Choice and Neoliberal Feminism

Peterborough, ON (TFC) – Neoliberal feminism, also known as third wave or liberal feminism, is often defined as “the radical notion that womyn are people, too” or “the political, economic, and social equality between all genders.” The first definition, fine – womyn weren’t considered people in the eyes of the law until relatively recently. However, the second definition is far broader and is, I think, purposefully vague. What is equality, and what is gender? Who gets to define these things? How are these concepts and ideas actually applied? Although this seemingly innocuous general definition of feminism would appear on the surface to be progressive and helpful, the exact opposite is true.

Liberal feminism is a branch of feminism that’s highly individualist, which focuses on personal empowerment rather than collective liberation by putting the wants and needs of the individual womyn above those of womyn as a whole. This puts the onus on womyn to create their own sense of equality through their own actions, rather than eradicating misogyny by dismantling oppressive power structures.

Liberal feminism dominates the current state of feminism, or is at least the most popular kind. It’s the kind you probably hate, honestly. It’s the kind of feminism that people like Lena Dunham, Hillary Clinton, Laverne Cox, and Emma Watson tout. The pseudo-revolutionary, choice obsessed, trans-centric social justice crap that everyone uses as an excuse to get offended. The feminism that tells me, a womyn, that it’s “transmisogynist” to talk about biology; that radical feminists deserve to die; that males in dresses take precedence over females; that porn and makeup are the keys to womyn’s rights; that any real, meaningful change must be discouraged in case it offends somebody. Trust me, I get why you hate it.

Feminism has devolved from a female-centric movement concerned with challenging the status quo and dismantling oppressive power structures, to a laissez-faire, choice-centric fad. Feminism is not about empowerment on an individual scale, but rather collective liberation for womyn. Feminism isn’t about choice, contrary to what neoliberal feminism and the media tells us. The fact that the main discussion surrounding feminism is about choice is super frustrating, actually, because choice isn’t inherently feminist. Yes, choice is important to feminism when it comes to things such as abortion and post-secondary education, but trying to tell me that a womyn choosing to wear makeup or high heels or engage in sex work is feminist is absurd. Conforming to sex roles and relabelling it as “empowering” is quite obviously regressive and is never radical nor revolutionary.

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