Shit liberal feminists say: Choice

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On December 5th, feminists gathered at the Vancouver Public Library to commemorate a tragedy that’s become known as the Montreal Massacre. On December 6th, 1989, Marc Lépine, a poster boy for aggrieved entitlement, walked into an engineering class at École Polytechnique at the University of Montréal and opened fire on female engineering students after yelling, “You’re all a bunch of feminists. I hate feminists.” He killed 14 women that day.

Vancouver Rape Relief and Women’s Shelter organized the Montreal Massacre Memorial event, a day jam-packed with films, roundtable discussions, and talks by preeminent feminists, front-line workers, and activists. Throughout the event, several women pointed to liberal feminism’s failure to confront the interlocking systems that oppress women, criticizing the creative tricks third wave and liberal feminists use to make oppression more comfortable.

In the first post of this series, I briefly touched on the third wave’s holy grail — “choice” — while deconstructing “SWERF,” a term used to silence feminist analysis of prostitution, pornography, and other sexual exploitation industries. I’m still fired up by the sharp and courageous feminism I witnessed at the memorial, so this time I’ll look more closely at the idea of choice, and how liberal feminists use it to feel good and feministy without actually doing feminism.

How it’s used: 

Liberal feminists stop debate by crying “choice” when radical feminists unpack the context and impacts of choices — especially choices that reinforce male supremacy. This usually happens in conversations about prostitution, pornography, or other industries and activities that objectify women or encourage women to objectify ourselves, like, say, stripping.

A radical feminist sees stripping as something that upholds male supremacy as the woman involved is expected to present herself as a sexualized object for the male gaze. Those gazing, objectifying men don’t care about that woman as a person. They’re not thinking about her as a complete human being — their focus is simply examining and appraising her body for their sexual gratification.

In keeping with the feminist belief that feminism is the fight to liberate all women, a radical feminist would recognize that an individual woman’s “choice” to strip is deeply connected to the broadly-held view that women’s bodies — all women’s bodies — exist for men and for male approval.

Going further, a radical feminist would also look at the context for this choice. In the case of stripping, that would include considering how, in patriarchy, females are socialized from birth to objectify ourselves. She’d look at the constant drip-drip-drip of subtle and overt messages we absorb throughout our lives that teach us to strive to be pretty and sexually desirable to men.

She’d also look at the ways patriarchy restricts the range of economic opportunities available to women, how trafficking helps supply men with female bodies to ogle, and how objectification is connected to male violence against women. After all that analysis, she’d conclude that, if not for patriarchy, women would have a broader range of well-paying occupations from which to choose, and, in all likelihood, fewer women would strip.

Not surprisingly, a liberal feminist’s take on stripping looks very different, in that it begins and ends with one point: because an individual woman chose to strip, stripping is, by default, a feminist choice that should be honoured as empowering and not “shamed” (third wave speak for “analyzed”). That’s it: choice. Full stop.

Why it’s wrong:

Considering that the goals of liberal feminism are different from the goals of radical feminism, in that liberals want women to have the same benefits as men, while radical feminists fight to liberate all women from patriarchal structures of oppression, the liberal focus on choice makes sense. Viewed through a libfem lens, women choosing something — anything — is a victory; regardless of the impact, or what other choices they might have made if a broader range of choices was available.

There are cold, hard truths that need to be accepted before women can join a meaningful movement for liberation. It sucks to realize that much of our behaviour is influenced by socialization that is designed to keep us nice, complacent, and focused on how attractive we are to men. It’s painful to consider how racism, poverty, class, and male supremacy limit the variety and quality of choices we get to choose from. No matter how uncomfortable, these crucial, light bulb moments begin a long and difficult process of questioning and changing our behaviour, and demanding that men do the same.

This is the work of feminism, the mostly thankless, often dangerous work that must be done — work that women can’t begin while denying the conditions of our oppression. We cannot break out of a cage we’re trying desperately not to see.

What it does:

Unquestioningly celebrating “choice” helps women feel good about themselves while they avoid confronting the system of patriarchy and even, in some cases, uphold it. It allows them to earn the benefits society gives women who don’t challenge male supremacy while comforting themselves with the idea that their behavior – no matter how problematic — is feminist.

