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Feminism: Sex and gender discussions

but it's my choice, so it must be feminist, right?

96 replies

chibi · 27/02/2011 16:25

this is often given as a justification for things that i would consider anti-feminist: choosing to be a lapdancer is a feminist act if the woman is freely choosing it for example

i could be really facetious and say that right now i have chosen to start this thread rather than work on my essay (whoops), and since i am a woman, this too is a feminist choice, or tonight I am having a beef casserole instead of pasta and this is a feminist choice too

do those proponents of a 'it's my choice ergo it is feminist' POV not think that it is possible for women to make choices that undermine themselves or other women in terms of equality?

can anyone who comes from this perspective clarify it further for me?

OP posts:
chibi · 27/02/2011 16:25

come on, give me an excuse to continue to procrastinate!

OP posts:
EngelbertFustianMcSlinkydog · 27/02/2011 16:29

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 16:30
EngelbertFustianMcSlinkydog · 27/02/2011 16:30

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

vesuvia · 27/02/2011 17:35

A choice is not automatically made a good or correct choice merely by the act of choosing. A person can make a bad or wrong choice that is harmful to themselves and/or other people.

Choice is often a lot less free than it can seem.

Choice should not mean "Me, me, me" or "I'm all right and I don't care about other people", which is how "choice" feminism often appears to me.

Choices can be harmful to feminism and women in general, even if those choices are made by women, even feminist women.

Many women, including third wave "choice" feminists, are very offended when other people tell them that their choice isn't as free as it might first appear, or that it is a bad choice for that woman or women in general.

Opposing sides in the debate are thinking of "free" choice differently. Choice feminists often appear to believe "I thought of my choice from my own individual point of view and nobody forced me to make my choice". Other (usually second wave) feminists tend to think of choice in terms of pressures exerted on women as the lower-status half of society.

I think it's ironic that the third wave "choicers" think in terms of individual choice, because the rise of individualism itself has been a society-wide trend since second wave feminism.

DrRichandNimble · 27/02/2011 17:39

She may be chosing that course of action but what she probably doesn't realise is that her choices are formed from generations of patriachal oppression. OF societal misogyny and being drip fed by the media that acting like a sexual tempest is somehow liberating and empowering.

so whilst she thinks she is making her own miind up, she is merely following the subliminal messages that been fed to her since birth.

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 17:49

Vesuvia - interesting link to the rise of individualism.

For me it also links to depoliticisation which is another trend. It reminds me of the whole 'market' thing. Is something is just a marketised decision (hello Marks and Spencer*) then it presented as if there's an absence of politicisation. When our choices are innately political. The market argument gets used to justify so many things, as in if there's a demand, then it must be OK. If something is a financial decision, it must be OK. The total loss of issues of politics, ethics etc. But yet the politics cannot be removed, so instead it is hidden from view, and framed as not open for discussion.

*For those newer to the board, Marks and Spencer recently sublet their premises in Bristol to 'breastaurant' Hooters. And their response to every complaint was that is was a market based decision. They would not engage with or even acknowledge the ethics of that decision. I mentioned to them that being a hired killer is also a financial decision, but we wouldn't just accept that as right.

vesuvia · 27/02/2011 17:56

AliceWorld wrote - "If something is a financial decision, it must be OK. The total loss of issues of politics, ethics etc."

Yes, very interesting.

It reminds me of a comment I quoted from a porn supporter on another thread a few weeks ago:

"Don't assume that all sex work is bad work. Just take the american porn industry - it makes billions".

TondelayoSchwarzkopf · 27/02/2011 17:56

I think 'choice' is a capitalist concept - not a feminist one.

FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 17:59

What about making the choice to smoke cannabis - doesn't harm anyone apart from yourself, right?....

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 18:02

I think all choices impact on others, cos we are part of society. All choices affect the norms and culture of that society. There isn't a non-political, totally individual choice.

FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 18:05

But some choices clearly harm more people in a more dramatic way than others, don't they, Alice? I mean we know that people die, and are in serious conflict, because of the drug industry. It's a whole lot different to making a choice about whether you eat organic vegetables or not.

TeiTetua · 27/02/2011 18:06

That recent thread about shaving pubic hair was a good illustration of this--people who do it saying it's entirely their own choice, and others saying it's a sign of caving in to the expectation of male demands (or genuine demands) based on experience with pornography.

I do think we have to be very tactful if we're going to criticise things people do, unless it's entirely clear that they're being forced into it (women held prisoner for prostitution, for instance). Anything that hints at "You aren't making a free choice because you're affected by..." is on risky ground because any rational person will defend their own autonomy. It's especially problematic if it's women being told, in the name of feminism, that they shouldn't be doing something. But then can someone say "I'm a woman and so everything I do is feminist?" It's an eternal problem.

FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 18:13

But making choices that harm no one (like shaving your pubic hair) surely can be made in the knowledge that you are probably doing it because of a long history of patriarchy and fashion stemming from the porn industry...but you still want to do it?

I mean, I know I probably wouldn't be bothered by leg hair if I were a cave woman, or even a woman from 100 years ago, but I am a product of our society, and I have been socialised to see female leg hair as unattractive. I am aware of that in me...yet I still shave it off because I don't like it! DH doesn't mind his leg hair because he's been socialised to think male leg hair is ok. I can make that choice to shave my legs - it doesn't harm anyone, I do know it perpetuates a myth about women's bodies and I feel ashamed that I can't overcome that for my daughters' sake, but maybe I'll be able to bring htem up with better self-confidence than I have!

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 18:16

Flamingo - Yeh choices do vary. But it's very hard to see the true impact of a choice as it's hidden from view.

Teitetua - I see another option. I see shaving pubic hair as an expression of wider cultural norms. It's a perfectly logical response to a wider culture that normalises it. It's not caving in. We all respond to wider culture all the time. Which is why that wider culture is interesting and worth examining.

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 18:19

Flamingo - it depends what you mean by choices not harming anyone. Choices impact on others cos they all feed into wider culture. So it depends on whether that wider culture harms. I'm seeing harm in a veeery broad sense.

FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 19:44


Drizzela · 27/02/2011 19:59

That logic would make any act anyone has ever committed 'humanitarian' wouldn't it...? - direced at OP...

Tortington · 27/02/2011 20:01

cannabis can hurt other people around you esp loved ones

slightly off topic but i needed to say it

carry on!

FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 20:07

I know that, Custardo, that's my point! But it doesn't hurt them directly, so it seems a harmless choice to make for many people.

EngelbertFustianMcSlinkydog · 27/02/2011 20:10

This reply has been deleted

Message withdrawn at poster's request.

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 20:15

Yep Flamingo, that's pretty much it. (Btw I do sometimes shave my legs too. I also dye my hair. I'm discussing the issues not attacking personal decisions nor suggesting that I am something better.) Obviously it's all degrees. Not all choices are that important, but as a principle all choices are political.

I once read something about how it would be a good active feminist thing to bare non-shaved pubic areas in communal changing rooms (as in get changed in the communal bit as normal not parade around) so that young women and girls can see that there is an alternative.


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FlamingOBingo · 27/02/2011 20:18

I know, Alice - me too! glad you're not advocating parading around in the nuddy, though Grin

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 20:19

For me you don't need to prove causality in every instance. It's a logical impossibility for a choice to be without implications wider than those for yourself. So you can speculate on what those impacts may be, but they will always be there.

AliceWorld · 27/02/2011 20:20

Flamingo - the reason it stuck in my mind is because the very idea would terrify me! Grin

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