Choice Feminism and the Fear of Politics

Perspective on Politics (Impact Factor: 1.19). 02/2010; 8(01):247 - 253. DOI: 10.1017/S1537592709992830

ABSTRACT Choice feminism is motivated by a fear of politics. It arises in response to three common criticisms of feminism: that feminism is too radical, too exclusionary, and too judgmental. In response, choice feminism offers a worldview that does not challenge the status quo, that promises to include all women regardless of their choices, and that abstains from judgment altogether. Moreover, it enables feminists to sidestep the difficulties of making the personal political: making judgments and demanding change of friends, family, and lovers. Yet judgment, exclusion, and calls for change are unavoidable parts of politics. If feminists are not to withdraw from political life altogether, we have to acknowledge the difficulty of engaging in politics. Political claims are partial; we will inevitably exclude, offend, or alienate some of those whom we should wish to have as allies. The political concerns and dilemmas to which choice feminism responds are very real. However, we can take seriously the political motivations behind choice feminism without withdrawing from politics. Instead, we need to complement an acknowledgment of the political dilemmas facing feminists with a celebration of the pleasures of engaging in politics with those who differ from and disagree with us.

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    ABSTRACT: I respond to the foregoing essays and take up an ambivalent defense of Hirshman's argument. While agreeing with various points the contributors make, I highlight the fact that women's choices are still made under conditions of oppression that shape not only the options women have, but the desires themselves that shape their choices. Recognizing oppression as a social phenomenon allows feminists to accept a wider range of individual choices than we might think acceptable under the feminist umbrella, but it also requires a distinction between making a feminist choice and offering feminist support for choice.
    Perspective on Politics 02/2010; 8(01):271 - 278. DOI:10.1017/S1537592709992866 · 1.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: One attraction of “choice” feminism has been its refusal to judge the diverse desires of women. Yet for feminism to retain its political vision as a quest for social justice, we must continue difficult conversations concerning how acting on our individual desires impacts the lives of others. In this essay, I argue that feminists can acknowledge women's diverse desires while forging a meaningful feminist community. I make this argument by considering feminism's relationship to time, and particularly how women's diverse desires are read in each moment in time. If we abandon the generational model, wherein each new generation of feminists improves upon the last, for a genealogical perspective where women recognize our feminist origins and empathize with the diverse struggles of other women, we might reaffirm social justice for the community as central to feminist politics. To articulate this possibility, I turn to the work of Simone de Beauvoir to explain her discovery of how her embodiment as a woman and her relationship to femininity becomes a way of grounding a feminist politics. Recognizing the “demands of femininity” in other women's lives allows us to affirm feminist community while retaining the capacity to make judgments that realize social justice as a feminist goal.
    Perspective on Politics 02/2010; 8(01):263 - 269. DOI:10.1017/S1537592709992854 · 1.19 Impact Factor
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    ABSTRACT: How should feminist theorists respond when women who claim to be feminists make “choices” that seemingly prop up patriarchy, like posing for Playboy, eroticizing male dominance, or advocating wifely submission? This article argues that the conflict between the quest for gender equality and the desire for sexual pleasure has long been a challenge for feminism. In fact, the second-wave of the American feminist movement split over issues related to sexuality. Feminists found themselves on opposite sides of a series of contentious debates about issues such as pornography, sex work, and heterosexuality, with one side seeing evidence of gender oppression and the other opportunities for sexual pleasure and empowerment. Since the mid-1990s, however, a third wave of feminism has developed that seeks to reunite the ideals of gender equality and sexual freedom. Inclusive, pluralistic, and non-judgmental, third-wave feminism respects the right of women to decide for themselves how to negotiate the often contradictory desires for both gender equality and sexual pleasure. While this approach is sometimes caricatured as uncritically endorsing whatever a woman chooses to do as feminist, this essay argues that third-wave feminism actually exhibits not a thoughtless endorsement of “choice,” but rather a deep respect for pluralism and self-determination.
    Perspective on Politics 02/2010; 8(01):255 - 261. DOI:10.1017/S1537592709992842 · 1.19 Impact Factor
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