Feminism, Choices and Support

26 August 2012
There seems to be a belief running through mainstream feminism that as women, we're honour bound to support other women in the choices they make - no matter what those choices may be. If a woman wants to be a stay at home mum, or put her kids in childcare at six weeks to run an international corporation, or dance nude on stage whilst strangers leer, we need to support those as choices those women have freely made. Well, fine. What I'm struggling with is the notion that feminists should support all the choices that women make - even if those choices are harmful to other women.

Recently there appeared a story about the Anglican church introducing a new wedding vow in which brides would be asked to submit to their husbands. I believe, as a feminist, that by standing up in public and maintaining such codified gender roles, women who take such vows let down all women. I was criticised for this; apparently it's expressing the view that feminism requires women to make choices that the feminists approve of. That's not what it's about at all. Feminism supports a woman's right to make choices, sure. But at the end of the day we're fighting for equality, here. If women make choices that hurt other women, I for one can't support that. Otherwise where does it end? Bettina Arndt writes columns that at best make light of sexual harassment and at worst, perpetuate the notion that sometimes, men have good excuses for rape. But she's a woman who makes the choice to write these columns, am I bound to support her out of some sense of sisterhood? (Hell no, I think she's a vile human being and a disgrace to women everywhere).

Feminism isn't about dictating choices, but in this case, women getting married are standing up in public and saying they believe their husbands have authority over them; not because of intelligence or wisdom or for any other reason than that the sperm with the Y chromosome won. They may be a small section of society, but they're still putting out there that women are lesser beings.

I can't think of any other cause which is expected to defend the rights of those who seek to harm it. I don't deny for a second that women have a right to submit to their husbands. It doesn't mean I have to like it, support it, or think differently than that they're harming us all. It's not "militant feminism" to disagree with Bettina Arndt about sexual assault, or with Ann Coulter's view that women should be denied the right to vote. 

I'm a bit sick of it all, frankly. Feminists have fought and died for the rights of women to be equal to the rights of men. Now feminists are being denigrated for not standing up for women who claim women are not the equal of men. I want to throw up, I want to cry, I want to apologise to each and everyone of the women who came before me who endured hunger strikes, imprisonment, osctracism, career curtailment, abuse, all so women today could complain feminism is unnecessary, unsupportive, won't even let women declare themselves subordinate to their husbands. 


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