Critique of "Choice Feminism"

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Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby jestingrabbit » Sun May 03, 2015 10:42 am UTC

If a woman's choices aren't made in an unbiased, free space, they're not necessarily an expression of a woman's agency.

http://theconversation.com/no-feminism- ... oice-40896
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby elasto » Sun May 03, 2015 8:11 pm UTC

I'm not sure you'll find many here who disagree with the notion that it's not enough that an oppressed class could make wise choices, but that there should be a level playing field.

eg. It's not enough that a person born into poverty and hopelessness could make a success of their life, we need to ensure that from birth everyone has the equal access to high quality education, healthcare, housing, nutrition and so on that means they are likely to make a success of their life. (As likely as a rich, privileged child anyhow)

I agree that if empowerment is twisted into victim blaming via the message of 'you made your bed, now you have to lie in it' with no consideration for the environment and pressures a person was under when they made a less than stellar choice, well, that's a very uncharitable position indeed.

Feminism should be about all being free to make their own choices, but that shouldn't mean society washing its hands of its responsibility to allow all choices to be equally possible - and, indeed, equally respected.

It's just a sad indictment that that article had to be written; It should go without saying...

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun May 03, 2015 8:50 pm UTC

I'm not sure how to place myself in relation to this conversation - "feminist" is a description, not an allegiance, and a complicated enough space that I'm not honestly sure whether I qualify. I've been in arguments about the usefulness of the term and tended to be ambivalent, and I'm just realizing that the reason for that, I think, is that we don't have a term for non-homophobic, non-transphobic, or non-racist that we tend to use as a positive metric to measure things against.

The article is talking about two threads of feminism and calling out the mainstream one, which it labels as "choice feminism," as a poser. I'm not sure what that makes the other, assumed, good feminism. I think we'd really need a term for that to talk about it.

elasto wrote:Feminism should be about all being free to make their own choices, but that shouldn't mean society washing its hands of its responsibility to allow all choices to be equally possible - and, indeed, equally respected.


But the article has quite a lot of its own preferred "choices."

Instead of resistance, we now have activities that were once held up as archetypes of women’s subordinate status being presented as liberating personal choices. Sexual harassment has been reframed as harmless banter that women can enjoy. Marriage is reconstructed as a pro-feminist love-in.

Labiaplasty is seen as helpful cosmetic enhancement. Pornography is rebranded as sexual emancipation. Objectification is the new empowerment.


Now, I don't really imagine a case in which labiaplasty wouldn't reek of cultural oppression to me. On the other hand, I really do think that marriage and pornography (and the lapdance mentioned earlier in the article) could all exist without being anti-feminist. Maybe it's the normative influence of having benefited, as a heterosexual male, from women's "choices" of the latter three activities and not the first.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tirian » Sun May 03, 2015 9:18 pm UTC

It seems like an old argument. We criticize Clarence Thomas or Herman Cain because We didn't work so hard on civil rights just so that they could become conservatives and slam the door in the faces of everyone who has received their level of privilege from The Man.

This is just the same song in a different key, blaming Beyonce and Emma Watson for being too (whatever) that they are tools of the patriarchy instead of following in their foremothers' footsteps but still thinking that they are feminists.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby elasto » Sun May 03, 2015 9:40 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:The article is talking about two threads of feminism and calling out the mainstream one, which it labels as "choice feminism," as a poser. I'm not sure what that makes the other, assumed, good feminism. I think we'd really need a term for that to talk about it.


Well, I think that 'choice' is a very easy way for the right-wing to deflect advancement towards all sorts of progressive ideals, not simply equality for women. Who is against personal liberty after all? It's as much a left-wing cry as a right-wing one.

We should all be 'choice feminists' - just as we should all be for every oppressed (and non-oppressed) grouping being free to make any choice they wish.

It's just incomplete. We shouldn't simply be 'choice feminists' - the term for the 'more complete' feminism should be, well, feminism: People should be free to choose but society should not put artificial roadblocks in front of some choices vs others.

But the article has quite a lot of its own preferred "choices."

Instead of resistance, we now have activities that were once held up as archetypes of women’s subordinate status being presented as liberating personal choices. Sexual harassment has been reframed as harmless banter that women can enjoy. Marriage is reconstructed as a pro-feminist love-in.

Labiaplasty is seen as helpful cosmetic enhancement. Pornography is rebranded as sexual emancipation. Objectification is the new empowerment.


Indeed. I think that in the real world sexual banter can be (and often is) harmless and enjoyed by women as well as men - as can be marriage, pornography, the fashion industry and so on. But it's obviously hard to see it that way when there is so much all-pervasive toxic harassment, exploitation, preservation of power-imbalances and such going on.

