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?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.
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.
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.)