I was talking to a friend tonight and she was discussing her discomfort with a conversation she was having around reproductive choices. She didn’t have time to go into particulars and I was unable to respond to her feeling of discomfort, so I was lying awake thinking about it instead, formulating my thoughts into a blog post that would never get written… like I have been doing for quite some time now. As you have probably noticed… my blog has been quiet for a while.
So I thought to myself, “Fuck it, write the damn post now. It will be gone in the morning if you don’t!” So here I am. And here are my half-formed thoughts around a brief mention of the word choice in a conversation with a lesbian sister.
Choice is the catch-cry of 21st century feminism. We are taught by rote that the goal of feminism is to expand women’s choices. That choices can and should be as limitless for women as they are for men. That more choice, quantity rather than quality, is good for women. That uncritical and unexamined choices are evidence of true freedom.
Liberal feminists cling to choice, champion choice, march behind banners of choice. Yet I am left feeling very uncomfortable with this word, what it means for women, and what it leaves out of the equation. In our focus on choice it seems the real motivation behind women’s movement world-wide is thrown by the wayside. Liberal feminists are motivated by a horizon of ever-expanding choice. Radical feminists are inflamed by a passion for liberation.
I am not just talking about language. I am talking about the very different way the libfems and radfems structure our politics and our approach to the fact of women’s oppression under male supremacy. I am talking about the radically different way we see the world, the way we analyse our oppression, and the goals that we set for ourselves and for the world.
I would argue that the politics of choice falls far short of the politics of liberation.
In a worldview where choice is the goal, issues like prostitution, stripping and other forms of sexual violence can be defended as empowering. Where choice is the goal reproductive technologies are not dangerous harmful practices, they are embraced as offering women more choice.
But when the goal of feminism is women’s liberation these practices become senseless. When the issue is not a matter of expanding women’s choices ad nauseum, but about liberating women from male supremacy the word choice become less meaningful and less relevant. Especially when we begin to look at and deconstruct the way that many of our choices are made for us.
I believe that liberation is a fundamental necessity for women’s emancipation from the tyranny of male rule. Choice is a very poor substitute for freedom. There are many, many ‘choices’ that women should never have to make and yet we are forced to make them every day.
I am a feminist who wants a world where certain choices are unavailable to women. Where the image of liberation is a bunch of dykes sitting around a kitchen table loaded with delicious vegan food, rather than a woman on a table shedding her clothes for a room full of men who consume her as they would a steak. I can and do imagine a world where no woman is made to see herself as a fuck toy (prostitution) or a womb (surrogacy, IVF etc). I can and do imagine a world where women are considered to be as human as men. I do have faith that one day women are going to wake up and see themselves and their sisters as human.
But choice is the language of the powerless. Choice is the language and the activism of a colonised people who are (justifiably) terrified of their oppressors. Choice a dead-end politics, the politics of a people who have given up and are now begging for crumbs.
Liberation is the language and the activism of the sisters who have found themselves and each other. Liberation is the language and the politics of the women who can set the world on fire. Feminism needs women with the courage to go too far and the imagination to build a new world when they get there. It is going to be a bumpy ride, sisters, but I’m taking her all the way.