Buried Alive


Feminism and Choice, p.2 by pisaquaririse
July 23, 2008, 4:34 am
Filed under: Uncategorized

A choice only exists when there are at least two options for the given opportunity:

A. to do

B. not to do

It is a common assumption that most things we *do* are made (almost) entirely from our choice(s). We focus our attention on the “to do” option.

Where we seem slight in analysis (as I’ve said before and will continue to –let me count the ways) is on the “not to do” option. Taking that a step further, we are presumptuous in our own acceptance of having made a “choice” when the do has been done (<*I seriously could not think of a better way to say this!*).

Which is exactly what patriarchy wants: don’t worry about refusing because the system is designed so that the “to do” is built around so much pleasure, joy, and social acceptance that “not to do” never crosses our minds.

That is not nor will it ever be the conditions conducive to choice. Plain, simple, rinse, repeat.

Let’s say tomorrow, for example, women declared they didn’t feel like having sex with men for a year, or, instead, said “no sex” for 365 days straight–exactly what do we think would happen to rape numbers?

When our options are further complicated by having to depend on someone else’s options (like sex) we must be extra critical in stating a “choice” has been made (get that? That’s 4 options–several of which, combined, are mutually exclusive for choice).

The difficult part, of course, is knowing whether or not we had that “not to do” all along. This is because knowing the “to do” option does not automatically reveal the status of the “not to do.” Whereas if you find out you cannot do something then the “to do” is null immediately. You know the status of both options.

When women’s status remains as coerced and bribed and restricted as it is one would think the very concept of a feminist “choice” would be used so cautiously, if not rarely, that the occurrence would almost render us speechless.

However, we’ve instead made declaring our feminist “choices” so commonplace in feminist discussions that it would seem we were well on our way to becoming “free.” (The goal of any proper Women’s Backlash is to prematurely announce our status as “free.”) Of course, what is often at work in these declarations of choice is more a statement of privilege than choice.

I should have begun this post differently :

A choice only exists when there are at least two options for the given opportunity:

A. to do

B. not to do

addendum:based on our equal status as human beings.

To be in possession of your two options out of privilege and not because you are a human is not a choice. If without the privilege you would not be allowed your two options then, again, all you are exercising is privilege. Your equal human status is what should grant you the initial two options of to do or not to do.

If we allow “feminist choices” to be an extension of privilege we do women no good by feeding an artificial system that means only to short-circuit our efforts and declare a dangerously premature victory. This would be why, for example, women’s resistance is such an important, eye-opening experience:when we stop agreeing ” to do” the lack of “not to do” rears a much uglier, bigger thead than first thought.

This would also be why I cannot remember the last time I said I’ve made a feminist choice. And that I have such stringent rules for choice is neither defeatist nor women’s-experience-denying. It is, instead, an unwavering commitment to preserve the language of feminist achievements and never accept small ducats for this back and heart breaking work.

In fact, to do otherwise seems to me the more defeatist, women’s-experience-denying position.


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13 Comments so far
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And ALSO, just so we are clear ( as it really cannot be said enough), just because one has done something they *liked* it does not automatically mean they also had the option not to do it.

K, go little post.

Comment by pisaquaririse

I love your posts because they always make me think aobut things I haven’t thougth before. And this post is no exception.

I found this particularly interesting (and challenging)

“The goal of any proper Women’s Backlash is to prematurely announce our status as “free””

Would you mind terribly to expand on it a little bit?

Comment by Mary Tracy9

Which is exactly what patriarchy wants: don’t worry about refusing because the system is designed so that the “to do” is built around so much pleasure, joy, and social acceptance that “not to do” never crosses our minds.

And I would also add that sometimes all the “pleasure, joy, and social acceptance” are culturally trained & peer-pressured, i.e. what if a woman has decided to do something that everybody else says is enjoyable or “cool”, but then she doesn’t enjoy it, she cannot go back? I believe that this woman should have had the right to have a “not to do” choice or feel comfortable to have this “not to do” option in the future.

It doesn’t mean because most folks living in a patriarchy say women should “do this or that”, that women should necessarily do this or that to be free. Sometimes, there is a lot of freedom in the “not to do”.

And WRT some women’s lack of choice (e.g. the case of most women who are in prostitution), I wish people understood this more.

