Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Choice feminism and the infantilization of women

I thought this recent Klausner piece on Jezebel was right on. It's about the trend for grown-ass women to dress and behave like little girls.
There's so much ukulele playing now, it's deafening. So much cotton candy, so many bunny rabbits and whoopie pies and craft fairs and kitten emphera, and grown women wearing converse sneakers with mini skirts. So many fucking birds.
Girls get tattoos that they will never be able to grow into. Women with master's degrees who are searching for life partners, list "rainbows, Girl Scout cookies, and laughing a lot" under "interests, on their profiles

Now I don't agree with everything the author attacked in this piece, but I do agree it raised some good issues on the larger context. Of course the article created quite a stir, in part due to the fact that the whole "panic pixie dream girl" is in vogue right now, and partly because we want to believe that we chose our own choices. "In this case, that means that some women want to believe that their predilection for rompers and kittens and baby voices reflects their individual personalities and not some trend toward retro, non-threatening femaleness." (Source) Unfortunately, no one chooses their choices in a vacuum. This got me thinking about the phenomenon of “choice feminism,” where women argue that even anti-feminist behaviors are feminist because “feminism is about choice.” If you choose to infantilize yourself - or if you decide that it's ok for others to infantilze you - that means that it isn't misogynistic, because anything you as a woman choose to do is feminist. In fact, the real misogynist is the feminist who’s trying to tell you that the infantilization of women is bad. I've never been entirely comfortable with the idea of labeling some life choices as "feminist" and others as not feminist. Feminism is about how to achieve total legal, social, religious and economic equality for women. Then again, I have no problem saying that women who claim the mantle of feminist but actively support the patriarchy and denigrate other women as making unfeminst choices. But in this case I think it really comes down to the larger issue -
it is a lot easier for men -or even guys or bros-to demean us, if we're girls. It's much harder to bring down a woman, or to call her a moron, when she's not in pigtails and Ring Pops.(source)

You should be able to make the choices that are right for you and that includes dressing how you want. Where choice feminism falls down, though, is in assuming that any of those things are actual choices right now. They're not. You can decide to be OK with it, or you can decide to fight it, but the options aren’t equal -- one of them’s going to make for a much harder life, including being on the receiving end of hostility from people who think you shouldn’t complain. So if you want to wear rompers, talk in a baby voice, and in other ways act like a child. Go ahead! It's your choice! But don’t fool yourself that you’re doing so of your own unconstrained free will.

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