Monday, February 27, 2012

The Politics of Everyday Choices

We make hundreds of individual choices every day, big or small.  You decide what to eat, what to wear, to study for a test or watch DVDs of Community...and we make these choices because we can.  For the past almost 92 years, women in America have been choosing whether they want to vote or not because they can.  Same with abortion, since 1973.  And we have many more minor and seemingly superficial choices than we used to.  I have always, to an extent, ascribed to the "I choose my choice" mentality--the idea that we have the freedom to make the choices we want to make without scrutiny because that's what feminism gives us.  But there is another popular school of thought as well--"the personal is political"--and it is not entirely incorrect.

"The personal is political" basically means that the choices that we make as women do have a societal responsibility to make feminist choices because our actions have larger consequences.  I don't believe that these two ideas have to be entirely at odds with each other all the time.

There are a lot of choices that qualify for this discussion--the choice to wear makeup, or high heels, the choice to shave any part of your body, the choice to change your last name upon marriage, your choice to go to pro-choice or pro-life rallies, the choice to work or stay home and keep house, the choice to use words like "bitch" or "cunt", and a hundred other seemingly minor or instinctual choices.  On the one hand, these are things that are no one's business but yours.  You have been give the option to make hese choices and that right has been fought for by our mothers, grandmothers, and great-grandmothers.  On the other hand, these choices require some personal reflection about why you make them, and what will be the consequences of them.

Take, for example, the question of wearing makeup.  On the one hand, what's the big deal about that?  Everyone does it a lot of the time, and it's a minor and entirely personal choice.  It also gives women--and men, of course--the ability to look the way they want to look.  It's not cool to tell people how they should look or what they should wear or apply to make them look that way.  But, on the other hand, there is the fact that most people use makeup to make themselves look conventionally attractive and closer to the impossible standards of beauty we have thrust upon us (I mean, come on, can anyone's lips REALLY be that shiny?).  Continuing that construct isn't beneficial to us as a society.  So it becomes a difficult line to straddle.

How can one reconcile "I choose my choice" with "the personal is political"?  Well, firstly, let me say that that decision is entirely up to you--naturally.  For me, it comes with realizing that the decisions I make have a political impact on other people.  I haven't always made perfect choices, both personally or politically, and those choices have had negative effects on people.  So my new policy has become to consider what causes me to make my choices and what effect they will have on me, the people around me, and the world at large.  There is nothing wrong with staying at home instead of working or wearing makeup or not shaving your armpits or using words like "cunt" as long as you're doing them for your own reasons and you know what those reasons are.

This is important because it's going to spell out the rationale for a lot of what I will write on this blog.  of course, these are all just my ideas and beliefs--I would love to hear yours, too, readers.

Oh, and those of you at Chatham University, the Feminist Activists Creating Equality organization, in conjunction with PEACHes, will be giving away Safe Spring Break gift bags to anyone who stops by outside Anderson Dining Hall.  I'm going to have a post with some safe spring break tips later on tonight.  Also, check out this International Women's Reproductive Health Panel at Pitt Thursday night.  It looks really fantastic, I know I'm going to go! 

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