Saturday, December 10, 2011

Fun Feminism and the Politics of Choice

I first came across the terms "fun feminism" and "choice feminism" during my inchoate blogging years, not quite  part of a feminist community but clinging to the fringes of a few "cool girl" bloggers whose daily life was as much informed by politics as it was the monthly free gift codes as, it held a certain degree of derision. It wasn't until Jill's Feministe post that I saw it fully explained:
Some of the trappings and rituals of femininity bring me pleasure. That pleasure comes with strings attached, and the social benefits that I receive from acting out femininity are largely where that pleasure springs from. But, like most other human beings, I’m a rational actor, and I’m doing what makes sense for me to get by, given my circumstances. I might even like some of the things that I do to get by. For me, that means make-up and fashion and hair removal. For other women it might be sex work or stripping or marriage or stay-at-home-mothering. It doesn’t make sense for us to sit around wringing our hands about what bad, bad feminists we are for slapping on some lipgloss or taking off our clothes for money or having a big white wedding — but it also doesn’t make sense for us to try and sell these things as feminism, or to pretend that they aren’t relevant to feminist discourse.
I suggest reading the entire post and its comments though it's several old. It lays out in detail not only the problems with "choice feminism," but why regarding all that is feminine as silly and superfluous equally problematic.

The biggest problem I have with "choice feminism" is parsing feminism to fit your own personal experience without looking at the larger social context that effects those choices. Wearing lipstick and short skirts may be a "choice: and it may make one feel good but why? I wear makeup. Not much -- unobservant people would call me a non-makeup wearer -- but enough to cover the "imperfections" and make my lips and cheeks a bit more rosier than they were when I woke up? Why do I do this? Generally I'm treated better when I look "prettier" in society's eyes. Conversely, I have the choice of going barefaced, which I have on occasion. But that choice comes with the baggage of being labeled "unfeminine," "unkempt" or "unprofessional." Recently XO Jane's Jess broke it down:
But the same basic principles pertain: If there are only a handful of options available to you, then it’s damn fortunate if you like one, but that doesn’t make it OK that there aren’t more. If your favorite pastimes are dieting, getting shiny hair, and having your legs looked at, hallelujah: You will receive plenty of support in doing the things you like best. But liking your limited options doesn’t mean your choice is free. It’s still constrained -- you just happen to be lucky.
What's all-too ignored is the concept of what's feminine or acceptable is often rooted in middle-class mores, and it's damn expensive to maintain one's femininity.

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