Once there is truly a level playing field it will be much easier for 'healthy' levels of these kinds of things to exist. Right now I don't blame some feminists if they can't see it that way though.

This is just the same song in a different key, blaming Beyonce and Emma Watson for being too (whatever) that they are tools of the patriarchy instead of following in their foremothers' footsteps but still thinking that they are feminists.

Not sure if this article is claiming Beyonce and Watson aren't feminists though?

This article isn't saying that choices are bad, just that that doesn't absolve society of the responsibility to be fair to all.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Diadem » Sun May 03, 2015 9:55 pm UTC

I hope the writer of that article made a burnt offering to the god of strawmen before writing that. Damn.

It is pretty obvious that merely having the illusion of choice is not equality. But has anyone ever claimed otherwise? As if advocating choice and arguing against systemic sexism and privilege are mutually exclusive.

The article is also dishonest. Of the 4 links I checked, only one contained anything resembling what it was claimed to be about. That is pretty damning in my book.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby elasto » Sun May 03, 2015 10:08 pm UTC

Diadem wrote:It is pretty obvious that merely having the illusion of choice is not equality. But has anyone ever claimed otherwise?


To be fair, I think a lot of right-wing politics claims to believe in equality and that 'choice' (aka the free market) is sufficient to bring it about.

Very few right-wing politicians - especially in the US - support the kind of legislation that actually enables and empowers equality - and therefore truly free choice.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Sun May 03, 2015 10:17 pm UTC

Yeah. The invisible hand is giving you the finger, etc.

elasto wrote:Not sure if this article is claiming Beyonce and Watson aren't feminists though?

Well, it's in context of an extended comparison to other "incidents" that begins with "[t]his liberal brand of 'choice feminism' was then followed to its logical, if absurd, conclusion." To me, that implies that asking if Beyonce is a feminist is an "absurd" result of this climate, with the implication that she's not and it's a laughable question.

I'm not even sure that I disagree with that sentiment. In any case, it doesn't sound like a fruitful discussion to have.

elasto wrote:Indeed. I think that in the real world sexual banter can be (and often is) harmless and enjoyed by women as well as men - as can be marriage, pornography, the fashion industry and so on. But it's obviously hard to see it that way when there is so much all-pervasive toxic harassment, exploitation, preservation of power-imbalances and such going on.

Once there is truly a level playing field it will be much easier for 'healthy' levels of these kinds of things to exist. Right now I don't blame some feminists if they can't see it that way though.

That just strikes me as an awfully utopian view of things. It really might as well be a matter of saying that no one is allowed to have sex until we've figured out how to do it equitably and for the right reasons, and made sure that everyone is on board. I don't think any social change happens like that. It requires shutting things down - instincts, cultural norms, traditions, whatever - instead of identifying alternative ways to play them out.

I think it's good to understand the typical contextual horribleness of those things and yet find ways to play out the culture without the baggage. The not-so-wonderfully written article on how to do a feminist wedding that this one linked actually made a fairly good argument for that; it fit into that narrative of "choice," but it was all about what choices meant.

And the trouble to me is that I think "prudishness" and "liberation" wrt sex are personality traits and shouldn't be the basis of anyone's dogma. We've had to make a space for liberation to be possible; now we have people stepping back and saying that they're not comfortable engaging in a casually sexualized environment or finding that soap commercials make them uncomfortable. I'm 99% certain that I'm more prudish than Beyonce and less prudish than Tyler. But that's a matter of taste. Making it a moral dimension just ... ruins everything for everyone. And I honestly feel like Tyler's doing that. Maybe that's where I find myself at odds with her "right choices."

Diadem wrote:The article is also dishonest. Of the 4 links I checked, only one contained anything resembling what it was claimed to be about. That is pretty damning in my book.

They were ... vaguely related, in most cases. The "objectification is the new empowerment" didn't link to any article of the kind, which disappointed me, because I kinda wanted to see what that article would have to say. The article on female genital cosmetic surgery was really interesting, though, and made more points for Tyler's case than the bulk of her own article.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby elasto » Sun May 03, 2015 10:30 pm UTC

Assuming I read you correctly, I agree that I think it's wrong to say that, for example, a lap dancer can't be being feminist - and in so much as this article seems to take that stance, I disagree with it. I am just saying that I understand why a feminist would come to that viewpoint.

That just strikes me as an awfully utopian view of things.


I may have expressed myself poorly: I wasn't demanding that society become perfectly egalitarian before (eg.) lap-dancing becomes accepted as a valid lifestyle choice, I was saying I wasn't expecting feminism to embrace scenarios that usually represent female disempowerment while society continues to disenfranchise women. (Those feminists that are willing and able to walk that line, though, well good for them.)