There are real and dangerous consequences when women do misogyny while thinking they’re doing feminism. Convinced they’re on the side of women without critically examining the behaviour they are supporting and beginning the real work of feminism, they lash out in anger at radical feminists who ask them to consider that they might actually not be on women’s side. Similarly, men who are drawn to this feel-good fauxmenism that doesn’t ask them to do anything differently, claim feminism without taking a hard look at their privilege and behaviour and asking feminists how they can help. Instead of directing their anger at patriarchy and male entitlement, third wavers pile on radical feminists who dare ask the difficult questions that need to be answered if we are to bring about actual change.

Meanwhile, women and girls report increasing rates of mental illness, sexual coercion, and, depending on our class, race or where we live, rising or tragically consistent rates of sexual assault.

What it reveals:

A close look at choice feminism reveals that it isn’t feminism at all. Feminism demands that women challenge the material conditions of our oppression and take courageous action towards liberation, understanding full well that we will be scapegoated, attacked and, in many cases, isolated from the people we care about who are unwilling or unable to stand with us.

Liberal feminism demands nothing of women. Instead, it replaces painful self-reflection and bold action with mantras and buzzwords that allow women to avoid the sanctions that inevitably follow challenges to entrenched systems of power. Women who choose liberal feminism aren’t choosing to fight patriarchy and break all women out of oppression’s cage — they’re choosing to make that cage more comfortable for themselves.

Jindi Mehat is an East Vancouver-based second wave feminist who is reconnecting with feminism after several tours of duty in male-dominated corporate land. Follow her @jindi and read more of her work at Feminist Progression.

Jindi Mehat
Jindi Mehat

Contributor

Jindi Mehat is a Vancouver feminist activist and general rabble rouser.

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  • The words “consent” and “agency” have to some extent replaced “choice” as new liberal buzzwords used to defend behaviour which are in fact subordinate (meaning they result in or from a lack of power). The word “choice” is the kind of language a child or adolescent uses to defend harmful decisions that they made or wish to make. Liberals want to sound smarter, even though their argument is basically the same.

    I think “criticised” is a better translation of “shamed” then “analysed”. Liberals are okay with people analysing sex, beauty practices and conformity to femininity so long as these “analyses” conclude that the behaviour being discussed, whatever it is, is empowering and subversive. They only oppose analyses when they lead to the conclusion that a behaviour is harmful. Afterall, liberal academics need some excuse to charge people hundreds of dollars to listen to their bullshit and something to talk about during their boring and repetitive at best, slanderous at worst, lectures.

    Entry three in my liberish to English dictionary;

    Shame: To criticise an action especially in a way that aims to discourage people from partaking in it, even if said behaviour undermines movements aimed at fighting for female equality and has been demonstrated to be physically, emotionally or socially harmful.

    And here is a bonus entry!

    Analyse: To discuss the ways in which a behaviour or belief empowers women or subverts male dominance, when applied to behaviours or beliefs liberals like, or to demonstrate that a belief is false, whoops I mean “problematic” or “dangerous”, when applied to beliefs liberals do not like.

  • david blane

    Radical feminism may gain more traction if it joins with transhumanism. Those people have a whole philosophy aimed at separating consciousness from DNA. If women aren’t physically attractive to advertise the health of their DNA then you’re already on the same platform as transhumanists. Jump in with both feet.

    • Tired feminist

      Translation: “you ugly bitches be nicer if you want any chance of being respected LOL”.

      Why don’t you try to gain traction to jump with both feet into a pool of sharks? It’s even more fun than trolling feminists.

  • Samantha

    It’s a hell of a lot easier to like Tucker Max books and porn than to not like it. People want to belong and the easiest way to belong in the patriarchy is to participate in it.

  • Camille Renaud

    agh this is my new favorite website….Jindi, you get it

  • Rachel

    This is brilliant. Thank you so much.

  • rosearan

    I endorse all of this. But focusing on issues like stripping and rape and gender violence takes away the spotlight from the battles that most women face in the very conservative area of marriage, which was the main focus of send-wave feminism. Many women devote decades to their marriages, often compromising their careers and financial independence when the children come along and leave themselves financially vulnerable when they fall prey to the statistic that more than 50% of marriages break down and end in divorce.

