Before the topic of BJ's completely falls off the radar, I'd like to note that the whole kerfluffle over what goes on in the bedroom of two consenting adults generated orders of magnitude more heat and light this weekend than the fact that Louisiana now has an anti-abortion law that's nearly as stringent as the one in South Dakota. And I didn't post about it either, which makes me just as bad, I know. But then, I've never set up to be an officially 'feminist' weblog.
And as I was mulling over what I might say in a post about why, 20 years after first enthusiastically reading Betty Friedan and Adrienne Rich I don't always feel comfortable calling myself a feminist, Echinde put up a long post about the Working Mommy Wars and related issues. It gave me some clarity.
It's been 40+ years since the First Wave and we're still stuck on basic issues like the right of a woman to decide her own path in life without being shamed? Women still struggle with discrimination in the workplace, don't get paid as much as men do, and generally have a much harder time achieving economic security. Why are we worrying about who does what to whom in the bedroom when these much more important issues are still nowhere close to being resolved?
Why do I consider economic issues to be a primary focus for feminism? Because as so many women have discovered, if you don't have the ability to earn wages sufficient to keep a roof over your head and food on your table, then you don't have the autonomy to make your own life choices. And to me, that is the essence of feminism -- the belief that women should be just as able to set and steer their own life's course as men are. Without that freedom, the rest is meaningless.
If the Great BJ War has taught us anything, it's that even the most intelligent and self-aware women are not going to make the same choices in their lives. The problem lies when people, for whatever reason, think that not only are they are better able to decide what another person should or should not do, but that they have a better understanding of the underlying emotions and motivations that go into the choice. And what's worse is that much of the shaming comes not from "The Patriarchy" but from other women.
I won't argue with the fact that it's possible for a disinterested party to make a 'better' decision than someone caught up in the middle of a given situation, but when you start saying that a person is not feeling what they say they are feeling, then I draw a line. When last I checked, telepathy didn't work very well. Even psychotherapy isn't totally effective. To assert that an outsider better knows what is going on in a person's mind from a cursory examination of their words or actions goes directly against my belief that personal autonomy is what feminism is about.
To get around this little issue, some feminists have employed Engels' concept of "false consciousness," whereby the person is told that she is unaware of her real motives and is therefore incapable of correctly understanding the situation. (Many of them, I suspect, are not aware of the Marxist roots of this concept.) It's a great tool when you're trying to impose your beliefs onto someone else, because it creates a no-win situation for the person being accused of false consciousness.
I've wandered a bit far afield from my original topic, which was supposed to be about why I'm not comfortable calling myself a feminist these days. Perhaps it's more accurate to say that I don't feel very simpatico with many of today's feminist bloggers. I'm a happily married heterosexual with a ketubah hanging over my bed, after all. True, I didn't change my name when I married and I don't have children, but overall I've made pretty conventional life choices, and I don't regret having done so. I care more about the problems that women as a whole face than I do about the possible impact of patriarchy on my own life.
Call it false consciousness or tell me I'm a tool of the patriarchy for not thinking radically enough, and I and say with all due respect, piss off.