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tirian » Sun May 03, 2015 10:41 pm UTC

elasto wrote:
This is just the same song in a different key, blaming Beyonce and Emma Watson for being too (whatever) that they are tools of the patriarchy instead of following in their foremothers' footsteps but still thinking that they are feminists.

Not sure if this article is claiming Beyonce and Watson aren't feminists though?

This article isn't saying that choices are bad, just that that doesn't absolve society of the responsibility to be fair to all.


If that specific claim wasn't in the article, then it was highly placed in the comments (which, unusually, are worth reading).

And I felt that the article was saying that it was bad to use your individual choice to do anything other than continue the fight against societal norms, but I guess we just read a different tone from the same words.

Copper Bezel wrote:It really might as well be a matter of saying that no one is allowed to have sex until we've figured out how to do it equitably and for the right reasons, and made sure that everyone is on board. I don't think any social change happens like that. It requires shutting things down - instincts, cultural norms, traditions, whatever - instead of identifying alternative ways to play them out.


It actually seems to be happening to a certain extent. I never thought I'd live to see anything like the affirmative consent revolution that is going through colleges. I don't know if it's ever going to be cross-generational, but a segment of young adult men and women now have the cultural norm that "only yes means yes", which is amazingly progressive.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon May 04, 2015 12:19 am UTC

Yeah, that is ... really nice to see. Overt coercion is being rightly stigmatized, and that's a very good thing.

elasto, yeah, you're reading me, and I don't disagree with your argument, either. I feel like the bit you're downplaying in Tyler's argument is a pretty significant one, though.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby BlackSails » Mon May 04, 2015 2:11 am UTC

Is anyone's choices made in an unbiased, free space?

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby moiraemachy » Mon May 04, 2015 2:22 am UTC

Meagan Tyler wrote:Instead of talking about a vision for a more equal future, we are left with inward-looking, futile discussions about whether or not individual women are “bad feminists”. Or what journalist Sarah Ditum has termed the “can you be a feminist and …” game. As though the real issue of women’s progress is whether or not we can live up to some fabled feminist ideal.

So thorough is the individualisation of “choice feminism” that when women criticise particular industries, institutions and social constructions, they are often met with accusations of attacking the women who participate in them. The importance of a structural-level analysis has been almost completely lost in popular understandings of feminism.
It is not very clear whether the author thinks Beyonce does more good than harm (worthy of a topic?). Her position, however, seems to be that discussing whether someone is worthy of the label "feminist" is harmful, since when "real feminists" do it, they might make women feel alienated and more prone to embrace "choice feminism".

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Prefanity » Mon May 04, 2015 6:02 am UTC

BlackSails wrote:Is anyone's choices made in an unbiased, free space?


Not if we buy into the writing of Antonio Gramsci, et al.

Tirian wrote:I never thought I'd live to see anything like the affirmative consent revolution that is going through colleges. I don't know if it's ever going to be cross-generational, but a segment of young adult men and women now have the cultural norm that "only yes means yes", which is amazingly progressive.


I'm not sure we'll see saturation of this idea even within a single generation, at least not for awhile. At 30, I'm at the far end of the millennial spectrum, but I can name exactly one lady and one guy friend who support enthusiastic consent. Out of curiosity, that guy friend took a small poll of women close to use in age, and found that 100 percent of respondents felt sexy times were over once a potential partner verbally asked for consent (e.g. "Can I kiss you"). I've considered building on that tiny bit of research at my alma mater, because I have a feeling the support will be greater with younger people, but I also wouldn't be surprised if the enthusiastic consent crowd is a vocal minority.

moiraemachy wrote:
Meagan Tyler wrote:Instead of talking about a vision for a more equal future, we are left with inward-looking, futile discussions about whether or not individual women are “bad feminists”. Or what journalist Sarah Ditum has termed the “can you be a feminist and …” game. As though the real issue of women’s progress is whether or not we can live up to some fabled feminist ideal.

So thorough is the individualisation of “choice feminism” that when women criticise particular industries, institutions and social constructions, they are often met with accusations of attacking the women who participate in them. The importance of a structural-level analysis has been almost completely lost in popular understandings of feminism.
It is not very clear whether the author thinks Beyonce does more good than harm (worthy of a topic?). Her position, however, seems to be that discussing whether someone is worthy of the label "feminist" is harmful, since when "real feminists" do it, they might make women feel alienated and more prone to embrace "choice feminism".