I agree, Pisaquari, people should be analyzing more in depth the complex ways in which women & girls make their limited choices, very limited within a patriarchy indeed!

why I cannot remember the last time I said I’ve made a feminist choice

The only time I can remember I made a 100% feminist choice is when I gave money to pro-abortion organizations. 🙂

Comment by Maggie Hays

I have actually had men say to me, with a straight face, “You are free to do what you want, but you have to willing to accept the consequences.” They say this as if the consequences of not doing something are the same for everyone.

Comment by bonobobabe

Can I extend your definition P? (ooh I see bonobabes already done it, but it bears repeating).

A choice only exists when there are at least two options for the given opportunity:

A. to do

B. not to do

And the consequences of doing are not more favourable than not doing (or vice versa).

FFS. I mean yeah I CHOSE to go to work this morning. Nobody made me, I got up, washed, dressed of my own free will and off I went. The point being that if I didn’t go to work for a prolonged period of time I’d have no money, cos they’d sack me.

As a white woman in the Western world I am hugely more privileged than a woman in say Darfur. I AM aware of that. And in a lot of ways I do have choice. But there have been some fairly critical moments in my life when I haven’t. And I’m a lot more privileged than a lot of women who are less than a mile away from where I’m sitting now- women in prostitution on the streets of this fair city, who don’t really look like they chose that when I see them.

Do I get trolled now? Sorry mate, you’re already banned.

Comment by polly styrene

Pisaquari,

Thanks for articulating this so clearly. This is the actual radical> part of radical feminsm.

I ignore the all anti-radical cop-outs that claim to be feminism.

Comment by Mary Sunshine

“Would you mind terribly to expand on it a little bit?”

No problem at all Mt^9.
Real quick question first: Have you ever read Faludi’s “Backlash”?–it is a rather fine read. Backlash simply meaning here to go backwards, to try and undo the work of the women’s movement.
If women begin to feel “free” or associate a good many of their actions with being made in a free context we risk losing sight of how far we really have to go.
Women feeling free prematurely means we stop asking as many questions, stop demanding more, and settle.

“And I would also add that sometimes all the “pleasure, joy, and social acceptance” are culturally trained & peer-pressured”

Yes Maggie–and I would add that “most times” that pleasure, joy, and social acceptance is culturally trained. 😉

The other point is, going off of this and more of what you said: how much does our raising environment (media, messages, content exposed to, etc) really offer us any other choices for that pleasure, joy and acceptance you know? Did they really have much a choice to like anything else?

We don’t often think of how many restrictions were involved in a our joy, pleasure, etc.

““You are free to do what you want, but you have to willing to accept the consequences.” They say this as if the consequences of not doing something are the same for everyone.”

What crap is that–“willing to accept the consequences”? You know, that sounds more like a threat to me. Like “you can do that but I’ll be there to MAKE YOU PAY.” FFs, I hope you just kept walking.

Comment by pisaquaririse

“And the consequences of doing are not more favourable than not doing (or vice versa).”

Yes I quite like that addition Polly.
Though I do not comprehenz the troll comment-whois banned?

“This is the actual radical> part of radical feminsm.”

Well thanks Mary! I try to be legit. Gotta fake it too many elsewheres, ya know.

Comment by pisaquaririse

Yer troll above Pisaquari – Mr Vermont college….

Comment by Polly Styrene

Yes Maggie–and I would add that “most times” that pleasure, joy, and social acceptance is culturally trained.

True, Pisaquari, I should have said “most times” instead.

The other point is, going off of this and more of what you said: how much does our raising environment (media, messages, content exposed to, etc) really offer us any other choices for that pleasure, joy and acceptance you know? Did they really have much a choice to like anything else?

We don’t often think of how many restrictions were involved in a our joy, pleasure, etc.

Yep, I totally agree, Pisaquari. 😉

Comment by Maggie Hays

Henry Ford said as the very first cars rolled off the assembly line, “you can have any color you like, as long as it’s black”.

Well, women can do anything they like, as long as it’s pornified.

Comment by m Andrea

Ha m Andrea!
That line actually works in a whole bunch of incidents…consider the analogy stolen :).

Comment by pisaquaririse

Henry Ford said as the very first cars rolled off the assembly line, “you can have any color you like, as long as it’s black”.

Well, women can do anything they like, as long as it’s pornified.

That’s brill, mAndrea. Yes, I remember (not first hand mind you) about the Ford comment.

Comment by stormy




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