MYTH: The Big Scary Ugly Feminist

Recently someone posted a response to a status update on my Facebook asking if it were necessary to stop shaving my armpits in order to attend The Young Feminist Leadership Conference in Washington DC.

The comment.

The comment that got me thinking.

This statement says a lot. First and most obviously it says that all feminist are ‘hairy armed’. Second it implies that to be allowed admission into a feminist event one cannot fit into the current aesthetic of feminine beauty. Now, it perpetuates the concept of the “ugly feminist”. Okay I know what you’re going to say. “Just because I want to have the same equal human rights as the next fella, to be paid the same, to not have an unpaid ‘second shift’ after work, to feel my job safe if I chose to have children, to know my culture status is not at risk if I do not [etc.] Doesn’t mean I’m ugly!” And you are right. You are beautiful. Most of the men and women involved in feminism are. So, let us examine the myth of the ugly feminist and set the facts straight. Since this is my first post I’d like to start with me. I am 21 years old. I love reading, tea, coffee, art , especially printmaking. I wear dresses. I like pretty things. I wear make-up with some frequency. I like to painting my nails and I shave my pits…There’s more to me but what am I forgetting? Oh right and I AM A FEMINIST! [pardon the caps locks].

Arielle Cohen
Me. I am a feminist.

Now that’s out-of-the-way. You ask ‘What is a feminist any way?’


Pronunciation: \ˈfe-mə-ˌni-zəm\

Function: noun

1 : the theory of the political, economic, and social equality of the sexes
Basically, it’s this funny idea that ladies are equal to gentlemen. We have some work to do to make sure that this idea is reflected in the law, economy and society. So, women (and men) have joined forces throughout time and have made huge strides to make everything more equal. Let’s face it- men and women are different. That’s a good thing. As time goes on and society evolves, things change. Gender roles are always in flux. There are inequalities that face us all and things that just don’t work no matter what our race, class, or gender. These issues hurt us all. It’s complex. However, we all deserve respect and we all deserve the same human rights. Feminism is a way of talking openly about these issues instead of ignoring them. Plus when we get together better things happen.

But do we still need feminism? Isn’t that, like, a 60’s thing?

So, a little background. There are three ‘waves’ of feminism: The first wave happened way before the 1960’s. These women got us the right to vote in the US. They also focused on property rights for women and they fought against “chattel marriage,” which legally allowed a man to own his wife [and children] Their main goals focused on overturning legal obstacles that stood in the way of equality.  The second wave is what you’re thinking of. They did a lot of work. They had a lot of great ideas and basically shaped the way we live today. They didn’t actually burn their bras. The movement starts with Simone de Beauvoir and ends when Sandra Day O’Connor becomes the first woman nominated to the Supreme Court with a unanimous vote by the senate. Read Gail Collins’s book for the fullest historic overview that I know of, it’s also a fantastic and easy read.
Now the third wave. That’s where I fit in. The third wave had the realization that women come in all shades and sizes and are everywhere. We come in many colors, and from all nationalities, religions and cultural backgrounds. We “embrace contradictions and conflict, and accommodate diversity and change. There is, in this wave, no all-encompassing single feminist idea.” [1] Which is great! And it means we all have different ideas about sexuality, the law, policy, everything—including beauty.
Some women see pin-up queen Betty Page as an iconic, beautiful, liberated women. She is to some a feminist icon. Others may disagree and say Betty Ford reigns queen over their feminist world view. Libbers may recall that Betty Friedan is the penultimate feminist ruler. These three Betty’s are totally different and give a very small sample of the varied images of women and feminists alike.

So what does a feminist look like?

Well a feminist looks just like me.  They look like you, and my boyfriend, and your boyfriend and your girlfriend and your mom and her mom … Oh yeah and my Dad too.

I’d like to thank the girl who posted the comment, because it was what sparked the need more me to blog this.

More examples:

Please share feminists that you find beautiful.


Gloria Steinem often deemed too beautiful.

Gloria Steinem, often deemed too beautiful.


Erykah Badu, stunning black feminist.


Performance Artist, Musician, Writer, Actress, Film Director, Feminist

Miranda July, Performance Artist, Musician, Writer, Actress, Film Director, Feminist


Yoko Ono and John Lennon

Yoko Ono & John Lennon. Both feminists!

