Women should be able to do whatever they want to do. I have always believed that with all of my heart. As a child I knew that the world was skewed when it came to how girls and boys are treated and I also knew that I didn’t like it. I was only introduced to the concept of feminism in high school and I identified myself as one because it seemed to be in line with me wanting to make my own choices about my life. Choice feminism became ideal to me because it made sense to my position at the time. The more I thought about it however; the more I realised that we don’t live in an ideal world where every woman has the luxury of making her own choices and I realised that this “do whatever I want,” feminism, which I referred to as “My Feminism,” was not feminism at all.

Feminism vs Choice Feminism
Feminism is the belief in full, economic, and political equality for women. It fights the unjust treatment of women within societies and pushes against the prioritisation of the male point of view. Since the first wave of feminism in the US many factions of feminism have arose. One significant one adding attention to race is Kimberlè Crenshaw’s intersectionality. More recently social media has introduces what has become known as Choice Feminism. Choice Feminism is the belief that any individual choice that a woman makes is inherently feminist because she made that choice by herself. This could be anything from choosing to be a housewife or being a career woman; choosing to wear make up or not to or choosing to shave or not. Choice Feminism takes a hyper-individualistic approach as opposed to the organised movement approach of feminism.

The problem with Choice Feminism
Women making choices about how to live their individual lives is well and good. However, the issue with is that while it says: “You can do whatever you want and you are a feminist,” it completely ignores that there are women who don’t have the luxury of dictating how their lives will pan out because of their race, sexual identity, class etc. It disregards socioeconomic relations and how they influence behaviours and socialisations. For example the choice to work or not to work depends more on a woman’s privilege and general economic standing rather than whether or not she wants to work or not. Women on the lower end of the economic scale don’t have the privilege of not working if they do not want to, their survival depends on them working and in most cases it depends on them working multiple jobs and long hours.

Choice Feminism ignores the fact that not all choices are treated equally, especially depending on who makes those choices. When Crenshaw introduced intersectionality to feminism she highlighted how interlocking systems of power affect marginalised women disproportionately than it does White women. For example a White women can make as many choices as she wants and they will usually be applauded, but those same choices would be met with disdain and even violence if they were made by non-white women.

Liberal Feminism also ignores the reality that misogyny and patriarchy are systemic issues which require movement organising in order to effect real changes. Systemic patriarchy and misogyny cannot be changed by women making individual choices the same way the climate crisis cannot be solved by an individual choice not to use a plastic straw. Choice feminism looks like a way for women to remove the responsibility of women’s liberation off their hands and place it in the hands of the individual woman. The same way capitalism says poverty is a choice made by lazy people rather than a system perpetuated by governments and industries.

Why we need to move past choice feminism
Choice feminism does very little to advance the liberation of women. Instead what it does is uphold the status quo because these choices that we say we are making for ourselves are informed by patriarchal and capitalist teaching and conditioning. Choice feminism is individualistic and feminism is not about individual choices or personal validation but a political movement focused on the liberation of all women. Liberal feminism makes feminism more palatable and aesthetically pleasing. It tries really hard to say: “Hey look, I’m not like those angry bra burning women,” and creates an “us vs them” situation ultimately rendering feminism ineffectual. Because if we are too busy fighting one another we don’t have time to fight patriarchy and inequality.

Choice feminism does not work in a world rampant with misogyny and patriarchy because these two systems get in the way of women making individual choices and being safe in those choices. The idea that a woman can dress however she wants and that being a feminist choice is fantastic. However, we also need to consider that what a woman wears can put her in danger and even result in her death.

We need to move past this hyper-individualism and understand that what we do affects the trajectory of the next woman’s life. Ankica Cakardić wrote in Down the Neoliberal Path: The Rise of Free Choice Feminism: “If we are interested in the social meaning of feminist emancipatory potential, and if we are to deal with feminism as a collectively-oriented movement and political theory, then it becomes clear that feminism is not and cannot be a collection of different, scattered , individual positions. The problem we are tackling here is the scope of individualism: if we stick with the descriptive approach to individual experiences and the motto ‘Choose to do whatever you like – it’s empowering!’ then we lose sight of the systemic sources of oppression and the power of articulating socially-responsible collective practices as the vehicle for emancipatory potential. After all, we need to remember that in the capitalist mode of production one person’s freedom often comes at the expense of others’