Fifty Shades of Feminism: A Response

A response to the Fifty Shades of Feminism post.

To begin, the title of the blog post has my feminist blood boiling. Yes, the populist book had a catchy title, but inside the cover on the pages was the antithesis of strength or did it have very little to do with ‘the personal is political’ motto of the feminist movement. Read the Sexual Life of Catherine M, now that is an honest vulnerable sex empowered tale.

To the focus of the article, which in a simple reduced summery is about what feminists accept as what a feminist should look like, the waves of what appearances have meant and when and why. In my blatant gut reaction, the fact that it is even up for debate is against what I have been taught is a feminist.  Feminists are a rainbow, women, lesbians, working moms, stay at home moms, stay at home moms who are lesbians, men who are supportive of women, anyone who has the appreciation and commitment to fight for any individual who does not feel part of the status quo. Feminism is the concept that humans have the right to have power and be empowered, regardless of their lifestyle choices. (Obviously without the intention to harm others.)

At the burlesque evening in Cape Town, I volunteered at the door. I found the aesthetic to be one not to my liking. It was not my taste, not because of the nudity but rather the aesthetic. But they most likely do not care about my opinion.  No one should tell them what to do or what they should look like.

As an Iranian American who has spent a great deal of time in the Arab world, I have heard countless women defend the hijab and burka and I have had young Arab students who find it annoying. Personally, it bothers me when the face is covered and I have no problem when the hair is under scarf. But this is just my opinion.

Feminists have opinions.

Burlesque is not for me, a burka is not for her, ok, that is fine.

A couple of years ago in Switzerland when the burka was banned, my best friend and I made an art video, ‘Be whoever you want to be’. We took the bus in a swimming costume and a burka and then swapped. Be whoever you want to be.

Yes, anyone taking away the power of someone is problematic and then we should be ready to defend that human. We should gather our feminists swords and fight. But in the end, the talk of ‘fashion’ is just that, it is fashion, and it is just a matter of taste and style, one opinion to another.

Juliana Irene Smith

Volunteer counsellor at Rape Crisis, artist and co-founder of ALMA MARTHA.

The views expressed in this piece do not necessarily reflect the views of the Rape Crisis Cape Town Trust. We invite anyone reading this to share your opinion and submit your piece to our Director, Kathleen Dey, at for publication on this site. We hope to spark our own debate to see what feminists of today, and any other day, think and feel.


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About rapecrisisblog

We have a vision of a South Africa in which rape survivors suffer no secondary trauma, and are supported throughout their interaction with the Criminal Justice System (CJS). Our mission is to promote an end to violence against women, specifically rape, and to assist women to achieve their right to live free from violence. Rape Crisis Cape Town seeks to achieve its mission through counselling and training of women, thereby reducing the trauma experienced by rape survivors, and encouraging reporting of rape and the conviction of rapists.

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