Deciding which group of people holds the keys to the feminism kingdom is a...fraught enterprise. I personally think Aaron Diaz's Zelda tinkerings were horribly sexist and that he's part of a group that contributes to a climate of open hostility that has served no good purpose; however, I am not comfortable saying anyone—even people I think are being sexist—isn't a feminist if they consider themselves as such.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Derek » Mon May 04, 2015 6:38 am UTC

Prefanity wrote:I personally think Aaron Diaz's Zelda tinkerings were horribly sexist and that he's part of a group that contributes to a climate of open hostility that has served no good purpose;

Can you elaborate on this? Based on a google search, this looks like a somewhat standard role reversal of the Legend of Zelda. The concept art is good, but I only found six pages. Nothing in it jumped out as sexist.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Mon May 04, 2015 7:53 am UTC

It, uh, it actually just looks like a game I kinda want to play now.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby natraj » Mon May 04, 2015 2:09 pm UTC

i don't think that "only yes means yes" and "enthusiastic consent" are the same thing. i am down with the former but less so the latter, and i still consider myself pretty rad wrt gender politics (tho i generally don't call myself a feminist, but mostly because as a black person i am not comfortable aligning myself with a term that has historically and currently been down with stepping all over the interests of black and brown folk to serve the interests of white women.)
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby doogly » Mon May 04, 2015 3:29 pm UTC

Article wrote:By way of comparison, it would seem quite ludicrous to suggest that by critiquing capitalism a Marxist was attacking wage labourers. It would similarly seem very odd to suggest that those critiquing Big Pharma hate people who work in pharmaceutical factories. Or that those who question our cultural reliance on fast-food have it in for the kids behind the counter at McDonalds.

Wowzers this is an awful comparison. I wonder what might get women who are involved in marriages more personally prickly when you criticism the institution of marriage, relative to the capitalist critiques? What kind of investment could possibly be present here, absent in the analogous cases?

Fortunately, I can be saved the hard work of guessing, by listening! It is magic.

I definitely agree that you can prod at choice, and ask "Under what conditions was this choice made?" And then you listen to the answers! If choice fetishization is a neo-liberal trap, her proposed response is a renewed imperialism.

My own thinking had very much this trajectory on the topic of cosmetics. The beauty standards that keep the industry profitable are undoubtedly sexist, and the corporations are going to be ripe targets for communist critique, but I have learned to pay close attention to the many women who delight in them. They are not just necessary concessions to get by in our current patriarchal nightmare that, where we can justifiably hate the game if we spare the player. It's much more subtle; a huge part of the game is also artistic and personal expression.* Which would not occur to me on my own. Of course I walk around male gazin all over the painted ladies, and figure this was for my benefit. Poor girls, don't they know I'm enlightened? They didn't have to do that. Ah, but the things you learn when you try listening!

I think of the focus on choice as being very much anti-imperialist hedging. No matter how good my intentions, if we do something other than listen to, support and empower individual women's choices for their own lives we will fuck it up. I think the empowering is important, because as mentioned, we do not live in an ideal society yet, by any stretch. So we can't just sink into our armchairs and *end* the discussion with choice.

*I make this point as illustration, not as justification. This is not "Well now it's ok because your motives align with something I consider lofty art, rather than shallow art."
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby WibblyWobbly » Mon May 04, 2015 6:10 pm UTC

doogly wrote:
Article wrote:By way of comparison, it would seem quite ludicrous to suggest that by critiquing capitalism a Marxist was attacking wage labourers. It would similarly seem very odd to suggest that those critiquing Big Pharma hate people who work in pharmaceutical factories. Or that those who question our cultural reliance on fast-food have it in for the kids behind the counter at McDonalds.

Wowzers this is an awful comparison. I wonder what might get women who are involved in marriages more personally prickly when you criticism the institution of marriage, relative to the capitalist critiques? What kind of investment could possibly be present here, absent in the analogous cases?

Fortunately, I can be saved the hard work of guessing, by listening! It is magic.

I definitely agree that you can prod at choice, and ask "Under what conditions was this choice made?" And then you listen to the answers! If choice fetishization is a neo-liberal trap, her proposed response is a renewed imperialism.

My own thinking had very much this trajectory on the topic of cosmetics. The beauty standards that keep the industry profitable are undoubtedly sexist, and the corporations are going to be ripe targets for communist critique, but I have learned to pay close attention to the many women who delight in them. They are not just necessary concessions to get by in our current patriarchal nightmare that, where we can justifiably hate the game if we spare the player. It's much more subtle; a huge part of the game is also artistic and personal expression.* Which would not occur to me on my own. Of course I walk around male gazin all over the painted ladies, and figure this was for my benefit. Poor girls, don't they know I'm enlightened? They didn't have to do that. Ah, but the things you learn when you try listening!

I think of the focus on choice as being very much anti-imperialist hedging. No matter how good my intentions, if we do something other than listen to, support and empower individual women's choices for their own lives we will fuck it up. I think the empowering is important, because as mentioned, we do not live in an ideal society yet, by any stretch. So we can't just sink into our armchairs and *end* the discussion with choice.

