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DE for Feb 21

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In my personal opinion, choice as a concept is so essential for feminism because it's about autonomy, which was historically only given to men, so personal choice over things like lifestyle and body become a central issue and thus a topic of much debate in feminism, as all of these articles have proven.

One thing that I could not get past in all of the readings, however, was the topic of choice as just a women's issue. Because, quite frankly, women are not the only ones affected by birth control and abortion, seeing how everyone with a uterus is not a woman, and not all women have uteri. The blatant trans* erasure in these articles was sad, especially since some of them were so recent. I think that the feminist movement really needs to think about the way they write about things like choice as just a women's issue and how it enforces the gender binary as well as genital essentialism. There's plenty of language that is much more open-ended that is available for use, if people take the time to do the research and learn. Terms like "uterus-bearer" and "FAAB" (Female Assigned at Birth) are at least a start for eliminating trans* erasure, but it's something that really needs a lot more attention and discussion, and definitely more involvement from trans* activists in the feminist debate on choice. In my opinion, feminism is about the equality of all genders, so it's important to prevent erasure.

DE- The Lie of Choosing

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The English language is full of complex and ambiguous words and definitions. In, On Language, the authors address this concerning the word choice. "Choice, is, in essence, an empty word, people with vastly divergent political viewpoints can be united under its banner (145)." However, the word choice is instead approached as a concrete, either/or definition. Andrea Smith illustrates this in her interviews with Native women and their views on pro-life and pro-choice platforms. Both of these stood by one camp or the other, but their reasoning for choosing either one did not match up with the meanings behind each position. Yet, the way that reproductive rights are presented leave only two options that, in different yet similar ways, surround the empty word choice.

When Allison Crews gives her account of growing up in a pro-life environment and the challenges she faced when she became pregnant as a teenager, she remembered seeing a girl leaving a clinic being hurried and shamed through a crowd of protesters. Allison was surrounded by people telling her she was unfit to be a mother. Some choice when abortion is actually a legal procedure. Loretta J. Ross asks the question, "Why are there obstacles for women who seek abortions while our society neglects mothers and children already here (1)." Once again, there is no choice here. What Smith calls "'free' choice," is being fought for a group of women who are already allowed to make choices in their lives.

Recalling Mona Lisa Smile, in On Language, the point to our consumerist culture that tells women that we can get everything we want in life, "as long as we make the right choices [emphasis mine] (147)." What are the right choices? Can the options presented to women legitimately be called choices? The black and white polarization of pro-life/choice is what allows the criminalization that Smith talks about. It creates a situation where only one choice can be the right choice and we see that everywhere with protests and lobbying. Therefore, this approach not only allows criminalization, but brings the focus to the crime itself.

"If we strive to disarticulate crime and punishment then our focus must... also be directed at all the social relations that support the permanence of prison (Smith, 123)." The fundamental issue for feminists concerning this topic is not choice or prison but 'those' people and institutions that are continuing to support the prison industrial complex and its relation to the reproductive rights of women. What is necessary to analyze, however, is, who are 'those' people? "Defining white supremacy as extremist in its racism," says Ross, "often has the results of absolving the mainstream population of its racism (2)." She also goes on to criticize the opposition of pro-life/choice by pointing out that they both function under assumptions that do not make moves towards life, or choice, for women of color (120).

Are we, too, mindlessly and uncritically standing next to a banner that is actually void of any of the meaning we've been taught it has? The ability to choose relies on what a woman already owns. A choice can only be made from what is available. We must ask ourselves, if the so called choices set out for women should really qualify as choices?

Instead, I propose a grammatical move from the use of the word choice to the word right. A right is something that belongs to a person. It is something they own. A choice is something that, even ideally, can only be framed in terms of either/or. That framework simply does not allow for a complex system of thought needed. A right can be denied to a person. For a women to not have choices, or limited choices, is to frame it as a privilege; one that can be limited. Working for the complete ownership of a women's right, puts the subject of reproductive rights in different light. It is something that has unrightfully been taken away. Also, fighting for rights is much for broad and covers much more ground for women than fighting for reproductive choices.

The social structures that need to be challenged or as much a part of us as anyone else unless we continue to challenge our own thinking while challenging others. We are inevitably part of the social structure we live in. Small, mindful changes are necessary. At the end of Allison Crews story, after listing many of the choices she made, she lists even more rights. What caught my eye, however, was one of her statements. "We have the right to choose when, where, with whom, and how we bear children (148)." Now switch it around so that it reads; we have the choice of when, where, with whom, and how we bear children. Which statement speaks with power and ownership?

