Hmm…… This is going to be difficult. Not because I dont have anything to feel strongly about, but because this topic has triggered a stream of thought in me, which is going to make this blog similar to some of my old posts. So much for trying to find a new me. But I will go with the flow.
I totally believe in women’s right to choice. Choice to marry, have a relationship, stay single, work, quit the job, study, have children, not have children, basically do whatever you want.
There, isn’t that simple. Actually, no. In recent years, ever since I started working in the HIV sector and being exposed to sex worker movements, ideology and literature, the notion of choice has become more complex. The sex worker movement believes in the notion of choice, and the woman’s right to be involved in sex work. The choice they have made may be unthinkable to us, but it is still their choice. Yet this choice has been criticized by many progressive feminist movements, because it is deemed part of ‘false consciousness’, of women buying into the patriarchal will and accepting the objectification of their own bodies. Now if a woman makes a choice, even after buying into a patriarchal construct, is it wrong.
TO take another example, a widowed woman may choose to remarry. ANother may choose to observe some traditions of widowhood, but still retain an independent life. Yet another may be a traditional widow. Has each one of them made a choice? Am I really large hearted enough to accept the choice of all three women, or will I only accept the choice of the first and maybe the second one. And if I do not see the element of choice involved in the third woman, then am I not a liberal fanatic?
Another question which has constantly perturbed me is the choices which the newly emerging assisted reproductive technologies are giving to people. My own decision to adopt a child was partly influenced by my deep discomfort in what I felt was a complete instrumentalization of a woman’s body, during these processes. Yes, these technologies have allowed women to experience motherhood, stretch their biological clocks to their limits. But I strongly felt it is another way of pressurizing women to confirm to their biological destiny of having to bring a child into this world. The only time I walked into a fertility clinic, I saw that each of the client was accompanied by a whole bunch of family members, mothers, mothers in law, even grand mothers in law. It made me wonder how many of these women voluntarily wanted to do whatever was being done to their bodies and how many of them were there because their family, the society, media and everything they saw valued women primarily for their ability to bring children into this world. But in a sense, each of these women made a choice to be there. Is their choice any less valid than my choice to adopt.
Tomorrow, no matter how gender neutral my parenting is, if my daughter decides that as a girl she needs to have everything in pink, should I accept her choice, or say that she has simply been drawn into gender stereotypes by the media, and she should not think pink is a girl’s color.
So free choice is something I believe in. But the realization that free choice is not really free, but mediated by all the influences in your life is a reality I am struggling to comprehend.