As feminism engages in its biweekly ritual of debating Choice Feminism, I have decided to throw my hat in the ring, and round up a list of personal choices and the people who make them that are clearly to blame for the continued existence of patriarchy. Without further ado:
- Women who wear pants. Look, dresses are the shit. They're easy to put on, they don't cut into your stomach, and they make peeing easy for everyone. Dresses are obviously the superior choice, and the only reason you think you like wearing pants is because you've been brainwashed by a patriarchal system that privileges masculine clothing over feminine clothing.
- Men who wear pants. Oh, you thought it was ok to wear your masculine clothing because you were a man? Wrong! Every time you tell your tailor that you dress to the right, you are committing an act of violence against women.
- People who only have vanilla sex and vanilla sexual fantasies. It's obvious that you're just lying to yourself and everyone around you in order to maintain your social status by distancing yourself from sexual practices that have long been considered deviant, only something the depraved and immoral would partake in.
- Men who don't change their names upon getting married. After a lifetime of being told that your name is your name, and you get to keep it forever, do you really think you had a "choice" in keeping your name? The real choice is the one to immediately take your wife's name. Gay men, you should both take each other's name, essentially swapping last names. And straight women who marry these chauvinist pigs who do not change their names to yours, if you really cared about The Movement, you'd offer your husband an ultimatum that he either goes down to the courthouse by the end of the week, or you do – to file for divorce!
- Everyone who doesn't shave everything below the nape of the neck. A relative lack of body hair has normally been seen in Western society as more feminine. Real Feminists reclaim the feminine proudly, instead of trying to masculinize themselves with large amounts of body hair. Hipster men who are part of this beard renaissance, you are literally the most patriarchal.
- Men who have both a job, AND children. Since you grew up in a world that taught you that masculinity is proved in large part based on being a good provider to your wife and children, it is a clear and obvious act of male domination for a man to have a job once he's become a parent. You must quit your job and become your children's primary care provider in order to maintain any feminist cred you currently possess. This stands even if your wife is unemployed, or if you are married to another man and both of you would have to quit your jobs and neither of you would be earning an income. Childless men, you are allowed to continue to pay rent.
- Women who do not consistently show as much cleavage as possible. Stop reinforcing the virgin/whore dichotomy with your completely covered breasts. I don't care if it's below freezing outside, and the local meteorologist is telling you to only go outside if you're wearing a thick turtleneck sweater and a parka. Do you want to prevent frostbite, or do you want to end oppression??
Or. Or, we could admit that this is a pointless conversation that does virtually nothing to challenge oppressive structures, and quite a lot to reinforce them. We could admit that you can justify pretty much anything if you're good enough at theory, including being a sanctimonious asswipe. Theory, and the act of theorizing, does not exist in a vacuum, but rather is read by actual human beings, and has a real effect on actual people's lives. It is important to remember to be judicious in what theories you support, and where and when and around whom you espouse them.
We could even admit that the vast majority of feminists who denounce other women for taking their husband's name/wearing a skirt/shaving their legs (and god forbid, their crotch) couldn't tell you what "historiography" means without looking it up, and they wouldn't know Gerda Lerner if she rose from the dead and beat them up on the street with a copy of Creation of a Feminist Consciousness. This is all fine and good, because feminism should be a movement for the masses, not the academic elites. Unless, of course, you're positioning yourself as particularly learned and a Real Intellectual and that's why it's ok that you're taking a dump all over other women, and then you're required to know not only the various histories of family names, but the history of the particular feminist theory you are ascribing to, and the darker sides that theory has had.
Lifestyle Feminism is destructive. It has prevented us from collective organizing, from teaching a new generation of feminists how to be activists, especially in a way that doesn't focus on writing. It makes it so that as long as you wear pants and keep your name, you aren't required to donate to feminist organizations, or volunteer for a rape crisis center, or mentor the younger women in your profession. It helps to keep us from recognizing a wide variety of issues, from immigration reform to prison abolition, that women of color have repeatedly tried to get legitimized as feminist issues, because we're all too damn busy talking about fashion. And the hostility shown to those who would pop up in the comments to say, "excuse me, what about my experience, my situation, my reasons? They are not what you claim they are, because (reasons), and I'd very much appreciate it if you didn't treat me as a lesser feminist for this" is very often an attempt to kick postmodern feminisms, from queer theory and postcolonial feminism, to the concept of intersectionality and the simple "shit's complicated, and can't be properly understood with a universal framework", out of the Feminist club.
Or, we could ask, for the thirty-two-millionth time, if women who change their names upon getting married are actually collaborating with their oppressors, and should be treated like they're basically Vichy France. In which case, flame on, motherfuckers.