Friday, May 7, 2010


As a womun and as a feminist, choice is a topic that has been very important to me. It is a topic that I have struggled with, pondered upon for hours on end and have spent many hours soul searching over this issue of what "choice" means for womyn. As a young, budding feminist in college this idea of being "pro-choice" became important to me and as I have aged and transitioned through life it has become even more prominent in my own life, especially when I became a stay-home mom, or what I would like to call myself, a radical homemaker (excellent book by on this topic by Shannon Hayes that I will blogging about soon!)

Two years ago I wrote and submitted a piece on choice for an academic journal that was looking for entries on many different topics from mothers who considered themselves third wave feminists. Around this time I was really exploring this idea of choice and how I felt based on my own experiences. I believe that in my generation of feminists we have fixated too narrowly on this idea of "pro-choice" being equated with only reproductive rights and have ignored the other dimensions that choice embodies. I discussed how womyn in the second wave marched, demonstrated and fought hard for choice-not only reproductive choices, but also the right as a womun to choose our own path and destiny. Yet, as I graduated college and began to make MY own educated choices about MY future, I was met with opposition and felt ostracized many times. I didn't realize until many years later that my definition of choice was much different than the feminist womyn around me, as well as the feminist movement that I identified with.

It is now 2010, and I am STILL milling over this idea of choice in my head. It is always there hanging around, but lately keeps hitting me in the face and challenging me on my own ideas of choice and what I believe it to be for womyn in the 21st century. Do we really have the freedom of choice? Or do we think that we do, but still play into what society expects of us as womyn and as mothers, wives, partners, etc.? And are we (feminists) foolish by believing that all womyn have this right to choose their paths or destinies?

So many fragmented thoughts right now swirling in my head regarding this concept of choice, primarily pertaining to marriage and motherhood. I must say this is just beginning entry on a series I will start on this issue. But for now back to an excellent book on feminism and motherhood by Amy Richards, Opting In: Having a Child Without Loosing Yourself.


Theresa said...

It's a great topic that many feminists spend many hours thinking about. I have spent the last 2-3 years thinking of having children--what that would mean for me, etc. I am fascinated with mothers. (I will add that book to my To Read list.) In some ways, if I am being completely honest, I am not sure that I have a "choice" to have kids. Or, that my decision to want kids would come purely, wholly, naturally out of my own mind and thinking. How much of this decision would be influenced by what I should do? By what society and people in my life have been pressuring me to do?

There are so many influences with decision-making that it's hard to know how much of it is truly your own. Plus, if we want to engage in social relationships without constant conflict, there is a level of compromise, right? If I want to live in the US, but disagree with consumerist obsessed capitalism, what do I do? Steal my belongings and live underground somewhere?

Is that kind of what you're thinking about?

Joan Lambert Bailey said...

I've been thinking about this alot, too, of late. I've made the choice to not have children, but I think you're right on when you say that being pro-choice isn't just about that. I've made some rather unconventional choices in the past handful of years, which have made me think about what choice means for my generation. It means, as you say, not just reproductive rights but being able to choose how to structure my life and my relationships.

I have friends who shun feminism, but I think they're short-sighted on the impact it has had on our generation and for their daughters. They've been able to choose the course of their lives, which I don't think they realize. Some have chosen conventional paths, but the point is they could choose. It wasn't the only thing expected or possible.

Thanks for a great post on a great topic.

Canning Tomatoes said...

Theresa-It is very hard I think to know what choices are truly you own and I am beginning to think there is no such thing, we are constantly flooded with other influences and pressures. I guess I have gotten to the point that I try to live day by day and make educated decisions and choices based on my own ideas and beliefs and try not to let the outside influences around me affect them and hope that they are respected...but that isn't always the case, and isn't always easy.Let me know if you ever want to have a more in dept conversation about this.

Canning Tomatoes said...

Joan-Thank you so much for your comment and posting about your own experiences. I think we have to be more aggresive about broadening the idea of what it really means to be "pro-choice" and get back to what the second wave intended this to mean as well as broaden it's idea for all womyn, especially those womyn in the margins. SO much to think on and write about...which I will be doing! Thanks again!!