Defining Feminism: Once More, with Feeling
I was about to post this over at Matthew Yglesias, but got distracted (silly work, don’t they know I’m leaving so soon that I no longer care?). By the time I returned, the discussion had rambled around so much that my sparkling brilliance would’ve been sadly contaminated by the dullwittedness of others. So I’m posting it here.
[F]eminism isn’t all about choices. It’s about equality.
So close, yet so formulated to attract antifeminist loons!
Feminism is also about the context surrounding people’s choices. Two beliefs pretty much all contemporary feminists have in common are that social, cultural, and economic contexts are really important, and that it’s improper to speak of someone’s “choice” as if its presence somehow absolves us all of our roles in creating those contexts. Many feminists, myself included, would characterize social pressure as a lesser cousin to forcible coercion, which doesn’t need to meet the same standards as the use of force but still ought not to be applied willy-nilly.
I’m pretty sure that giving the stinkeye to a woman who fails to take her husband’s name is an unjustifiable use of social pressure. It’s tempting to say that another woman’s choice to change her name might encourage such things, and therefore we ought to condemn her if she bows to the prevailing norm. So she’s damned if she does, damned if she doesn’t – which, if I understand these things correctly, will make her super-feminine and therefore help her marriage. Really, we should devote our energies primarily to condemning the folks who hand out stinkeyes in the first place, and secondarily to anyone who fails to appropriately berate them when they do. Then if we’re not too pooped, we can move on to world peace and shit.