Man. I feel like a woman.

I dressed in the dark.The Knight fell back asleep as I tiptoed out into the hallway to climb into the shower, and he was just waking up as I put the finishing touches on my hair and went back to the bedroom.

As I fumbled with the final button on my favorite dress, a polka-dot '50s housewife–style number, and topped it with a flowered cardigan, I half rolled my eyes and thought to myself, "Pearls and an apron would surely make this outfit perfect."

I am a girly-girl. A lady. I like to look pretty. My friend Rachel and I have spent a lot of time chatting about what that means. How to dress, how to take care of ourselves. (It has never meant, however, that we couldn't go out for Restaurant Week and stumble out two hours later, drunk and stuffed to retardation.)

Being a lady also has never meant not being a feminist. (Oooh, that word.)

Before I landed on the path of journalism in college, I started taking women's studies classes. On the first day of my first course, held in a tiny conference room of the honors building on campus, we watched a short video called The F-Word. The video, made in 1994, consisted of a few talking-head experts talking about the challenges feminism faced at the time, but it was mostly the crew stopping people on the street, asking what the word meant to them. The F-word. Feminism. Of course, the title of the film offers a hint: It didn't conjure up good things. But the video was made more than 15 years ago. We watched it almost 10 years ago.

And yet.

People still hate the word. Still think feminism is a bad thing. Women still think it's a bad thing.

My jaw dropped a few months ago when a woman tried to strengthen her point in a Yelp Talk thread with "I'm not usually a feminist or screaming that I want to be treated as a man is treated, but seriously, WTF."

And the other day, in response to a post about a chivalry on my friend Caleb's blog, a woman started her comment with, "I’m not a feminist by any means, but…"

Good god, ladies! Why on Earth not?

Does demanding equality with men make you less feminine? Does it mean you can't wear makeup or short skirts or kitten heels? Will asking for fairness and rights lessen your chances of being taken seriously? Should you be afraid of standing up for yourself just because some idiot might call you a bitch or a "Feminazi" (one of my favorites)? Does being a feminist mean a guy can't ask you out to dinner and pay for the first date? If a man lets you into the elevator first or holds the door open for you, have you just tossed everything Gloria Steinem ever worked for out the window?

No. No. No. No. No. No.

Feminism doesn't equate to misandry and spinsterhood. Chivalry doesn't equate to male chauvinism. It's not so black and white. Nothing is.

We girls can do anything! …Right, Barbie? (Math is hard.)

The world feels so…backward lately. The Tea Party folks, the Arizona immigration legislation, the protestations that continue against gay marriage and abortion and other things that other people should just…stay out of… God, I don't know. How did we think the world was going to change for the better when we elected this fantastic new president in 2008 — when it actually seems to have gotten worse?

It's enough to drive a girl mad. As for all this…man, those women are making the rest of us look bad. We need to get our stories straight. Listen, I've got your feminine mystique right here: a life of glorious contradictions. I do what I want. More than a feminist or a lady, I act like a Paige Worthy.

In 2004, I rode with my sorority sisters to Washington, D.C. for the March for Women's Lives. We drank Heineken out of a pony keg and generaly…acted like sorority girls…in the back of the bus. My boyfriend at the time came down from Philadelphia and marched with us. I stole hotel pillows and a blanket to make my ride home more comfortable.

I treated myself to an expensive dinner — table for one — on my two-year anniversary of life in Chicago.

I got a manicure and pedicure on Sunday afternoon — my toenails are bright cherry red, thankyouverymuch — and chipped a nail when I got home. I was hanging out a dining room window helping the Knight clean the windows. In a skirt.

I rode the train downtown after work with my legs demurely crossed, reading a book. I applied a fresh coat of lip gloss then chased a cupcake truck down Wacker Drive with the strength and ferocity of a linebacker. (Then pranced toward Michigan Avenue for an appointment, nibbling on my chocolate cupcake with peanut-butter cream. More lip gloss came later.)

My iPod shuffles from The Faces' "Stay With Me" to Alanis Morissette's "You Oughta Know," and I don't bat an eyelash. Unless I think it could get me a free drink at Starbucks.

Come on. Why so serious? Desperate times call for desperate measures… And crazy times… Well, if you can't beat 'em, join 'em. Right?