    By all means, keep up the good work on focusing on cultural sexualisation and violence against women, but my plea to younger feminists is that they don’t ignore the politically-charged romance trap of marriage.

    • Nat G

      Exactly what I was thinking. Many people blame radical feminists for attacking women’s “choice” to be full time parents and to not focus on a carreer every time there’s new ideas to make women more financially independant.

    • Yes, I agree we need to pay more attention to this. I think I take my thoughts about it in a different direction though. Too much to get into here.

      • rosearan

        I’m interested to know what your thoughts are that take you in a ‘different direction’. This is not a challenge, just a genuine inquiry.

    • rosearan

      Thank you so much to everyone who replied to my comment. All very supportive and understanding. I was a bit worried that I’d receive negative responses, possibly accusing me of ‘whataboutery’ or taking away from the main concerns of the article. Yet it’s all interconnected. A lot of men approach their marriages (and common law marriages) in much the same way that they approach pornography and the sexualization of women – i.e. that women were put on earth to serve and support men’s needs. Now that it’s common for women to have their own careers, men have co-opted this by utilizing the woman’s career to raise the family’s standard of living, yet without seriously changing their lifestyles or work habits to support the added stresses this puts on women. I’m talking from my own experience and that of just about every married couple I’ve known over the last thirty years.

    • Lucia Lola

      I get this every time I go home for the holidays. Apparently I will be “growing out” of this feminism business I’m about once I get good and married and busy with babies. Oh, how it will be fun these next two weeks…

  • Grafton Is Dust

    Every time someone uses the word Liberal as an insult, a person from outside America titters to themselves.

  • Sabine

    Liberal feminism = Fauxmenism. Spot on.

    • Lucia Lola

      Exactly.

  • Juliet Manning

    Although I understand the desire to differentiate between “liberal” and “radical” feminists in order to better understand different viewpoints, this article seems very polarizing to me.

    I doubt that any feminists “unquestionably” celebrate choice. As a rule, feminists are good at questioning their society – they have to be.
    I may celebrate an individual stripper’s work while ALSO understanding and fighting against the patriarchic circumstances that lead so many women into stripping. It’s not either-or. Saying, “it’s your choice” is NOT the same as saying “hey, sure, go for it because society is fine the way it is, nothing needs to change here!” That wouldn’t be liberal feminism, it wouldn’t be feminism at all – that’s just… pro-status quo.
    By definition, a feminist is someone who wants to change the system, because they recognize the harm caused by patriarchy.

    For me, thinking liberally means letting your mind look at things from different angles, and letting this insight inform how to best move forward. Its polar opposite would be to quickly impose radical measures, such as bans (of porn, stripping, etc). Radical measures, as we have seen in the war on drugs, can be risky – they might not be effective, or they might even backfire. We can decry stripping all we like because of where it comes from, but the reality is that we probably can’t stop it from continuing anytime soon. We have to be smart about this.
    In order to radically change things in the long run, we need to treat the cause, not the symptoms. Improve how society values women – and let this change naturally affect the sex industry, as more and more women gain opportunities for other work.

    I would argue that a “liberal” feminist might even have better questioning powers than a radical one. She sees how the patriarchy drives (or drags) so many women into stripping. She acknowledges that stripping is an ongoing reality, for the moment. So she looks even deeper, asks more questions: Is it possible to look at stripping in a different way? What role might stripping have, if any, in a gender-equal or gender-free society? Where is the line between objectification and empowerment? (Excellent article on this: http://everydayfeminism.com/2015/04/empowered-vs-objectified/ )

    But maybe I’m just disagreeing with the terms you’ve used.
    I think it is possible to be liberal and truly, deeply feminist at the same time.
    The “libfems” you’re describing don’t seem like real feminists at all to me.

    • Hannah

      How do you “celebrate” a stripper’s work if you really do “understand and fight against the patriarchic circumstances that lead so many women into stripping”?

