Guest post by Josh Spokes
Reflexively voicing your “support for their right to choose this choice” actually serves a regressive, right-wing political project.
Have you ever noticed that the idea of “choice” and “agency” is only ever invoked to defend the right to enact stereotyped roles that have not only been culturally favored, but culturally enforced?
I’m serious—that’s really important and worth talking about. One only ever gets pushback about “defending their right to X” when the X is taking on a stereotyped role.
When was the last time you saw someone—-in our context of politically liberal, “freethinker” types who are talking among themselves—make a point of “defending” the right to make these choices?
- A woman with a butch affect
- A gay man with a queeny demeanor
- A black woman who eschews religious talk and doesn’t want to be your mammy
You DON’T. You only ever get people saying you’re “taking away her agenciesss!!!” when you are questioning what it means to enact:
- “Femininity” as defined by high heels, lipstick, and “girl stuff”
- “Straight acting” gay bros
- Black women who inhabit the role of “soulful church-goer.”
Please consider what you’re doing when you enact the “It’s their choice and I defend it!” Ask yourself if it seems strange that the choices you’re defending are the very ones that are not in danger, and that are still actually culturally mandatory for a lot of people.
Ask yourself if it seems out of place that you’re signaling ethical distance from friends who question these things, and whether you really want to say that they—not the enforcers of convention—are the illiberal threat.
Because it is very strange.