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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 1:12 pm 
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I totally agree with her and want to shoot myself when people say things on the level of "whatever choice I make is inherently a feminist choice if I describe myself as a feminist."


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 1:17 pm 
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Dave the Cat wrote:
A co-worker of mine recently got breast implants. She had "mosquito bites" before and was never happy with them. It makes me sad that she had to do that to feel good about her body, but the feminism-challenging part is that I kind of feel like I should be more supportive that she was able to make a change that she wanted (including paying for the $10K surgery herself) and resulted in better body image, but I secretly think that everything is wrong with her decision.


So, I want a breast reduction. Partly for comfort and pain, partly for aesthetics. Is it wrong for me to make an informed decision on what to do with my own body?


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 1:55 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
I have been wrestling with this piece by Kate Harding, which while about the choice to keep or change one's name after getting married, raises the question about which choices come from such a patriarchal context that they really can't be a feminist choice (which doesn't make the person making the choice any less of a feminist). I wonder if certain modifications to one's body are so much part of the social pressure on women to look a certain way that it isn't actually possible to make such a choice completely free of such context.

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feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are forked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.


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So acting as though any of us can stand outside of that deeply sexist context and make a free, individual choice to take a man’s name is plainly forking ridiculous.


http://kateharding.info/2013/03/08/why- ... versation/

I'm not criticising anyone's choices. This piece has just stuck with me and some days I completely disagree and others I agree, and I'd be interested in what others think.

I also think its really important to remember that most of us make choices that are the best for us individually, but may not be perfect feminist choices, and that doesn't make us less feminist.


Yes! I think it is silly to pretend we all make decisions in a vacuum, but it's useless to judge an individual's choices in this way, especially those about someone's own body.

Some choices are even subject to approval and disapproval from society - getting breast implants, for example, can be viewed as a positive because then you'll have the fashionably appropriate boob size, but implants are also frowned upon by the same society because they aren't "natural." It's the same thing you hear about wearing makeup from dudes sometimes - they claim to dislike women who wear makeup or take a long time getting ready, but what they really mean is women should be up to their beauty standards while maintaining the illusion that it took no effort to look that way.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 2:10 pm 
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Of course context matters, and I know that at least *I* wasn't trying to say that "any choice is a feminist choice as long as it's a woman's choice." However, I think that shaming a woman for what she does to/with her own body, regardless of context, is, well, problematic to say the least. Who's to say why a woman makes a particular choice? What we perceived from outside of that choice is necessarily riddled with our own assumptions and experiences with patriarchy, society, our values, etc. Do we get to impose our context onto the choice another woman makes about what she thinks is attractive/practical/whatever she damn well thinks about her own body? It's not like there's a clear line drawn, either. What about tattoos? Reconstructive surgery? Ear piercing? Weight loss? Tanning? Are we allowed to do things that don't fall into what people like Kate Harding think are traditional female constructs, but tut tutted if we do something (regardless of our own personal reasons) that happens to line up with what patriarchy/society wants?

The thing that articles like Harding's fail to address in a way that I find convincing is why THEY or WE (as some kind of enlightened feminist class) get to impute motives/meanings onto the choices others make with their bodies and judge them accordingly, purportedly in furtherance of some kind of feminist goal. Like b.vicious said, just because these choices may be influenced by/subject to greater societal forces doesn't mean it's useful to judge.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 2:32 pm 
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Does this mean that anybody who decides to lose weight, for whatever reason, is making an anti-feminist choice? I would be caving to the pressures of society regardless of my actual reasons? Basically, women can make no decision with regards to their body without it being wrong? Maybe I am reading far too much into this but, wow.


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 2:38 pm 
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If I wasn't clear before, my "it's useless to judge" comment was more of a response to Dave's post - obviously he's not going to go tell his friend that he thinks "everything is wrong with her decision" (I hope!), but if he was, I think that would be a bad, bad idea. If my friend approached me with that kind of talk I would find it pretty patronizing, like it hadn't occurred to me to seriously consider the reason(s) I wanted to get MAJOR SURGERY. But I don't get the impression that Kate Harding was really talking about one-on-one conversations, as she's writing in response to an opinion piece & the discussion there. I think group discussions like that are totally worth having, because everyone's choices are definitely influenced by societal expectations and it is important to be reminded of that once in awhile.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:01 pm 
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I think I see her as analyzing impacts rather than judging, because I agree 100% with JoPa, that its not useful to judge. Like I said, I find the piece really thought-provoking and I've been reading it for a while. I like her distinction between being a feminist and making feminist choices, and that you can be a feminist even if all your choices aren't ones that further a broader feminist goal. I think her point is that there are some choices that can't ever be free of the societal context, so even if it is the choice that works best for you, it is useful to acknowledge that we live in a society that supports one set of choices and punishes others.

So I imagine her position would be that you should do whatever you want, and you're no less a feminist if you choose to lose weight/have breast implants or reductions etc, but that it is still useful to look at all the structural support offered to people whose choices are going to result in them fitting closer to a societal norm and the lack of support/punishment that women who make different choices get.

I think of myself as a stay at home mother who is also a feminist. Staying home works best for me, but its useful at least to acknowledge that there is a strong tradition and history that supports me making that choice. Where I have more of a problem is that for me that choice feels like it is a free and individual choice (and one that I personally have worked really hard to be able to make).

Again, I just thought it was an interesting thesis. If we think feminism matters, then we should be able to analyze impacts and acknowledge the structural context that makes certain choices easier than others and what the impact of those choices are for us in general, without it being judgemental. But I agree that it very often does feel like a judgement that certain very individual choices are "better" or "easier" than others. I am very interested in other people's thoughts on this, because I keep going back and forth on the piece....