      • pjwhite

        A woman who celebrates stripping is like a black man who celebrates “shuck & jive”. Why would any women celebrate something that undermines her dignity as a human being -or the dignity of her daughter or sisters? Madness.

        • Sally Hansen

          Hit the nail on the head.

    • Why would you celebrate a stripper’s work? What utility does that possess?

    • Tired feminist

      Of course they don’t. Because liberal feminism is not feminism at all.

    • disqus_zLY0jsDmax

      Now that is a thoughtful, cogent, and intelligent response. Thank you for taking the time to post it.

  • disqus_zLY0jsDmax

    Having worked diligently on the front lines of feminism in the sixties and seventies I have this to observe about feminism, in general, regardless of the category you place it in. Feminism became about “us” vs “them” and, for that reason alone, it will not work. Equality, in and of itself, must be about justice for ALL. Men should come to feel just as much investment in obtaining this form of justice as women BECAUSE they have been educated on how it will benefit them as well as women. When women and men both see the benefits and work together to obtain it, then we will have true justice. The women’s movement has mistakenly promoted the uniformity of men and women, rather than their equality. It has commandeered most of its energy into gaining sexual and reproductive rights AND the right to act like a man, if she so chooses. I believe the depression females today feel, as pointed out by the author, comes more from having to deny those qualities that come naturally to her because she might be considered not a feminist, not liberated enough. The problem is that we are focusing on male vs female when we should be focusing on human qualities. What is needed is not uniformity with men but an equal valuation of those human traits that have typically been considered “feminine”. The qualities of compassion, kindness, listening, compromise, nurturing, respect, peacemaking, etc…these are qualities in our society that ALL humans possess but that have been squelched as too “soft and feminine” in our societies’ institutions and cultural systems. Feminists need to be about reaffirming these qualities as those that will most benefit the whole of humankind – including men – so that the world can have more peace, security, and justice.

    • Your first mistake is assuming feminism is about equality. Knock off the mansplaining and read the article for comprehension this time.

    • Cassandra

      ^^^BUT WHAT ABOUT TEH MENZ?!?!”

    • Tired feminist

      Hi troll!

    • LuckPushedMeFirst

      May I present a direct quote from disqus dude’s post archive: “Ben Carson is a hero.”

      Just leaving that there for everyone’s entertainment.

    • rosearan

      What’s wrong with ‘us versus them’? Throughout history, no social justice movement has ever won a victory by trying to understand how the oppressor class ‘feels’. Social justice movements have always fought for what the oppressed class ‘feels’. After periods of prolonged struggle, and added help from external socio-political factors (e.g. women’s role during WWI in securing the women’s vote, the 1950s Eisenhower Administration’s acknowledgement that women were an untapped labour resource), women have managed to advance their cause. Trying to enlist understanding from men about how the patriarchy also disadvantages them has never brought any lasting change. Instead, we have the MRA movement, which uses these disadvantages for their own ends – men supposedly losing their rights to their children post-divorce, men’s greater fatalities in the workplace, men dying in wars, men’s shorter life expectancy – to promote a sense that men are enslaved to women’s manipulation, Men have co-opted the feminist message to use against them, instead of seeing how it’s the patriarchy that causes these problem for men. As with all social justice power struggles, women need to keep their eye on the ball and not be distracted by attempts to ’empathize’ with those who oppress them.

    • Sally Hansen

      “how it will benefit them as well as women.”

      Why do men require some kind of reward for treating women as human beings? What you’re essentially saying here is that “men don’t get enough, therefore we should give them more, then maybe they’ll leave women alone” when in fact men are quite entitled, every institution is already tailored to fulfill all their needs (that’s called “patriarchy” in case you were wondering), and they still won’t leave women alone.

      When men actually care about women as fully human beings, without requiring a perk for themselves to go along with it, then i’ll care about their opinions. Until then, no, I value feminism over anything any man ever has to say. You see, I don’t need to think about what I get out of it when I stand up for someone else’s humanity and dignity. That’s how a five-year-old child thinks and rationalizes reality, not a full-grown psychologically mature adult. Men shouldn’t need a fucking biscuit just to get them to say “women are human”.

