Don’t be fooled: Feminism isn’t really about choice

OK, call me crazy. But I the only one who remembers, in my formative years, hearing repeatedly from the feminists that feminism was about freeing us women to make our own choices about our own lives? If we wanted to pursue high powered careers, we should be free to do that. And if we wanted to stay home and raise babies . . . well, that was a valid choice as well. One got the impression that they didn’t understand why any self-respecting woman would make such a choice. But they nevertheless gave some good lip service, sometimes through rather clenched jaws, to our right to choose it.

Well, apparently not so much anymore. Everything I have been reading lately indicates that the facade is gone. Motherhood is out. Careers are in.

That previous incarnation of feminism — the one where women get to make their own choices about their own lives — is now called “Choice Feminism.” And it is so 1995. If you don’t believe me, just google it. I did.

What I found was a whole lot of academic, Marxist-sounding ideology about class and the patriarchy and struggle and some “queer” stuff that I didn’t quite understand. Basically it all boiled down to this: we women may think we are making our own choices. But we aren’t, because our choices are all so influenced by the patriarchy and the oppressive conditions under which we are forced to exist.

So, we should instead choose what they tell us to choose.

At least that’s what it all sounded like to me.

I understand the criticism of “choice feminism” to a certain extent. Many writers spoke out against this idea that any choice a woman makes is somehow a feminist statement. The most-common example I saw was that of the “liberated” stripper who celebrates her stripper-ness as some kind of victory for feminism. Which doesn’t make a whole lot of sense to me.

But, do you know what the second-most common example was? The choice of a mother to stay at home with her kids.

It seems to baffle them that any woman would make such a bizarre sacrifice. It must be because of the patriarchy. Or because child raising is still perceived by our sexist society as “women’s work.” Or because we are still tethered to a ”1950’s male breadwinner model.”

It doesn’t seem to occur to them that it could be because women, having nurtured these tiny little creatures within their own bodies, may actually want to spend their time nurturing and raising them.

The piece de resistance was a widely circulated article in the Australian magazine RendezView, which actually proposes that mothers of school-aged children be forced, under penalty of law, to be “gainfully employed” outside the home. Says Sarrah Le Marquand, somewhat awkwardly, “Only when the tiresome and completely unfounded claim that ‘feminism is about choice’ is dead and buried (it’s not about choice, it’s about equality) will we consign restrictive gender stereotypes to history.”

So, I’m thinking that by “choice” she means “freedom of self-determination”; by “equality”, she means “women being just like men.”; and by “restrictive gender stereotypes”, she means “biological and psychosexual differences that impact our lifestyle choices.”

But the women of the world clearly aren’t voluntarily marching into her brave new world of gender uniformity. And so it is time to employ the long arm of the law. Says she, “. . . it’s time for a serious rethink of this kid-glove approach to women of child-bearing and child-rearing age. Holding us less accountable when it comes to our employment responsibilities is not doing anyone any favours [sic].”

(I have to confess I’m somewhat curious about what will happen to unemployment numbers in Australia when every mother exercises her “employment responsibilities” and enters the workforce. But I digress.)

And so, the mask is off. Feminism was never about allowing women to choose what they want. It is about coercing women to choose what these feminists want them to choose.

It is not not surprising that, in a recent poll, 85% of women responded that they support equality for women, yet only 15% said that they identify as a “feminist.” The movement has moved away from the women it is supposed to represent.

As for me, I don’t want the State, or the Feminist Powers That Be, to issue a list of acceptable choices for women. Particularly when it comes to the often complicated question of whether a mother works or stays at home.

I still subscribe to the apparently antiquated notion that decisions like these are best made by the couple in question.

I know. Call me crazy . . .

COMING UP: Taking back the true dignity of women

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Remember back in the old days, when they used to say that a beautiful woman “could stop traffic”?

Well, it seems that modern-day feminists are reviving the idea, but with a twist. Apparently we women are supposed to actually stop traffic. And not with our beauty.

March 8th has been designated as A Day Without a Woman. On that day we women are, “in a spirit of love and liberation,” supposed to walk off our jobs (paid or unpaid — hence incorporating our duties as wives and mothers), refuse to shop, and wear red “in solidarity.”

And, apparently, stop traffic. Literally. Former Black Panther and honorary event co-chair Angela Davis co-authored an op-ed piece in which she said of the day:

“The idea is to mobilize women […] in an international day of struggle—a day of striking, marching, blocking roads, bridges, and squares, abstaining from domestic, care, and sex work […]”

Because nothing says “love and liberation” like skipping out on our duties, wreaking havoc on the streets and keeping emergency vehicles away from emergencies.

Many women I know and respect marched in the first Women’s March. I am a big fan of authentic women’s rights. And yet skipped the march, for several reasons. I wasn’t clear on the message; the parts of the message I was clear on I either disagreed with or found irrelevant; and I failed to see the what role genitalia hats and vulgarity could possibly play in enhancing women’s dignity.

It seems to me that our suffragette fore-mothers worked and sacrificed so that women would be taken seriously — demonstrating that we were capable in areas previously reserved for men. And, thankfully, that goal has largely been attained. We have opportunities women in previous ages didn’t dream of. The world is our oyster. Women are represented in virtually every area of society. In fact, several major world powers have been led by women, and a woman just narrowly missed being elected President of the United States.

So now we’re walking off the job en masse to protest — what? What message are we delivering to the last, dying vestiges of “the patriarchy”? That they should pay us more money because we wear p***y hats, or because we leave our employers and families in the lurch so that we can go out and block traffic?

They’ll be lining up to hire us now.

To the extent that these protests are about “women’s issues”, they further illustrate that modern feminism has bought into the lie of the pre-feminist era: that it is better to be a man, and that we become “equal” to the extent that we become like men. Or rather — as repeatedly demonstrated in the marches around the world — like the worst stereotypes of men: vulgar, career-driven and sex-obsessed. “Reproductive rights” insure our bodies, like men’s bodies, will not be subject to pregnancy. “Equal pay for equal work” attempts to create a workplace gender parity that doesn’t reflect the reality of our lives. Studies consistently show that, when apples are truly compared to apples, women’s wages keep pace with their male counterparts. As they should. The “wage gap” is not so much a function of discrimination against women as it is the discrimination of women themselves, who often opt for shorter hours and less demanding positions because they are less motivated by career, and instead want to spend more time at home with the children they birthed.

Call me crazy, but I’ve been a woman my entire life, and I have found very little to complain about. I have neither needed nor desired “reproductive rights,” and I remain appalled that those “rights” come at the cost of the lives of unborn children. Nor have I ever found my gender to present a barrier in the workplace. I have found that the workplace sometimes doesn’t know how to best utilize women’s unique gifts. I may write about that in more detail some day. But in the mean time, I hardly see how anarchy in the streets is going to open anyone’s eyes to our interpersonal sensitivity.

We live in a world with two very different visions of women. There’s the “let’s hit the streets and show them that we can be as aggressive and vulgar as men” school of thought. And then there is the Christian vision, championed by our own St. John Paul II, who extolled our “feminine genius” — the uniqueness of women’s giftedness as we are. He also spoke out against all violence and unjust discrimination against us, called for our presence and influence in every aspect of society, and said that women’s dignity is closely connected to the love we receive and give in return. (That’s the Christian kind of love, not the “love and liberation” variety that stops traffic.)

Which vision do you suppose will actually lead to true respect for women?

I know which one I want to reflect. And so, on March 8th you will find me in the office, hard at work.

And I think I will wear . . . blue.