*I make this point as illustration, not as justification. This is not "Well now it's ok because your motives align with something I consider lofty art, rather than shallow art."

Ah, but you don't understand. Listening leads to empathy, and empathy leads to change, and ... something something Dark Side.

Seriously, though, I really liked that post. I try to listen to people as much as possible, to actually understand why they make the choices they do. Doesn't always help me understand them, and in a lot of cases, it never will. But it's better than talking at them all the time.

EDIT: See, right there. I posted that, and then realized I may not have actually picked up what you were putting down. Will read again and try harder.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby bigglesworth » Mon May 04, 2015 8:29 pm UTC

doogly wrote:My own thinking had very much this trajectory on the topic of cosmetics. The beauty standards that keep the industry profitable are undoubtedly sexist, and the corporations are going to be ripe targets for communist critique, but I have learned to pay close attention to the many women who delight in them. They are not just necessary concessions to get by in our current patriarchal nightmare that, where we can justifiably hate the game if we spare the player. It's much more subtle; a huge part of the game is also artistic and personal expression.* Which would not occur to me on my own. Of course I walk around male gazin all over the painted ladies, and figure this was for my benefit. Poor girls, don't they know I'm enlightened? They didn't have to do that. Ah, but the things you learn when you try listening!
That reminds me a lot of this defense of consumerism.

"Inequality as constantly exacerbated through capital accumulation finds its expression in the social opportunity structure, seriously affecting what counts as valuable in terms of work (and so also in terms of education) by exerting disproportionate influence over what counts as valuable in terms of consumption."

In my view the same is true of patriarchy (of course you can't really separate Capital and patriarchy). While consumerism is freedom, the limitations on your consumption (being impoverished by an unfair land and utilities system, or women's work being devalued) are limitations on that freedom.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Derek » Mon May 04, 2015 11:35 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote: (of course you can't really separate Capital and patriarchy)

Capitalism is an economic structure, completely independent of gender. Capitalism could exist on a planet with no genders, or in a society of robots. Now sure, gender plays some role in the existing economic structure we live in, but it's ridiculous to say that it's impossible to separate capitalism and patriarchy.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby bigglesworth » Tue May 05, 2015 12:01 am UTC

It helps then that I didn't say "it's impossible to separate capitalism and patriarchy" - do you not think?

When I say you can't separate it, I mean that when you point at some sociological phenomenon you can't apportion a percentage of its cause to patriarchy and some to the influence of the various people who have been controlling the majority of capital over the last few hundred years.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue May 05, 2015 1:14 am UTC

Yeah, neither one is a concept that exists in a vacuum of Platonic forms. They're things with histories, and those histories are densely intertwined.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Prefanity » Tue May 05, 2015 2:54 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Prefanity wrote:I personally think Aaron Diaz's Zelda tinkerings were horribly sexist and that he's part of a group that contributes to a climate of open hostility that has served no good purpose;

Can you elaborate on this? Based on a google search, this looks like a somewhat standard role reversal of the Legend of Zelda. The concept art is good, but I only found six pages. Nothing in it jumped out as sexist.


While Zelda began life as a mere damsel, she grew out of that role, and though she doesn't often take charge herself, she does work undercover or behind the scenes as Link does the visible lifting. Seeing her swing the sword would be interesting, but Diaz, in his gender swap, has reduced Link to a simpering and naive (I guess he doesn't hold the Triforce of Wisdom) boob. In doing so, he may give his Zelda more agency, but he (unconsciously or not) also suggests that what she was doing before had no worth, that the only way Zelda could be heroic was to take up stereotypical masculine heroics. Now, I'm not saying female characters can't swing swords with Link; the problem here is that Diaz has taken a character with some depth and said "She has to be Link."

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby doogly » Tue May 05, 2015 3:09 pm UTC

I think you are projecting your insecurities something fierce.

No, John, you are the sexist.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue May 05, 2015 3:57 pm UTC

On another note, it's also kind of horribly disrespectful to the existing setting -- it's basically a D&D system with names taken from TLoZ, with none of the same themes or settings.

But yeah, he describes it as a gender swap meant to fix Zelda's portryal, and when he puts Link in Zelda's previous position, he explicitly describes him as naive and foolish. Zelda, who was previously portrayed as the wisest character. Meanwhile, his Zelda is basically just Link with a bigger chest. I mean, a female Link (like Linkle) would be totally fine, a character can be female without having the story harp on that, but the fact that he's saying that basically giving Link a chest is the best way to "rescue Zelda's character", to eliminate every defining characteristic of hers rather than simply allow her to take the forefront and have her own agency...

...Zelda's Adventure is a more respectful zelda-as-pc game, honestly.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 05, 2015 4:25 pm UTC

Tirian wrote:It seems like an old argument. We criticize Clarence Thomas or Herman Cain because We didn't work so hard on civil rights just so that they could become conservatives and slam the door in the faces of everyone who has received their level of privilege from The Man.