      • Angela K. Knight

        I think what she may have been suggesting, is that the benefits to men include the men themselves becoming more human; the male gaze becoming much less about objectification and privilage; reduction of male ENTITLEMENT to service by women in the numerous ways (looks, child bearing, domestic, sex object), males becoming capable of respecting female bosses/females in general to the same degree they respect male bosses/males in general; and their souls becoming more compassionate and human like as they become capable of seeing women as whole human beings, respecting their input and not EXPECTING them to be subdued, quiet, unintelligent sex objects. They would no doubt benefit from fuller relationships, fuller respect, and a fuller life experience. Therefore, it would benefit both sexes.

  • Cassandra

    This is great, Jindi. Thank you so much!

  • pjwhite

    Brilliant – absolutely brilliant! Thank You! I want to tweet every line.

  • LuckPushedMeFirst

    I think he’s trying to put a new spin on ye olde chestnut: “feminists are bitter hags.” If we were conventionally attractive, we’d get laid more and wouldn’t be so anti-funsies, etc., etc.

    If you can’t articulate an intelligent argument, go for the low-hanging fruit. Everyone knows women are so wrapped up in their looks that it takes one mean jab from a man to send them scurrying off the internet forever! *smh*

  • LuckPushedMeFirst

    Also, declining wages and steadily increasing COL means only a select, economically privileged group of women can choose to be SAHMs. Quitting your job to stay home with the kids is a non-starter for most women today. Most families rely on that double income to make ends meet.

  • pinky

    There’s a theory in anthropology that for a culture to survive, everyone needs to be empowered and benefit in some way. Thus, a sense of empowerment is a component of, not a challenge to, the existing system.

    • Sally Hansen

      Sorry, I have a degree in Anthropology (BA from UCSB), and I’ve never heard that “theory”. It’s also wrong.

  • Meghan Murphy

    Everyday Feminism’s ongoing attempts to neutralize and degender patriarchal oppression are brutal.

  • Tired feminist

    Join the club, sister. Your account is soooooo familiar.

    My personal advice about how to debate with prostitution advocates: don’t.

    You don’t have to debate with people who’re not willing to be questioned. It’s tiring and useless because they won’t listen no matter what you say. It’s like trying to debate with MRAs (which is what prostitution advocates are, ultimately) or creationists. It will only get you unnecessarily tired and it won’t work, because they’re blind and deaf to facts. And because they have vested interests in defending reactionary ideologies.

    Instead, I’ve been trying to discuss it with people who are unsure and/or who never heard of the Nordic model. As one would expect, I’m met with varying levels of defensiveness, but at least it puts people to think. It’s normal and good when people don’t change their minds immediately; it means they’re thinking for themselves.

    Good luck, and keep fighting the good fight. o/

    • Tangelo

      There is a TEDX talk by Ran Garvieli I’ve pointed some men to, that has made them rethink their kneejerk “porn is good clean fun sex” mindset. It seems to work because on an aspirational level : Ran is 1. Male and 2. Hipster and handsome looking.

      The part that seems to get to them is the bit where Ran talks about the porn industry hijacking and distorting his sexual fantasies in order to hook him into needing and watching porn, porn and more porn.

      No man wants to think he has been taken for a ride, not even by their own beloved porno industry.

      You can find the video on youtube, search ‘Ran Gavrieli Why I stopped watching porn’

  • Lucia Lola

    Right? I agree. It’s a brilliant choice of image, though. A thousand, horrible, internalised misogynistic words.

  • Lucia Lola

    Thank you for taking the time to write this fantastic essay. It’s an uncomfortable read for me, recovering libfem that I am, but encouraging as well. The more information and clear, well thought out commentary like this being put out there, the better.

    • Sally Hansen

      I learn something new from this website every day. Right there with you.

  • disqus_zLY0jsDmax

    That is such a raw and honest opinion and is a valuable contribution to this discussion. Much appreciated.

  • Meghan Murphy

    “First rule of feminism: It is not a mistake to have a different opinion or viewpoint”
    No it’s not.

    “Second rule: That’s okay too and no one gets to tell anyone here to knock off unless there is abuse involved – this is a forum for differing opinions.)”
    No it’s not.

