perspective from mainstream American ideas that these aspects of his identity gave him. He brought up this issue once in class. He explained that it is very American (or consumer capitalist) to use things (clothes, etc.) as a form of self-expression and identification. I definitely agree that my personal style is a means for me to express who I am in a way that is a genuine reflection of myself but it is interesting that we use the superficial means and these external objections as a form of identification. I think it is one of the ways that we are most deeply entrenched in the consumer capitalist system.

      • It’s funny you should ask, because I was going to pose the same question to you? I think he said that identity should be based on views and conscious standpoints that you take and possibly on your life’s work and purpose. This is tricky though because our society, according to him (and I’m definitely inclined to agree), is pretty anti-intellectualized as a whole. This is demonstrated quite well by the way we basically worship celebrity culture. So I supposed that because we are not intellectualized as a whole, this approach to identity may not be quite as feasible in terms of the culture in which we live. Maybe if we were more intellectualized, people would take more time to develop their opinions and people would take more time to understand/acquaint themselves with each others perspectives. Alas, in our culture I supposed the means to express our identities must be demonstrated by how we outwardly express ourselves.

      • That is true. I think it’s really hard to build a solid, meaningful identity in our culture. For me, I’m trying to through my writing, my blogging, and my vlogging. That would fall under my life’s work and my ideas. While our culture can be shallow and not intellectualized, I think there are ways to still build a deep, meaningful identity. I think I’m going to write a follow up post to this on ways we can build meaningful identities.

      • I think that’s a great idea! I think that your external persona can be a reflection of more deeply rooted values and insights, and that it is important to not solely identify with your external persona without having yourself grounded in a more intellectually and existentially solid foundation.

      • I think that doing so is admirable. Perhaps taking charge of your appearance or persona in general is means of staying empowered within a un-intellectualized, anomic culture.

  2. Pingback: The best charity car wash ever. 14 pictures. | FailFountain

  3. Pingback: On Building an Identity in Our Superficial Culture | Oshitbritt on Things

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