Certain feminists tend to get very upset about “choosey choice” and “I choose my choice” and “empowerful” feminism, which (as far as I can tell) is feminism that has no problem with women doing sex work or wearing makeup or staying at home and raising kids or having kinky sex. “A choice that a woman makes isn’t feminist just because a woman makes it!” they point out.
This is very true. For instance, it is not a feminist choice to go about shaming other people’s life choices.
The first problem I have with “I don’t support ‘I choose my choice’ feminism!” is that a lot of the women who talk about it tend to have bundles of unchecked privilege wandering around and getting in the way. For instance, criticizing Beyonce for calling her tour the “Mrs. Carter Tour,” without thinking about how a black woman embracing being a wife is radical in a way that it isn’t for a white woman. Surprising news, fellow white people: racialized misogyny doesn’t work the same way that regular misogyny does! There’s an assumption that “giving into the patriarchy” looks like the same thing for all women, an assumption which is stupid and privileged and horrible and needs to go die in a fire yesterday.
Rad Trans Fem has a parable she calls the “Parable of the Shitty Lemon,” which I also think is relevant to the “wow, anti-choice-feminism rhetoric is super-privileged” issue. Imagine a table with two plates, one of which is empty, and one of which has a lemon with a bit of shit on it. This is the situation a lot of marginalized people are in. Put on lipstick or hate yourself for being ugly. Change your last name or piss off your husband’s very traditional family.
A lot of anti-choice-feminism rhetoric is yelling at people “why are you eating the shitty lemon? Don’t you realize there’s shit on that lemon? You’re contributing to the social pressure for women to eat shitty lemons! You horrible anti-feminist shit-lemon-eating monster!” This is completely unhelpful. The point is to figure out how to get some food that isn’t a lemon and isn’t covered in shit!
But I disagree with their premise on an even more fundamental level.
My feminism is about people having freedom from the constraints of gender norms. Freedom means that no choices are off-limits. Freedom means that my wife can stay home with the kids, or we both can work, or I can stay home with the kids. Freedom means that I may choose to wear natural lipstick or no lipstick or bright purple lipstick. Freedom means I can have kinky sex or vanilla sex or no sex. Freedom means I can change my name to my husband’s name, or his to mine, or we can invent our own surname.
Staying at home with the kids isn’t empowering. Being able to decide for yourself whether you want to stay home with the kids is empowering. I mean, of course it is. “Being able to make choices with few or no constraints” is literally the definition of power.
Therefore, we ought to direct our attention at the people who are adding a bunch of unnecessary constraints onto women’s lives for no reason and away from the people who are trying to make the best choices they can within a patriarchal framework.