The F word and Choice

13 02 2009

There seems to be a popular opinion out there that feminism is about giving women the choice to do whatever they want to do and therefore empowering them. So if a woman chooses to be a porn star, if she chooses to stay home and raise a family, if she chooses to take her husband’s last name, if she chooses to get breast augmentation, then lay off, it’s a feminist decision and power to her!   

However the whole idea of empowering women by letting them make their own choices is not the only goal of feminism, and by making it seem as such and not questioning the whole issue of choice, the other important goals of feminism are eclipsed. Furthermore, it is less about a woman’s personal choice and what society inclines them to choose.

The whole buzz around choice started in the 80s when the women’s movement started framing issues around legalized abortion as a question around women’s choices. Then it started to somehow become ingrained in other feminist discourses.

The word choice tends to get thrown around a lot. I remember seeing a Chapstick advertisement that showed a woman putting on Chapstick and the text said something like, Empower yourself . Choose Chapstick. That is just a little irrelevant…I don’t see how choosing Chapstick is a feminist or empowering decision.

Choice is a tricky and confusing concept to discuss… On the one hand, one cannot blame patriarchal society for duping women into acting under “false consciousness” because that renders women as completely lacking in agency. However, one must also consider the large degree of societal influence that affects the choices each one of us makes – to what extent do we do (or not do) things because we genuinely want to do them, and to what extent do we do things because we feel that we are supposed to (or not supposed to) do them?

What are people’s thoughts / reactions?


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4 responses

16 02 2009
Pheen

I understand what you’re saying, but at the same time, I think choices that are seen as “women’s choices” should be respected on par with “men’s choices.” For instance, I think choosing to be a stay at home mom is a really admirable choice and role for a woman to take on. I don’t think choosing to do that should be seen as anti-feminist if a woman has considered other options and feels really happy and empowered in this role. The tragedy is that even though a patriarchal society might see raising children as a women’s role, they don’t see it as important as professions and roles dominated by men. Furthermore, motherly qualities, such as the ability to nurture, aren’t celebrated as what are seen as more masculine qualities, such as lack of emotional attachment or being assertive.

I don’t know, this isn’t really a fully formed thought, but it is my impression of a general attitude towards mothers as an admirable job, but legally, socially, and economically not as important as traditionally masculine jobs.

16 02 2009
feminist1

I have a lot of trouble figuring out what exactly makes something a feminist decision. Feminism means so many different things to different people. Just because I personally disagree with someone’s decision, I cannot necessarily say that it is anti-feminist if the person believes it to be the opposite. However, there are decisions and choices that some women make that have negative impact on other women. When women participate in pornography that objectifies or demeans women as a group, pose in offensive photographs, or otherwise participate in actions that I would deem as “anti-feminist,” I am inclined to criticize their actions. It is important to look at women’s actions with a critical eye, but also we should not always impose our definitions of feminism on others. If a woman chooses to stay home and raise her kids and does so completely happily and with no lack of power or agency, this is great. It is dangerous that women feel obligated to work, as it is dangerous when women feel obligated to stay home. I think feminism is definitely about choice. But we also should be able to criticize and point out when we feel that women’s choices are demeaning to others. We also need to fully examine WHY women are making the decisions they are making and the societal pressures that impact women’s choices. I don’t think there have to be definite answers in feminism. The mere dialogue about gender issues is important to progress.

2 04 2009
Jeff

I found my way to this post in quite the interesting manner. You see, I like to draw and was looking for images of nude women. (someplace here there is a nude woman posing for a PETA advertisement) I certainly did not expect to end up reading a blog post about the effects of feminism. Both the comments and the post itself were well articulated.

I really wish that I had time to add more but I’ve got to go. Interesting site…

21 04 2009
Jason

Let’s take a baby.
Let’s tell this baby, and reinforce in it’s mind with actions and images and media, that something is the way it should be. Let’s say- that looks are important, and no-one will like you if you look bad and unkempt. (A fairly often message drilling into a child.)
This baby grows to be a child, a youth, finally an adult, spending the ENTIRE TIME being reinforced in countless ways, from words to media to the actions of countless others, that unless they look well-groomed and attractive, they will be treated poorly.
That adult will believe it. They will feel bad about flaws, and place far too much importance on their appearence. Even if they come to realise looks aren’t very important beyond looking clean and tidy, they won’t be able to shake off that feeling that they must look attractive to be liked for quite some time.

Let’s flip that. Let’s say the same child is raised, being taught that women should look a certain way, act a certain way, should raise children and stay at home. Just like the message above, it will sink in, and they will grow to believe it.
Then they might find femanism. They might realise all of the misogynist bull they were taught was just that. They might try to change the way they think.
But so often it’s so deeply embedded that they can’t change it completely. And so, if they make the choice to stay at home as a full-time mother- it’s tinted by the way they were raised. If they make the choice to have a boob job- it’s tinted by what femanine beauty SHOULD be, and again, how they were raised.
If you bombard a person with the same message in this way, the chances of them not believing it are miniscule. And thousands of people are raised in this way, with the way women should be pounded into their brain from their parents, the media, the actions of others.
And in their cases, can we say the choice to be a stay-at-home mother, or any of the other things on the list, is a femanist choice? No, of course not, it’s tainted by the way she was raised, what she was forced to believe, what has been shoved down her throat since birth.

With that said, I do believe it’s important that, when a couple has a child (whether through natural means, or scientific aided means, or adoption) it’s important a parent stay home as much as possible to raise it. And in that case, it should either be the person on the lowest income, or if one of them can work from home they should, or the person with the least reason to stay at work- meaning, if one of them views their job as just that, and the other views it as a career, the one who simply views it as a job should give it up.
This isn’t always feasable, or it could be neither partner is willing to give up their job. However, I think it should always be an important consideration- and if a woman fits the guidelines above more than her male partner, then yes, she would probably be best-fitted to staying home.
…And in that light, it seems a pretty femanist choice.

…Wow, that was rambly. Sorry.

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