This is just the same song in a different key, blaming Beyonce and Emma Watson for being too (whatever) that they are tools of the patriarchy instead of following in their foremothers' footsteps but still thinking that they are feminists.


Indeed. It comes up a ton, and everyone seems very much in favor of choice, but against people choosing "wrong".

elasto wrote:Assuming I read you correctly, I agree that I think it's wrong to say that, for example, a lap dancer can't be being feminist - and in so much as this article seems to take that stance, I disagree with it. I am just saying that I understand why a feminist would come to that viewpoint.


It seems incredibly arrogant to assume that someone's beliefs are a fixed result of their identity. You *can't* believe x if you're a y. It's a beef I have with many self-proclaimed progressives. They seem to believe that everything derives from identity. That's...not accurate or healthy. Yeah, sure, background influences people, but...life is messy, and complicated. You don't know everything about someone just because you know one label that describes them.

BlackSails wrote:Is anyone's choices made in an unbiased, free space?


Well said. It may not even be possible. How do you raise a person to have no biases whatsoever?

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby bigglesworth » Tue May 05, 2015 4:52 pm UTC

Tyndmyr wrote:Indeed. It comes up a ton, and everyone seems very much in favor of choice, but against people choosing "wrong".
I am, and I will always be, against people choosing "wrong". Why would I be in favour of that?

It's not the same as advocating the creation of laws or other structures to force them to choose "right". It's not even the same as leaving angry comments on e.g. Herman Caine's Twitter account.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue May 05, 2015 5:10 pm UTC

Yeah, that's an important point. Those get conflating far too often.

Tyndmyr wrote:Well said. It may not even be possible. How do you raise a person to have no biases whatsoever?

Most of the choices we're talking about have to do with social roles and social signalling. They're selections from the things that make up an extant radiation and network of narratives. "Unbiased" is literally a meaningless term here. It means "not biased by [thing]", after all, and [thing] seems to be social pressure, but that is also very nearly all the information one has on which to make the choices in question. It's like asking someone to write a novel unbiased by existing literature.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 05, 2015 7:33 pm UTC

bigglesworth wrote:
Tyndmyr wrote:Indeed. It comes up a ton, and everyone seems very much in favor of choice, but against people choosing "wrong".
I am, and I will always be, against people choosing "wrong". Why would I be in favour of that?

It's not the same as advocating the creation of laws or other structures to force them to choose "right". It's not even the same as leaving angry comments on e.g. Herman Caine's Twitter account.


Allow me to clarify. The quotation marks are meant to indicate skepticism that either political party is "right" or "wrong", and that politics are indeed that simple at all.

Let's use a similar example from my facebook feed. One of my LBGT friends seems upset that some gay author happens to be republican(and advocating traditionally republican policies and sorts). Apparently, that fellow has chosen "wrong", and this is some degree of betrayal or whatever.

But, if we step back, and take a look at the ideal end-state, it would be one in which LBGT folks are basically indistinguishable from others, politically. Talking about their distribution between the parties would be like talking about the distribution of folks with a given hair or eye color. We'd still have parties and disagreements even if we utterly solved this social issue...but we'd expect to see a roughly equal breakdown on both sides because it's simply not an issue anymore. Same same, racial stuff, feminisim, whatever. If the issue is solved, we would expect to see other issues determine faction.

This results in a couple of fairly obvious conclusions.
1. The issue(for whichever of the above you prefer) is not solved. I anticipate no disagreement here.
2. Even the side that obstensibly wants it "solved" actively resists and is hostile towards progress towards the "solved" state.

The second is a bit more uncomfortable, but it's hard to explain away. Allies and enemies are marked out. One side is good, the other bad, and that's that. Someone joining the "wrong" side is seen as a defector, not a reformer. So long as this attitude is pervasive, the end state can literally never happen, and they are the obstacles to their own victory.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Derek » Tue May 05, 2015 9:30 pm UTC

Prefanity wrote:While Zelda began life as a mere damsel, she grew out of that role, and though she doesn't often take charge herself, she does work undercover or behind the scenes as Link does the visible lifting. Seeing her swing the sword would be interesting, but Diaz, in his gender swap, has reduced Link to a simpering and naive (I guess he doesn't hold the Triforce of Wisdom) boob. In doing so, he may give his Zelda more agency, but he (unconsciously or not) also suggests that what she was doing before had no worth, that the only way Zelda could be heroic was to take up stereotypical masculine heroics. Now, I'm not saying female characters can't swing swords with Link; the problem here is that Diaz has taken a character with some depth and said "She has to be Link."