Direct Engagement Feb 21

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For me, choice means having the ability to decide the path of your life, and I think it is a fundamental goal of feminism for everyone to be free from the constraints that limit their choices. The availability of choices is important, whether it be the choice to have an abortion or give birth, or the choice to have a career or stay at home and raise children. Because there is no one right choice for everyone, we need to let everyone decide for themselves the best choices for their life.
When I saw Wisconsin Representative Gwen Moore give her speech on why Planned Parenthood is so important, her message tied into Andrea Smith's article about what limits reproductive choices. Even though we have laws that protect a women's right to reproductive choices, such as birth control and abortion, these options do not often apply to low-income women. Because of the lack of resources, I'm sure many women feel that they do not have a choice when it comes to deciding whether to have an abortion, or what kind of birth control methods they have access to. We have laws giving us choices, but until all women do not feel forced into particular family planning options because of their lack of resources, for many they are hardly choices at all.
Generally I do not think that there should be a limit on choices, unless of course your choice violates another's rights. When we start limiting choices, it becomes problematic. For instance in one informal poll about 50% of the people polled said that women should be mandated to take their husbands name after marriage. I think that reasoning like this is problematic because it forces unnecessary ideology on others. I feel that rather than focusing on restricting choices, we should be focusing making sure that everyone has access to choices in their lives, and then letting them live with their decisions without judgement.

DE Feb 21

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What is choice? In this modern era the word choice is most commonly associated with reproductive rights. However the ability to choose ones own life applies to many more areas than just the right to have a child or not. While the right of reproduction takes center stage in the debate over choice, it is not the only major choice that the modern feminist makes.
In the essay on the language of choice it is very clearly explained that choices can be about anything in life. While making modern references to movies and TV shows such as Sex and the City the author explains that choice is the "very definition of feminism itself." The modern feminist has the right to make choices about every aspect of life, including but definitely not limited to the right to reproduce of not.
I believe that when making choices about anything it is important to be educated about the situation and the possible outcomes of each. If a person wants to have a career and try to "have it all" or if a they wants to stay at home and raise children or go to college or not go to college or if they want to do anything at all, more power to them.
The word choice by definition is the act of making a decision. Therefore choice is something that that can only be made by the individual to which that situation concerns and I firmly believe in that. The whole point of choice is being able to live life the way you want to. I believe that in making choices about ones own life there are very few limits. However, if others are affected by a certain choice then that choice is no longer just about them. Most choices in life are not easy and therefore have to be taken into careful consideration. But it is my belief that choice is key to feminism and key to making ones life their own.

Direct Engagement for February 21

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I thought that in Summer Woods, "On Language: Choice" article was very interesting. I thought it was interesting how they chose the word 'choice'. As stated in the article about the term "choice," by Solinger, "The way liberal and mainstream feminists could talk about abortion without mentioning the A-word." I know that the word abortion is often associated with killing of babies and can be a scary word, but I think there is a better term than "choice." They talked about the word "rights" and I feel as if that is a better term. You think of right as something you are entitled to, but choice is something that is not as concrete and not an entitelment.
Should there be limits to our ability to "choose?" I believe in a democratic society that there should not be limits to our ability to choose, but with that being said, only to an extent. I do believe that we should have the ability to choose to have an abortion or in that case anything that is not detrimental to our health or well being. I believe that there are other rights that are just as important as the right to choose, such as the right to vote, freedom of speech and other democratic rights.

DE Question for feb 21

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hp_naral_logo.gifWhat is choice? Is the right to choose the most fundamental right for feminists? Are there other rights that are just as important? Should there be limits to our ability to "choose"? Who gets to decide those limits?


Focus your direct engagement on how some or all (Ross, Sayce/Perkins, Crews, "On Language," Smith) enage with these questions.

This direct engagement is for Group B. Groups B and C will be commenting. 

Note: For some reason, the reading schedule is currently not available. Here are the readings for next week:

feb 21 Reproductive Rights: What is choice? Who gets to choose?    
            What choices? 

Readings: 

  • Ross, Loretta J. "The Color of Choice" 
  • Crews, Allison. "And So I Chose" 
  • Sayce, Liz and Rachel Perkins. "They should not breed: Feminism, disability and reproductive rights" 
  • "Language: On choice" 
  • Smith, Andrea. "Beyond Pro-Choice Versus Pro-Life: Women of Color and Reproductive Justice" 
feb 23 On Choice, continued... 

Readings: