how do you brand yourself? what are your brands? your clothes, what message do they send? your race? your personal experiences? what person do you aspire to create… who do you want to be seen as?
All these questions circulated in my Gender Studies class after a discussion about body image and mainstream, “marketplace” feminism. As brief background knowledge, marketplace feminism is feminism as a brand. It’s selling items of clothing, pins, bags, socks with the word “feminism” on it. It’s using the movement to sell items, and usually there is no real basis of discussion about the actual issues of feminism when these items are bought and worn.
People can believe what they want about the validity of marketplace feminism. I definitely have mixed opinions, but Gender Studies has opened my eyes to the fact that it’s okay to have mixed feelings, to be ambivalent.
I would brand myself a “feminist.” I would brand myself a writer. I would brand myself Iranian, but I don’t know how I would feel branding myself American. The thing with branding is that to brand yourself with a label…. there’s a sense of pride behind it. I don’t know how proud I am to be American right now.
I would brand myself a Berkeley student. I’m an English major. As I was writing my college essays, I branded myself with American Cancer Society and Leadership. All of these activities and qualities defined me, they made me who I am.
In a book for class – We Were Feminists Once by Andi Zeisler – there was a small passage about how there were “decades of knee-slapping hilarity about unkempt gals in Birkenstocks and baggy pants” before it became trendy to be a feminist. It’s now “in fashion.” These lines stuck out to me because I literally am the girl in Birkenstocks and I define my baggy pants as my two pairs high waisted jeans that are ripped and comfy. Am I feeding into this brand? This trend?
I don’t know. I don’t think so. I genuinely believe in being feminist and in equality, which means acting to include gender equality in my daily life. Even if it is a part of my “brand,” I think that’s okay.
Lastly, I believe personal experiences are a form of branding yourself. I don’t know how comfortable I am of my mother’s situation being a part of my brand.. of cancer being a part of my brand.. but the genuine reality is that it is a part of my life, which helped shape who I am and what my interests, beliefs, values are.
My brand creates me. And I’m okay with who I am.