I definitely agree with your assessment of Zelda. If the goal of Diaz's endeavor was to fix or highlight perceived sexism issues with TLoZ, then I think it was pointless. I only saw a few pages, I don't know if there was any more to it than that. Based on those pages it just seemed like an interesting "what-if", with some good concept art. In those concept pages, Prince Link is described as "sheltered" and "noble, but naive", but he has "begun making plans to sneak away in disguise". This description sounds like an interesting and compelling character, and I would like to see the development of such a character. If on the other hand he's just portrayed as a cowardly idiot, that doesn't sound very interesting.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue May 05, 2015 9:37 pm UTC

Yeah. Just going by the pages, it looked like a really neat concept that I'd kinda like to play. As a feminist rewrite of LoZ, I think the only thing it's doing in particular is having a damsel in distress that's a boy. That's kinda neat, too. It's not exactly novel, but it doesn't need to be to be, really.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Dauric » Tue May 05, 2015 9:56 pm UTC

Derek wrote:
Prefanity wrote:While Zelda began life as a mere damsel, she grew out of that role, and though she doesn't often take charge herself, she does work undercover or behind the scenes as Link does the visible lifting. Seeing her swing the sword would be interesting, but Diaz, in his gender swap, has reduced Link to a simpering and naive (I guess he doesn't hold the Triforce of Wisdom) boob. In doing so, he may give his Zelda more agency, but he (unconsciously or not) also suggests that what she was doing before had no worth, that the only way Zelda could be heroic was to take up stereotypical masculine heroics. Now, I'm not saying female characters can't swing swords with Link; the problem here is that Diaz has taken a character with some depth and said "She has to be Link."

I definitely agree with your assessment of Zelda. If the goal of Diaz's endeavor was to fix or highlight perceived sexism issues with TLoZ, then I think it was pointless. I only saw a few pages, I don't know if there was any more to it than that. Based on those pages it just seemed like an interesting "what-if", with some good concept art. In those concept pages, Prince Link is described as "sheltered" and "noble, but naive", but he has "begun making plans to sneak away in disguise". This description sounds like an interesting and compelling character, and I would like to see the development of such a character. If on the other hand he's just portrayed as a cowardly idiot, that doesn't sound very interesting.


I think the potential pitfall of such an endeavor is that it's just a simple 'Gender Swap', to wit you're just swapping which character has the boobs and the penis, without actually removing the offensive stereotype of one or the other being the 'helpless' one who 'needs saving'. To wit: Prince Link sneaks out but lacking worldly qualities gets in trouble and needs the sword-swinging Zelda to rescue him from the baddies. He doesn't have to be a 'cowardly idiot' to fill this role, I think it's possible to fall in to this trap with the best on intentions and even an attempt to be respectful to the characters and canon.

It's a transparent gender swap, and in that inelegant transparency the stereotype isn't actually dispelled, it's just moved around. Don't get me wrong, there's a place for the helpless character that needs saving, but if you're going to keep that trope while ostensibly dispelling sexism behind it just swapping character's naughty bits around isn't going to cut it.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Tue May 05, 2015 10:41 pm UTC

And the most popular rendition of Princess Zelda, the Ocarina of Time version, was far from a helpless captive. But as you say, helpless victims without much agency do have a place. The first problem for feminism is that they're almost always female characters, so that association becomes an infantilizing statement about women sheerly as a result of repetition and reinforcement. The most transparent gender swap (like, in this case, literally female Link and male Zelda, which this is not quite) is still doing a very little work to reduce that association.

Edit: There really aren't enough works out there that encourage little girls to fantasize about being heroic princesses saving their prince from evil through strength of arm. It doesn't have to be clever. It's achieving the very most basic purpose of minority representation.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tyndmyr » Tue May 05, 2015 10:51 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:And the most popular rendition of Princess Zelda, the Ocarina of Time version, was far from a helpless captive. But as you say, helpless victims without much agency do have a place. The first problem for feminism is that they're almost always female characters, so that association becomes an infantilizing statement about women sheerly as a result of repetition and reinforcement. The most transparent gender swap (like, in this case, literally female Link and male Zelda, which this is not quite) is still doing a very little work to reduce that association.

Edit: There really aren't enough works out there that encourage little girls to fantasize about being heroic princesses saving their prince from evil through strength of arm. It doesn't have to be clever. It's achieving the very most basic purpose of minority representation.


Not really. A clone of a popular game with nothing more than a genderswap is deeply unlikely to get any significant traction, and thus, doesn't do a great deal in terms of representation. If you make a new, popular game, and it has good representation, well, that's great....but this doesn't appear to be that. It doesn't fix overall representation, it's basically just preaching to the choir.

