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Unlike early feminist campaigns that focused on the basic fundamental rights of women,starting with the Womens' Suffrage Movement, lipstick feminism seeks to ascertain that women could still be feminist without ignoring or negating their femininity, particularly in terms of sexuality. During the second wave of feminism, feminists had focused solely on legal and social equality of women and refused to 'embrace' their sexuality; some even abhorred the idea of men and would often take on physical characteristics and persona that was far from what the average woman looked like, thus creating stereotypes of what feminism and feminists looked like. Lipstick feminism, on the other hand, embraces the concepts of womanhood and the female sexuality emitted from a woman's body and the need to embrace sex. Lipstick feminism also seeks to reclaim certain derogatory words and turn them into powerful tools for their cause such as the word 'slut' as seen in the slut walk movement. It developed in part as a response to the ideological backlash against radical varieties of second-wave feminism, with the negative stereotypes it generated of the “ugly feminist” or the “anti-sex feminist”; in part the result of the belief that the successes of second-wave feminism had made it possible to reclaim aspects of femininity that had earlier been seen as disempowering, like make-up or stilettos.
Linguistically, lipstick feminism proposed to semantically reclaim, for feminist usage, double-standard insult words, such as “slut”, in order to eliminate the social stigma applied to a woman whose sexual behaviour was "patriarchically" interpreted to denote “immoral woman” and libertine.
Philosophically, lipstick feminism proposes that a woman can be empowered — psychologically, socially, politically – by the wearing of cosmetic make up, sensually-appealing clothes, and the embrace of sexual allure for her own self-image as a confidently sexual being. The rhetoric of choice and empowerment is used to validate such overt sexual practices, because they no longer represent coerced acquiescence to societally established gender roles, such as “the good girl”, “the decent woman”, “the abnegated mother”, “the virtuous sister”, et aliæ.
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