Feminism Was Never About Choice

I’ll never be a choosy-choice feminist. My choices under the patriarchy are limited by my very existence. I’m female. I was a girl. I’m now a woman. And my choices have never been free.

When the suffragettes fought for our right to vote, it wasn’t about choice. It was about changing the status quo to allow ALL adult voices to be heard. It challenged the very core of a patriarchy which insisted that women were less-than, property of their husbands and fathers, best kept quiet and in the home, to raise children and be fucked.

When second-wavers fought for the right to make decisions on behalf of our own bodies, it wasn’t about choice. It was about challenging the still intact status quo that women were property. It challenged the patriarchal institutions of Government, Medicine and Religion to recognise that women are their own, and only they must make decisions about their health and reproductive abilities.

Patriarchy, mildly affected by these movements, still remains very much intact. Third-wave feminism seems to have forgotten patriarchy altogether, and simply views feminism as the right for women to choose what they want to do without recognising females as an oppressed class.

I realise this is sounding very Feminism 101 right about now, but the message is still not getting across. Women are not equal.

Where there are laws which intend to help make us so, there still remains beliefs, ideologies, and structures in place which prevent those laws from being adhered to and enforced.

Where there are “equal opportunities” in the workplace, we are still being schooled from a very early age in the fine art of gender, which ends up keeping women out of the majority of traditional “men’s work” while at the same time brainwashing us to believe that we’ve “chosen” those jobs which are less important, less high-paying, etc.

Where we have laws protecting our hard-won rights to protect ourselves from dangerous physical conditions such as pregnancy, those laws are being chipped away at by the kinds of people who still retain those patriarchal thoughts and beliefs, and who hold power within the structures which either uphold or negate those laws.

With all of the known damage that the sex industry causes to women, our male-centred media is constantly reinforcing that these “jobs”, which some women “choose”, are actually empowering, instead of insisting on the protection of women and children from the pay-to-rape industry which strengthens men’s belief in their own entitlement to the bodies of women and children.

When the scope of choice is so narrow because of economic and social systems and widely-held beliefs that reinforce female subordination, how can this ever be called “choice” at all?!

Choice implies that most or all avenues are available to explore, and in a world under patriarchy, for women, this is ludicrous.

Liberal Feminism cannot widen the scope of choice for women when it continues to deny that women as a class are oppressed in almost every aspect of life under patriarchy, and that their choices are in no way equal to those of men.

Feminism is about LIBERATING WOMEN, from men, from the patriarchy, from the structures which keep them oppressed and incapable of any real choice, not telling us that our available options are somehow empowering to choose, and insisting that we ought to be grateful for the scraps.


5 thoughts on “Feminism Was Never About Choice

  1. Hi.
    It annoys me that we still call this 3rd wave when feminism has undergone an extreme shift between the 90’s and now.

    The 1990’s shifted focus away from white, middle class, city dwellers toward exploring feminism across race, religion, ethnicty, refugee status, indiginous status, migrant status, post colonialiasm, class, ageism and ableism. It opened new women only spaces via wicca and riot grrl; reclaiming female power, processes, strength, art and vulnerabilities via historical avenues by one and grass roots future development by the other. It was a modern consciousness raising. There was a rejection of female objectification and with this came a rejection of lads mags, porn, strip, pin-up, burlesque and anything associated with the ‘male gaze of female as object’. (A fantastic book to read, if you are interestef, is Manifesta).

    I feel that we’ve entered a 4th wave, though it is still being thought of as part of the third wave. This focus is on sex, gender, sexual orientation, sexuality, adult industries, sex industries, rape, sexual assault, shaming and femininity. To my mind, it is taking a big step backwards because it has alienated older, (and possibly stronger) feminists via blame, backlash, ageism and a disdain for the path that was cleared by them. In short, our wise elders have been rejected as useless, dated and ‘couldn’t possibly understand’.

    I sincerely hope this changes because while feminists are dividing ourselves we will have no chance to prevent gains being lost, let alone new equalities reached.

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  4. This is a great post and I agree with you. I really grow tired of the ludicrous idea some people seem to have, that the exercise of agency by a person somehow carries with it some inherent moral acceptability. This came up for me recently when I advised my friends I would not be attending a Bucks Party due to the fact it was the usual strip-fest, and I’m morally opposed to the reduction of women to mere matter for entertainment (not that it appeals as entertainment to me in any way).

    One of the first things I heard from my male friends was, but the women involved choose to be, as though this somehow validated everything and meant as a male one was removed from any moral responsibility; hell, even just to have any self-analysis on the matter (as per moral issues, is it about them, or me, anyway?).

    You have all of the standard ideas about women coming from a particularly repressed position where, as you would expect, ideas about validating life are swayed deeply by, as you say, a patriarchal setup. There’s that old Samuel Beckett quote about, humans are as free as someone walking east on a boat sailing west, and maybe the choice is delimited even further for women than for men?

    But, yes, what I mean to say is, we need to get over this idea that choice, or agency as is the philosophical term, is the only precondition needed to make something “right” or “okay”. I absolutely hate that line of thought and wish people, men especially, would take more responsibility for their own actions, rather evading it by some get out of jail free card as this idiotic proxy-agency line of thought provides.

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