  • Sally Hansen

    If you really care about feminism and spreading its ACTUAL message, you will educate yourself on what it ACTUALLY is, by reading a short speech authored by Andrea Dworkin titled “Renouncing Sexual Equality”, which can be found for free online here: http://www.feministes-radicales.org/wp-content/uploads/2010/11/Andrea-DWORKIN-Our-Blood-Prophesies-and-Discourses-on-Sexual-Politics-1976.pdf

    We are interested in totally destroying men, not bolstering them. We want masculinity to be thrown into the dust-bin of history, where it belongs, because it does not belong in an advanced, progressive society. We are not interested in man’s message to us about feminism. We know what feminism is. We want to completely eradicate the polar gender dynamic. Annihilate it entirely. Only then will everyone be free and feminist revolution will have ocured. We’re not trying to “redefine” masculinity or water it down. We want it dead, gone, FOREVER. If you can’t handle that, get out of our movement. You’re not welcome.

  • Tired feminist

    First rule of feminism: men don’t rule. In other words, trolls don’t come to a feminist space to teach women the “rules of feminism” and get away with it. Not even by claiming to be women.

    Second: some opinions are wrong. Claiming feminism while holding antifeminist opinions is, yes, a mistake. Feminists wouldn’t have any obligation to accept your opinion even if you were a woman.

    Third: commenting on the internet is a privilege, not a right. A privilege that can be taken away at any time if the moderator(s) decide you’re not contributing positively.

    Fourth: freedom of speech implies responsibility over speech. If your opinions are deemed bullshit, you will face criticism. Eventually, people might get fed up with your bullshit and, yes, tell you to knock off. That’s a risk you have to take when posting stupid comments.

  • verucasalt

    I am also what some here might call a ‘recovering libfem’ , I’ve been following this site with interest for a while. I have found it an invaluable resource having followed other libfem sites for years. Some of it just never sat right with me. The bottom would always fall out of the whole choice and consent and empowerment thing whenever I tried to push the logic in my head. Particularly with BDSM. So I’d tried to query libfems to find answers, assuming they had thought it all through and I was being dumb, but I would always get angry responses some quite hurtful (I was never rude or aggressive) ‘you’re ignorant’ ‘ fuck of with your judging’ and ‘sexist man troll’ etc etc. I was quite ignorant, I knew nothing about BDSM and ‘feminist’ porn but I liked the idea of women’s sexual empowerment and didn’t want to feel left out and prudish. And I did find some of their stories arousing. I started believing them, that im just ignorant, they understand it all. I wasn’t even into BDSM or anything like that, but I almost felt compelled to seek it out, as if that was going to solve my problems, like i must be missing out and this is why I don’t feel liberated. i was a feminist, fed up of everyday sexism and joining in the fight for women’s lib that allowed me to enjoy porn was as seductive as feeling left out was worrying. The articles on this site by Meghan Murphy, Jendi Mihat and Laura McNallys (the ‘so what if your porn is feminist ‘one is particularly enlightening) address with detailed clarity all the issues I have been asking myself for years. I want to ask what people think of this video below – Its from a you tube channel called school of life, now I generally like a lot of their philosophy stuff, it can be quite thoughtful, but they do seem to have a libfem bias towards porn and sex in particular. This video link below (sorry – I don’t know how to link without linking :/) talks about ‘Defiling’ and tries to explain why we enjoy it and why it might be healthy for us. I understand why people might enjoy being loved by a partner in spite of their immoral degrading behaviour, to be validated beyond you good traits, but I cant understand why its ok to test that. Do people here agree with the analysis in the video? People in the comments are keen to agree with the message school of life is teaching, but i want to ask, what if the deliberately degrading elements were changed, Where are the boundaries? The story is quite complex so youll need to watch it to understand what I mean, but my question would be, if this kind of ‘defiling’ is ok, and a form of love, then logically , according to school of life, so would changing the picture to her child. Its just a picture like the other. To me it shows how screwed societies moral compass has become, that media companies publishing this stuff goes unchallenged and is simply taken at face value by so many as how we should behave. But its useless asking libfems opinion on this, they wont answer complex questions that might make their arguments look morally dubious, especially when it touches on paedophilia. I wonder what the perspective is here. Have I missed something? Do the makers of this video have this right?