Aung San Suu Kyi Nobel Peace Prize Winner

Aung San Suu Kyi, Nobel Peace Prize Winner, Feminist


Lauryn Hill

Lauryn Hill, Queen of hip hop, feminist.

Joan Jett sexy rocker feminist.

Joan Jett, sexy rocker feminist.


Zora Neale Hurston

Zora Neale Hurston, groundbreaking and beautiful.

Liz Phair Indie Queen

Liz Phair, Indie Queen


Tori Amos redheaded siren of Feminism.

Tori Amos, redheaded siren of Feminism.

Jessica Valenti in her wedding dress looking lovely.

Founder of Feministing, Jessica Valenti in her wedding dress looking lovely. OMG Feminists get married!



Filed under feminism

18 responses to “MYTH: The Big Scary Ugly Feminist

  1. Karen Horney!
    (Not necessarily a woman I find attractive, but one kick ass lady nonetheless!)

    • Absolutely agreed!
      A woman’s beauty is a seen as a commodity, which is of course problematic. I should have added that in my opinion every feminist [man or woman] is inherently beautiful!

  2. Leslie Ippolito

    Beautifully said Arielle! I look forward to future posts…

  3. Nicole Plansker

    This is a great blog! I learned alot from u! Looking forward to future posts as well. =)

  4. Pingback: MARCH: Overview « Arielle Cohen's Blog

  5. great blog! And very important.

    I suggest you check out :

    I think you will dig it. 🙂

    And you are a beautiful feminist too!

    Terri 🙂

  6. Jessica DeMartino

    Women who behave rarely make history.

    You are beautiful, Arielle, inside and out.

  7. Leah

    Yo Elle, I get what you’re saying here but be careful to not box any female-bodied people who DON’T shave their armpits as “ugly.” I’m one of them, a lot of us are.

    • Totaly valid!
      To start I think you are beautiful. Also I don’t think a girl is any less beautiful if she doesn’t shave her pits. I probably dropped the ball in adressing that.

      I just found it offensive that someone was prescribing a set of values that I would have to abide in order to ‘fit in’ with feminism. I think you’ll agree that sterotypes are always harmful.

  8. mscitrus

    Ok, I wasn’t going to comment but SOMEONE has to call you out on this bullshit.

    First, thanks for making me feel ugly. I don’t shave (at all), wear makeup (except where I have scars from hurting myself), or paint my nails. I know you addressed it in another comment, but really? Some things are just so disgusting once they come out of your mouth you prove you don’t get it. Or that you *do* think women with pit hair are ugly. Great job there.

    Then, all you did was respond with *your* traits, to prove that not all feminists are ugly. Think about that, and how self-centered that is. The world does not revolve around *you*.

    But wait, “most” feminists are beautiful! I guess some are just UGLY, then, huh? How about you say the standards of beauty are fucked up white-supremacist bullshit?

    “Let’s face it- men and women are different. That’s a good thing.”

    You’re clearly not getting the power differential that comes with the idea of gender. Women are raised to subordinate themselves to men, be doormats, and take care of everyone but themselves. Men are raised to rape and otherwise be misogynist sociopathic douchebags. These are not good things. Separate but equal has always ended well. Yup.

    And, seriously, you’re making feminism into some kind of meaningless label or “lifestyle” choice.

    • First off I have to address that you are injuring yourself please talk to someone or call SAFE (Self-Abuse Finally Ends) 1-800-DONT-CUT. My intention was by no means to make you feel ugly. I think that you should talk to someone if you feel so much self hate.

      The whole point of this post was an attempt to say that less often do feminists fit the mold that mass media portrays us as. You don’t have to shave, wear make up or do anything in order to be beautiful. But I don’t have to throw out my razors, mascara or dresses to be a feminist. I object to yr sentiment that “Women are raised to subordinate themselves to men, be doormats, and take care of everyone but themselves. Men are raised to rape and otherwise be misogynist sociopathic douchebags.” I don’t associate with any man or woman that fit you ideal of gender constructs.
      The women I know have been raised to stand up for themselves, speak up and rally, the men too.