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Dauric » Tue May 05, 2015 10:52 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:And the most popular rendition of Princess Zelda, the Ocarina of Time version, was far from a helpless captive. But as you say, helpless victims without much agency do have a place. The first problem for feminism is that they're almost always female characters, so that association becomes an infantilizing statement about women sheerly as a result of repetition and reinforcement. The most transparent gender swap (like, in this case, literally female Link and male Zelda, which this is not quite) is still doing a very little work to reduce that association.


I think part of the issue, as I see it anyway, is that a simple swap of the naughty bits still leaves the -masculinity- and -feminity- of the roles in place. To wit:

Male = Masculine = Powerful
Female = Feminine = Weak.

From what I saw of Diaz' treatment (which I might not have seen all of it, cell phone internet connection sucks here) he swapped the genders on the first pairing, but that still supports the underlying trope in the second pairing that the adventurer is the Masculine sword swinging adventurer, even if that adventurer has tits, while the rescuee is the Effeminite Noblet, even though said person has a penis.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby KrytenKoro » Tue May 05, 2015 10:56 pm UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:And the most popular rendition of Princess Zelda, the Ocarina of Time version, was far from a helpless captive. But as you say, helpless victims without much agency do have a place. The first problem for feminism is that they're almost always female characters, so that association becomes an infantilizing statement about women sheerly as a result of repetition and reinforcement. The most transparent gender swap (like, in this case, literally female Link and male Zelda, which this is not quite) is still doing a very little work to reduce that association.

Edit: There really aren't enough works out there that encourage little girls to fantasize about being heroic princesses saving their prince from evil through strength of arm. It doesn't have to be clever. It's achieving the very most basic purpose of minority representation.

This is why I love Ella Enchanted. The book, at least. Takes the infantilizing tropes of fairy tales, and very directly overcomes them.

Not really. A clone of a popular game with nothing more than a genderswap is deeply unlikely to get any significant traction, and thus, doesn't do a great deal in terms of representation. If you make a new, popular game, and it has good representation, well, that's great....but this doesn't appear to be that. It doesn't fix overall representation, it's basically just preaching to the choir.

As bad as Hyrule Warriors is with Male Gaze (and, jesus, Cia's whole driving goal), it's actually done really good at giving the female characters agency. Honestly, Link is the biggest mannequin in that game.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed May 06, 2015 12:45 am UTC

Dauric wrote:I think part of the issue, as I see it anyway, is that a simple swap of the naughty bits still leaves the -masculinity- and -feminity- of the roles in place. To wit:

Male = Masculine = Powerful
Female = Feminine = Weak.

From what I saw of Diaz' treatment (which I might not have seen all of it, cell phone internet connection sucks here) he swapped the genders on the first pairing, but that still supports the underlying trope in the second pairing that the adventurer is the Masculine sword swinging adventurer, even if that adventurer has tits, while the rescuee is the Effeminite Noblet, even though said person has a penis.

Yeah. It's a sword-swinging adventure game. It's going to fall on the hunter end of the hunter-nurturer binary. The idea here is to make it okay to celebrate masculine qualities in women and feminine qualities in men. You can't celebrate everything at once.

Games with female protagonists certainly exist, but often seem most commonly to be for a slightly older age group and all about male gaze.

Tyndmyr wrote:Not really. A clone of a popular game with nothing more than a genderswap is deeply unlikely to get any significant traction, and thus, doesn't do a great deal in terms of representation. If you make a new, popular game, and it has good representation, well, that's great....but this doesn't appear to be that. It doesn't fix overall representation, it's basically just preaching to the choir.

It doesn't exist. It's a concept pitch, and we're talking about as a hypothetical. And it is a "new game," not a "gender swap clone." If you're not aware of the Legend of Zelda franchise, I guess it'd look a little like a "clone," but this concept is as distinct from previous iterations as any other two titles in the franchise.
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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Tirian » Wed May 06, 2015 2:41 am UTC

Copper Bezel wrote:Games with female protagonists certainly exist, but often seem most commonly to be for a slightly older age group and all about male gaze.


It depends on the genre. A lot of casual gaming, especially in the time management genre, go with female protagonists. Typically, their motivation is to save the family business when their father, uncle, or grandmother were unable to carry on. In the ass-kicking action game genre, I would definitely recommend "Beyond Good and Evil", whose protagonist is a martial artist/journalist who is out to protect her orphanage and later rescue her mentor. While all of these women are attractive and fit, I don't think they appeal to the male gaze any more than the female one (although at the same time there aren't many of them that pass the Bechdel Test).

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Re: Critique of "Choice Feminism"

Postby Copper Bezel » Wed May 06, 2015 2:46 am UTC

Yeah, and I'm making the mistake of using "gaming" to mean that cluster of kinds of gaming that used to largely define console gaming (and also appeared on PC alongside the casual games, etc.)
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