I’ve been ruminating on a post about choice for a while now, but haven’t quite been able to get to the nub of what I wanted to say on the matter. I’m not sure that I have, yet, but I’m going to start writing anyway. Maybe you can chip in in the comments if you have any ideas.
I feel like choice is a word I’m hearing a lot lately, in a lot of different contexts. It’s a key part of today’s rhetoric , particularly when we talk about women, and often when we talk about feminism.
‘ A huge part of being a feminist is giving other women the freedom to make choices you might not necessarily make yourself.’ – Lena Dunham.
On the face of it, there’s little to argue with here. Judging other women is toxic : we are constantly being encouraged to do it by the media who seem to want us to be constantly fighting one another. To this, I say, no. I will not judge my fellow women and I will not feel guilty about my own choices, whether you agree with them or not. But hang on, many of the things which are lauded as my ‘choice’ have not actually been a choice at all, more acceptances, or compromises. It’s not just about choice, it’s about circumstance, the situation you find yourself in, often through no choice of your own.
The trouble with valorising choice above all, is that some people don’t have one.
How many of the things you are judged for as a woman are done out of choice or out of necessity ? Why are you single ? Why did you take your husband’s name? Why are you having children? Why are you not having children? How did you have your baby? Whether you breastfed or not? How soon did you go back to work ? In all of these things the mantra is to respect the choice of others , but I think equally if not more important is to be cognisant of the fact that for many, choice is a luxury.
Consider the always contentious issue of childcare. There will always be those who are keen to court controversy by claiming the negative impact of Creche’s on children, and decrying the selfish women who go back to work full time. How often , though, are families making a decision on their childcare options based purely on their preferred choice? I would wager that more often than not it’s a compromise, at best, and many times a grudging acceptance, if not outright resentment.
“You know how sometimes you tell yourself that you have a choice, but really you don’t have a choice? Just because there are alternatives doesn’t mean they apply to you.”
― Rick Yancey,
Privileged are the people who make free choices.
I googled the quote ‘We are the sum of our choices’ variations of which are attributed to a number of people. It might be true to an extent – everyday we are making decisions that lead us from one place to another. But this line of thought puts all the onus on the individual. What about those people who through no choice of their own are in a situation which denies them choice? This can be as broad as a refugee abandoned in Calais, or as narrow as you having to return to work because you can’t afford not to.
Choose your choice, yes, but remember how lucky you are that you can.