      Feminism is not a meaningless lifestyle choice to me. It is my way of life almost every facet of life is devoted to striking patriarchy and I find that I am a better feminist for being myself and not worrying about if I fit into the prototypical feminist model that FoxNews and The New York Post attempts to sell.

      I hope this helps clear things up a bit.

      • You know, I really don’t understand what exactly the new wave of feminism is fighting? Because to my eyes, you aren’t fighting men; you’re fighting *ideals*. You aren’t fighting men within a hierarchy, your fighting some big bad invisible hierarchy comprised of a few nameless politicians, whom you think are causing this most likely (also men). Face the facts, if you don’t come to see the hierarchy in any man, change will never happen, wages won’t be made equal rape will not stop. No matter the fact that John Lennon calls himself feminist, or whatever else he calls himself, he’s still misogynist from sociology. You don’t break it. Period. Try as you might, it remains a daily battle. Porn and other stimuli teach men to have their way with women, and that if you want sex, take it motherfucker. But you what I like to call that? RAPE. Therefore since women are portrayed as victim of rape and men as perps (as is usually the case), men are taught to dominate and women to be subordinate. I mean your not going to have someone waving a sign that says “Hey I want to be subordinate” I mean for the sake of jeyzus, no one even thinks that. But if you see that message underlying alot of the things you do or see you probably won’t even have to really think it. If you don’t believe me that its out there that men are better than women and that women are to be ruled, well here’s where some people get that idea, and trust me if its this blatant here, its much more ingrained in the subliminal advertising ploys and disney movies today then ever before.
        A quote from “The Princess”:
        “Man for the field and woman for the hearth:
        Man for the sword and for the needle she:
        Man with the head and woman with the heart:
        Man to command and woman to obey….”

        ^ ^ you telling me that’s not saying women obey men? subordinate themselves. Every woman says they want to be strong and help themselves, but when your mother is serving diner at the table, who gets served last? At mine its ALWAYS my mom.

        If your fighting patriarchy with the mindset that men aren’t all bad or raised to be bad people, your not fighting at all; your just making feminism like its a subculture. Like indie music or some other shit like that. Not everyone is a feminist. You did not have Dworkin on that list of feminists up there I might add. Neither MacKinnon. Wonder why :/

        I’m a man, and guess what? I know for a fact that men talk about raping people in your life while you aren’t around. They watch porn together, they talk about women they’d like to fuck, and hey, they would regardless of what you do. Most guys honestly don’t give a shit whether you try to stop them or not, they will fuck up your life and not give to shits. I’ve heard those sick bastards talk about wanting to rape someone. Please, get into touch with reality and come to understand that your the sociology of your life is more than what you say, its what you dont say around some people what you do when your alone, what you think and why you think it.

      • The implication that all men have been indoctrinated or socialized with misogynistic ideas is not inaccurate. Women have also been ingrained with these ideas. Your comment touches upon a lot of subjects, and I’m not entirely sure what your criticism is.

        The goal of this post is to dispel the myth that women who stand up for their rights do not necessarily fit into a neat stereotype. Clearly not all women or men are feminists, but I am, and I don’t necessarily fit into that stereotype myself. By creating images and perpetuating stigmas regarding feminists, it discourages women and men from identifying themselves with political and social goals that help us work towards a more egalitarian society. These are not vague ideals, they are political goals. Many of us are working on legislation, policy, and education.

        Society enforces gender constructs which are constantly evolving. To the credit of feminists, we are trying to take control of how we define ourselves as human beings without imposing limitations through gender.

  9. NWOslave

    Feminism is the same thing it’s always been, a marxist hate movement exported from the Soviet Union to destroy the family and transfer all wealth and power from men to women with the state being the ultimate autority.

    Women have 100% reproductive right’s men have 0%
    10 federally funded health centers for women 0 for men.
    for every $2.00 spent on womens health $1.00 is spent on men.
    quota’s in jobs for women.
    quota’s in education for women.
    Default child costody for women, men have to fight for equal custody only to lose. Extortion, (child support) with visitation rights. If men lose their jobs and cannot afford to pay the state imprisons them.
    These are just a very, very few of the glaring entitlements granted by the state and every single one was law in the Soviet Union 20 years before it became law here.

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