Friday, March 29, 2013

Clementine Ford: the feminist goal is autonomy not choice

Clementine Ford is an Australian feminist. She is someone who believes that the overriding goal in life is individual autonomy. She has written, for example, that it is dangerous for women to seek a happy family life as a life goal. Why? For this reason:
it's dangerous to view it [family] as a life goal, as an act that will secure happiness at the expense of the pursuits that will secure freedom, independence and autonomy.
 
She wants women to go for freedom, independence and autonomy as life goals; if marriage and family are to happen then they should be arranged around women, rather than being seen as an aim or purpose in life.

But this sets up a paradox. If you believe that autonomy is the overriding aim, then this suggests that individuals should be able to choose as they will. So what happens if a woman chooses something that limits her autonomy, because she thinks there are more important things in life? If you say she shouldn't make that choice you are restricting her autonomous freedom to choose. But if you are happy to let her choose something other than autonomy, you are allowing women's autonomy to be compromised.

So what are feminists to do? I'm going to give Clementine Ford's response. In a column on "myths about women" her second myth is:
Women choosing things - anything - is a feminist act and can't be criticised.

She goes on to explain as follows:
But wait a gotdurn minute, I hear you cry! Wouldn’t being a stay-at-home be her choice? And isn’t choice what you bra-burning feminazis are all about?

A gold star to the chap in front! Yes, choice is very important. It is, in fact, vital when it comes to things like child-rearing, abortion, sex, work, life, the universe and everything in between. But ‘choice’ and the ability to exercise it in and of itself is not a feminist act; rather, it’s the result of demanding women be entitled to autonomy the same way men are. More importantly, defending women’s right to choose whatever they like doesn’t mean other women have a duty to agree with those choices or even respect them.
 
Her answer is that the goal is not so much choice as autonomy. So if women choose something other than autonomy, those choices should be criticised.

But that doesn't really solve the paradox. The only way to solve the paradox is either for feminists to get society to a point at which no woman chooses "incorrectly" or else to admit that autonomy is not always and everywhere the overriding aim in life.

(Note too the assumption in the sentence I bolded that men have an autonomy that women don't have. This, presumably, is what the average feminist believes - it would be interesting to let them live the life of an average man for a period of time to disabuse them of the notion.)


9 comments:

  1. Feminists do not want independence and autonomy, not as those words are usually meant. What they want is freedom from consequences. Hence stealing from men via both taxes and child support to subsidize women is said by feminists to increase independence from men, when it obviously does nothing of the sort. When she says that women need to be as autonomous as men, she means that women must weaken their ties to their children. Not so weak that the financial gravy train ceases, mind you, but weak enough to live life without responsibility, as they seem to believe men live.

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  2. Autonomy?

    Let me correct that, subsidized autonomy, there better.

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  3. In the world Ford dreams of, it would be impossible to make a promise, because when I choose to make a promise I limit my autonomy. Of course, a quick glance at the divorce statistic shows that we are already living in that world. I'd say it was the Promised Land of the feminists, but somehow that doesn't seem right. But seriously, Clementine Ford cannot make a promise or resent another who fails to keep a promise. Nor can she feel or appeal to "duty."

    The theologically inclined will see in Ford's remarks the faint reflection of an old debate about the freedom of God--whether, for instance, he could "choose" to make child-sacrifice good, or whether that "choice" was now (or perhaps has always been) closed. The idea that God could not make that choice has been thought by some to be an offense against his omnipotence, just as Ford seems to find a woman's choice to make a promise an offense against that woman's omnipotence. The old theological debate tends to proceed deductively, but I simply refer to scripture and find that God is all about making promises. And as I understand it, the heart of Christian faith is confidence that these promises will be kept.

    That theological excursion may not have been altogether necessary, but I include it to show how deep the significance of promising goes. Traditionally, promises were sacred, and a man who did not recognize the sacredness of a promise was a bounder and a rogue. The world we traditionalist wish to recover is one in which promises are once again sacred, not Clementine's Hell in which they could not mean anything at all.

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  4. It's as Simone de Beauvoir once said (paraphrased) -- if women are given the choice to stay at home with children, too many of them will make that choice, so they must not be given that choice. The reason, of course, was that this would impede the revolution of female independence if too many chose to remain dependent. The earliest of the second wave feminists understood well enough that they were not about the freedom to choose as an absolute value, but also about that freedom being used to make certain specific choices. Consider the former a precondition for the latter, but not the desired endstate.

    The assumption of male autonomy results primarily from their obsession with the "tyranny of pregnancy". The idea is that since men do not get pregnant, their life choices are more open and wider than women's choices are. This is a fallacy, most especially in an age of freely available contraception and abortion, but even without these things it is still a fallacy. There is a head-nod to this when they say "ah, but that's why patriarchy is bad for men, too!!", but for the most part they stick to the "men have it better" schtick because this has a broad and obvious appeal to women in general as a propaganda matter -- it appeals to the innate in-group preference women have and manipulates it for socio-political gains.

    As I have often said, feminists are wrong about many things but they are far from stupid in their methods.

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  5. Feminists do not want independence and autonomy, not as those words are usually meant. What they want is freedom from consequences.

    Yes

    the assumption in the sentence I bolded that men have an autonomy that women don't have

    In the world Ford dreams of, it would be impossible to make a promise, because when I choose to make a promise I limit my autonomy.

    Autonomy is a myth. Humans do not live in a vaccuum. The idea that we are capable of making our own decisions independent of influences external to ourselves is ridiculously naive. Even men do not possess such autonomy (and I'd argue never have).

    We are a communal group of creature. We require some amount of companionship and interaction. And the choices and decisions we make have an effect on the people around us. A responsible adult takes into consideration those consequences and makes choices appropriately. That is not autonomy.

    The only being I'd say has even a chance at true autonomy is a hermit. And even that is limited autonomy because as long as a hermit wishes to remain autonomous, he must avoid other humans.

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  6. Feminists simply want to have a religious reason for hating men and family. And what is a religion without self-riteousness and perceived persecution? It's classic narcissistic personality disorder. Pathetically, she is preaching to the choir. She should take her message to the middle east, where she may accomplish the ultimate goal of the zealot - martyrdom.

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  7. Mark, I'm sure you and your readers will be saddened to learn that Lawrence Auster passed away on the 26th.

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  8. But ‘choice’ and the ability to exercise it in and of itself is not a feminist act; rather, it’s the result of demanding women be entitled to autonomy the same way men are.

    Another dumb b***h who thinks that men have "freedom and autonomy". You mean the "freedom" to GO TO WORK EVERY DAY so they can feed, clothe, house, and educate their families? How much "autonomy" does the average salaried male worker have? NONE.

    Steve Martin said it best in the movie Parenthood: "Women have choices, men have responsibilities". And that's just the way the feminists want it.

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  9. Leftists never want autonomy. They are control freaks who absolutely must have authority over everything.

    Autonomy, regardless, in the sense I think she mean (i.e. not just independence of thought) is just another post-modern selfishness where they have no responsibility to others and live on a whim

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