Choosy moms choose Jif

Feminism is not just about “choice” or “free choice.”

Thanks for the random observation, you’re thinking – but I keep hearing from people who seem to think it is…or rather, they seem to think it is when it comes to some issues but not others. They think it absolutely is when it comes to women doing videos for Playboy, but not so much when it comes to having 19 children and raising them to be warriors for god. There are some contentious areas where it’s trendy to say IT’S HER FREE CHOICE, END OF, and there are other contentious areas where it’s not trendy to say that.

Me, I avoid this troubling inconsistency by not claiming that CHOICE is a conversation-stopper, a judge’s gavel, a guaranteed winning argument.

But I actually have more substantive reasons for not claiming that, like the fact that choices are complicated and it’s not reasonable to assume that they’re all “free” in any meaningful way. Choices come from somewhere, and while there are degrees of constraint and influence and coercion, it’s pretty hard to figure out how any choice could be entirely free. (Cue free will debate here. Cue 500 thousand words of wrangling. There, that’s done.) If you have that in mind, it becomes a little absurd to try to claim that something like doing a Playboy video is a wholly free choice. If it’s really free, why would you want to do it at all? It’s not directly rewarding like food or sex, so why do it?

Note for the obtuse: I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with doing a Playboy video. I’m saying “it’s her choice” is neither a slam dunk argument nor a feminist argument.


  1. yazikus says

    Reminds me of the ‘heels’ conundrum. I might choose to wear them, I might think they are pretty, I might be unable to do certain activities if I wear them, and none of those things makes my choice a necessarily feminist or not feminist one. It just so happens that I am a product of a culture where I ended up thinking that heels look nice.

  2. rietpluim says

    It’s like <insert your favorite TV personality here>’s free choice only coincidentally agrees with everyday prejudices about gender, or sexuality, or age, or whatever.

  3. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Right. When people choose, we make our choice based on a cost/benefit analysis. And sometimes the underlying reason the choice benefits us isn’t necessarily a good thing.

    Did that make sense? My head’s a little swimmy today.

  4. deepak shetty says

    . I’m saying “it’s her choice” is neither a slam dunk argument nor a feminist argument.
    It’s funny – I always thought that the reasons for the choice mattered to “our side” (pre elevatorgate).

  5. tecolata says

    When a woman who does not wear high heels is seen as “unprofessional”, and gets smaller raises or loses out on a promotion, then wearing them is not a “choice”.

  6. Silentbob says

    I don’t think there’s anything wrong with doing a Playboy video either. But in certain contexts it can send a message.

    Remember the post where Rebecca explained why she didn’t do the tongue-in-cheek saucy calendars anymore? (Maybe not; was that really three years ago?) She said:

    pin-up calendars added to an existing environment in which women were seen first as sexual objects and maybe if they’re lucky they’d later be seen as human beings with thoughts and desires of their own.

    In the comments Ophelia says:

    Doing a naked calendar for sale is [… ] putting yourself out there in a big way. It’s not just a thing you do; it’s a statement. It’s public.

    Because it’s a statement, it raises the kinds of issues that statements do.

    A statement is not just something one enjoys or is comfortable with or finds liberating. It’s a statement. It’s saying something.

    I agree with that and, of course, a Playboy video is such a statement. And in a community like this one, not necessarily a very helpful one.

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