Saturday, December 27, 2008

My Life, My Feminism

I just read that Dr. Isis is wrestling with her "feminist identity". Seems that the writings of a certain radical feminist have rubbed her the wrong way. Or maybe it's that she feels she is rubbing someone else the wrong way. Oh, hell, does it really matter? Because haven't we all felt like that - just a little out of sync with some sort of ideal that we think we are a part of?

Life is complicated. Nothing is ever only black or only white. Nobody is ever all right or all wrong. But many of us throw our ideas out into the world, and hope that they may land in some fertile place and create new ideas, which will go out into the world to continue the cycle ad infinitum.

I've written before about the idea that true reproductive choice is the choice to NOT have children. I didn't come up with that idea all on my own. Nor did I come up with the idea that it is not exactly productive to be tarring women who have children with the "anti-feminist" brush.

What is strange to me, and which was the inspiration for that post, is the idea that those two ideas cannot peacefully coexist. That somehow advocating for reproductive choice directly leads to advocating AGAINST motherhood and children in general. To me this is a case of taking a mostly good idea a bit too far. If women could truly choose not to have children, then ALL women would choose to remain childless, because kids are a pain in the ass. And therefore, all women who do have children are fools, or "tools of the patriarchy", and deserve to be banish-ed. Right?

Wrong. It is wrong because it is not completely right. There are some women who do not exercise the choice to not have children because they are being bent over by "the patriarchy". Actually, the Third World is full of women in this situation. There are plenty in America, too. But those of us who are trying to figure out how make a career in science (or any other deeply engrossing field) while having meaningful relationships with spouses we love and raising children that are the products of those unions are not victims that need to be saved from our reproductive follies. We are women who are trying to figure out how to have the life we want. There is no perfect recipe for a happy life. The key, though, is figuring out the right ingredients for YOUR happy life. And in what amounts they should be combined.

Of course, I can speak this way because of my extremely privileged position - what with living in America, and not having to be on welfare and all. It's most likely not going to kill me to have a child, even if I have complications, because I have access to the best health care imaginable. I have a husband who believes that it is my choice at the end of the day whether I want to have any more babies, whether he wants them or not. I also happen to not be in a family that does the whole pressuring for grandkids thing. Oh, yes. And I have access to birth control, and am not afraid, ashamed, or convinced that it is morally wrong to use it.

It is quite an effective technique to speak in absolutes if you want to force people to think about the things they take for granted. Like that women naturally just want to settle down and make babies with some guy, and any other endeavor they get involved in is just a way to kill the time until such time as that happy ending is achieved. I wholeheartedly agree that we need to get rid of that notion. I see no need to replace it with this, or any other extreme alternative. But, hey, it sure does get people talking and thinking, doesn't it.


volcanista said...

I agree with you. I also think it's wrong that there are only two options (with us or against us!). There are choices that are feminist, those that are anti-feminist, and those that are not particularly feminist (perhaps including having kids, I don't know) but aren't counter to feminism, either.

It's not particularly feminist for me to go out and earn some money as a stripper, but I'm not hurting the "movement" by doing so - it's paying the stripper that's truly anti-feminist. Maybe I wouldn't have chosen that profession outside the patriarchy, but given the choices I have I am exercising agency within my own life. Feminism is NOT about removing agency by removing any choices.

Abel Pharmboy said...

Please forgive this middle-aged white guy for weighing in (does acknowledging my comment constitute a nod to the patriarchy? ;-)). I've been following the discussion and terminated several comments I began because I didn't really feel it was my place to jump in. However, your comments at Isis really got me thinking: isn't feminism really supposed to be about women having the complete freedom to make the choices they find best for them?

acmegirl said...

There is no reason that a woman who has children cannot be a feminist. Perhaps that would be hard to reconcile with radical feminism, but then, there are many flavors of feminism.

Making money as a stripper? Sure, you can make a case that it's your choice try to eek out a living in that dark and seedy world, but then again, maybe your boyfriend is pimping you out, so it's not really your choice. You can certainly say that men who are willing to pay for a lap dance are just mysogynists who objectify women and won't put in the effort to form a meaningful relationship. Or, they could just be sad, lonely guys who can't figure out a better way to enjoy physical closeness with another human being.

But I think the real problem with the "stripping for money" thing is that young women today still think that their most precious assets are their tits and ass. It is ridiculous that when women try to think of a way to make some money quick, stripping comes up and not some other option.

Instead of criticising individual choices, the feminism that I can get behind is invested in providing more and better choices to women.

acmegirl said...

Abel, I couldn't agree with you more. I guess that makes me a liberal feminist, not a radical feminist.

But I think that we are very privileged to be able to approach things this way. In much of the world, the idea that a woman can and should choose thinkgs like who or if she marries, and when and if she has children does not exist. In that world, I think talking about women making the choices that are best for them is not going to work.

Daisy said...

Hope you checked out my piece on Twisty, which was linked over at Dr Isis' place:

Feminists on High Horses, pt. 1

I will say, I had no idea how popular Twisty was, until writing this. She's like a cult feminist (as in a cult movie)... or something.

acmegirl said...

She's good for a laugh, but not to be taken too seriously.

DrugMonkey said...

great post acmegirl.
"It is wrong because it is not completely right." a reminder to all of us that in the adult world life gets...complicated.

isn't feminism really supposed to be about women having the complete freedom to make the choices they find best for them?

this is what I always thought...not to make too many assumptions but is this not a generational issue?