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=NP5zvXwwaUQ

    • c’mon

      That guy making these videos has issues. I stopped taking him seriously after seeing this particular video. I think someone can have good understanding about science and philosophy and the like and still hold incredibly biased views about sex.

      And in order to keep your sanity and brain cells intact I suggest not reading youtube comments. Ever. On anything.

  • pandora50

    Thanks again for bring truth to light. Going to re-share this.

  • Juliet Manning

    Many brilliant responses, thank you all. Lots of food for thought, I think I’ll still be chewing on this for a while!

    Rachel, I think I understand what you mean about this “choice” being more harmful than empowering to the person who makes it, in the long run.

    I suppose my remaining worry is: Does this mean, if I know or meet someone who strips for a living, for “fun,” or for whatever reason she gives, should I criticize *her* for this choice, for her own good? For example, Rachel, would this have helped you when you made that choice for yourself? Someone to talk you out of it?

    Or would radical feminism propose a ban of stripping? A tax? What?

    I feel like the above options only push affected people further from feminism. Would radical feminism also describe a stay-at-home mom as “contributing to the degradation of other human beings”? Haven’t we been trying that approach already? Doesn’t it lead to more backlash than enlightenment?

    I want to see the patriarchy torn down. I’m just concerned that, with a more radical approach, we end up coming down hard on *individuals* who are already vulnerable, rather than trying to evoke a larger change in society through other means.

    A few years ago I was couchsurfing at a brilliant med student’s place, who stripped to pay for school. She invited me to her show, and it was – well, it was beautiful, I can’t describe it another way. She was so confident and athletic and she came up to me afterwards and we had a great chat. She said she enjoyed her job. I told her she was a great performer, and I meant it. She beamed and we kept chatting and eventually went back home.

    Do I hate the fact that this was her most lucrative option? Yeah! But I find it hard to imagine how I should have reacted in any other way to her, personally, in that moment. In that sense, I *did* celebrate her stripping while still hating the patriarchy, as paradoxical as that is. Stripping, by itself, does not seem like the evil to me – in a utopian society, it would be a morally neutral profession, with both genders performing and consuming it equally. It would not be considered “undignified” because it would no longer be the lowest-class, last-resort profession it is seen as today. It would no longer signal vulnerability or disenfranchisement to more socially powerful people who would abuse that vulnerability.

    The most logical way forward, to me, seems to continue to let every person choose for herself how she will navigate this fucked up system, and create support networks in case she needs them… all the while building a less fucked up system for future generations.

  • Sally Hansen

    exactly. i feel the same way.

  • Jennifer H.

    I’ve just found this article, so I don’t know if anyone still reads the comments, but this is making me think in a major way. I have had discussions with my boyfriend about how I want to take his last name when we are married. My argument has been that I am choosing this (he has no preference), so if I’m not being pressured, I can do what I want. He supports my choice to take his name, which I want to do because I want the two of us and our children to signal to the world that we are a family (in this and other ways, of course). But does taking his name make me complicit in upholding the patriarchy? Because I am certainly not about that. I’d love to get others’ thoughts. The argument in the article makes total sense to me in the context of women’s bodies, sex work, etc., but I am curious about this particular idea of changing your name.

  • MsBAF

    I kept my name because I didn’t want to lose my identity. Still happy with that decision…it’s obviously a personal choice but for me it didn’t feel right to become invisible when I got married after 32 years of being me.

  • Angela K. Knight

    Thank you so much. I needed to hear this, after the widespread bombardment of 3rd wave pro-sex worker/pro-choice sentiment by men & women today, the day of Hugh Hefner’s death. Even the internet definition of a SWERF is just very hateful, bitter, nasty and twisted. It’s very sad that women are seen in one of two categories, are either pro-choice (male servitude/patriarchal status quo) or prude. We are sexual beings, desiring sensuality, affection and sex IN ADDITION to being whole human beings with intelligence, emotions, skills, creativity, needs, goals, and should not be reduced, by one iota, to any less than that.