i think we've had some great posts put up here in the last week, and have really appreciated being able to think through the issues raised. i wanted to take up one point raised by deborah in her post on everyday feminism & knitting, which she put extremely well:
Part of the way it plays out is in the relationships I form with other people, which I try to base on respect. Respect for them as people, respect for their purposes. That respect can include criticising their choices, or approving of them. It certainly involves holding them responsible for those decisions. Only children and some people whose capacity to act autonomously is in some way diminished are immune from responsibility. Being up for criticism is part of being adult. Equally, those who criticise are responsible for what they say. There are no one way streets for adults.
for me, feminism goes further and looks at improving the choices available for women. i also hate it that so much of the discourse concentrates on individual choices and ignores the way institutional and cultural structures impact on those choices. it is, in effect, the neo-liberal approach of reducing everything to the individual, which i think is a deliberate strategy intended to actually alienate individuals from each other and to protect power structures from collective opposition.
i've seen it played out in practical terms on the stop the the rock's win a wife campaign facebook page. i've been following most of the discussions there (and may i once again express my admiration for those who are fighting the good fight, and apologise for not being able to put more time into helping them).
there have been any number of people who stop by to tell us that it is the choice of ukranian women to join these agencies, and that we feminists are evil for trying to restrict these choices and deny the ukranian women a chance at a better life. the disconnect is funny - they recognise that the individual choices of these women may be influenced by economic conditions in the ukraine, but have no interest in the factors that lead to those conditions, nor are they interested in measures that might be taken to improve those choices. neither are they interested in the fact that all women are affected by the way these agencies are set up and the way the competition is set up.
reducing everything to individual choice, by pretending society doesn't exist (hello margaret thatcher) and that if it does, it has no impact on that choice, makes it easier to ignore our collective responsibility to improve choices for women and for other marginalised groups.
i think we need to be saying "that choice isn't good", even while we support the individual who made that choice, acknowledge that it actually might be the best choice in the circumstances, and make sure we don't blame or shame the individual for making that choice. it's not always easy to do, and i know that in some cases it might well be impossible to criticise the choice without being seen to criticise the individual. and i know it sounds too much like the "love the sinner, hate the sin" doctrine that we see to excuse marginalisation of various kinds. but i think what i'm trying to say is something different, ie support the individual while working towards better choices for all individuals.