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:15 pm 
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It's also absurd to automatically equate body choices with feminism. That's making another assumption. I lost weight for a variety of reasons. If I could afford to, I'd have surgery to fix some loose skin issues. Not because society or patriarchy says I should, but certainly to be more physically comfortable. sure there are cosmetic issues too, but I have a problem with the idea that caring how one looks is somehow not feminist or a bad thing to do.

Also: lots of happy, well-adjusted, confident people have plastic surgery for various reasons. The whole idea that only neurotic, insecure nut balls have it done is pretty insulting.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:15 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
Are we allowed to do things that don't fall into what people like Kate Harding think are traditional female constructs, but tut tutted if we do something (regardless of our own personal reasons) that happens to line up with what patriarchy/society wants?

The thing that articles like Harding's fail to address in a way that I find convincing is why THEY or WE (as some kind of enlightened feminist class) get to impute motives/meanings onto the choices others make with their bodies and judge them accordingly, purportedly in furtherance of some kind of feminist goal. Like b.vicious said, just because these choices may be influenced by/subject to greater societal forces doesn't mean it's useful to judge.
Tofulish wrote:
I think I see her as analyzing impacts rather than judging, because I agree 100% with JoPa, that its not useful to judge. Like I said, I find the piece really thought-provoking and I've been reading it for a while. I like her distinction between being a feminist and making feminist choices, and that you can be a feminist even if all your choices aren't ones that further a broader feminist goal. I think her point is that there are some choices that can't ever be free of the societal context, so even if it is the choice that works best for you, at least acknowledge that we live in a society that supports one set of choices and punishes others.

So I imagine her position would be that you should do whatever you want, and you're no less a feminist if you choose to lose weight/have breast implants or reductions etc, but that it is still useful to look at all the structural support offered to people whose choices are going to result in them fitting closer to a societal norm and the lack of support/punishment that women who make different choices get.

Again, I just thought it was an interesting thesis. If we think feminism matters, then we should be able to analyze impacts and acknowledge the structural context that makes certain choices easier than others and what the impact of those choices are for us in general, without it being judgemental. But I agree that it very often does feel like a judgement that certain very individual choices are "better" or "easier" than others. I am very interested in other people's thoughts on this, because I keep going back and forth on the piece....
I read that piece as well, and had similarly complicated reactions/feelings/thoughts about it. I agree with what both you and JoPa have said here, and that these are important things to interrogate, examine, and bear in mind as we think about feminism and how we negotiate our relationship to/feelings about it, not only as an abstract concept but as a lived, evolving, individual and social reality.

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Last edited by Desdemona on Wed May 01, 2013 3:18 pm, edited 2 times in total.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:17 pm 
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b.vicious wrote:
If I wasn't clear before, my "it's useless to judge" comment was more of a response to Dave's post - obviously he's not going to go tell his friend that he thinks "everything is wrong with her decision" (I hope!), but if he was, I think that would be a bad, bad idea. If my friend approached me with that kind of talk I would find it pretty patronizing, like it hadn't occurred to me to seriously consider the reason(s) I wanted to get MAJOR SURGERY. But I don't get the impression that Kate Harding was really talking about one-on-one conversations, as she's writing in response to an opinion piece & the discussion there. I think group discussions like that are totally worth having, because everyone's choices are definitely influenced by societal expectations and it is important to be reminded of that once in awhile.


Actually, Dave the Cat is a woman. And I don't want to speak for her, but I got the impression from her post that what she meant was that she challenges her own feminism for harboring these thoughts about her friend's decision. It sounded to me more like a confession than a judgement of her friend.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:33 pm 
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Sorry for misgendering you, Dave the Cat!

ETA: Though I am kinda giggling over the fact that I've misgendered a "cat"... don't tell the person from that other epic thread.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:36 pm 
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b.vicious wrote:
Sorry for misgendering you, Dave the Cat!

ETA: Though I am kinda giggling over the fact that I've misgendered a "cat"... don't tell the person from that other epic thread.


Oh my god, I forgot about that thread! Now I have to go dig it up for reminiscent giggles!

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:42 pm 
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lepelaar wrote:
b.vicious wrote:
Sorry for misgendering you, Dave the Cat!

ETA: Though I am kinda giggling over the fact that I've misgendered a "cat"... don't tell the person from that other epic thread.


Oh my god, I forgot about that thread! Now I have to go dig it up for reminiscent giggles!
Best. Thread. EVER.

viewtopic.php?f=11&t=16440&hilit=CAT+GENDER

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:44 pm 
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ExpiredSanity's gif in that thread is one of the best things on the internet.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 3:48 pm 
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If memory serves, I think I threw down Judith Butler somewhere in there.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 6:57 pm 
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Tofulish wrote:
I have been wrestling with this piece by Kate Harding, which while about the choice to keep or change one's name after getting married, raises the question about which choices come from such a patriarchal context that they really can't be a feminist choice (which doesn't make the person making the choice any less of a feminist). I wonder if certain modifications to one's body are so much part of the social pressure on women to look a certain way that it isn't actually possible to make such a choice completely free of such context.

Quote:
feminism is not, in fact, all about choosing your choice. It is mostly about recognizing when things are forked up for women at the societal level, and talking about that, and trying to change it. So sometimes, even when a decision is right for you, you still need to recognize that you made that decision within a social context that overwhelmingly supports your choice, and punishes women who make a different one.


Quote:
So acting as though any of us can stand outside of that deeply sexist context and make a free, individual choice to take a man’s name is plainly forking ridiculous.


http://kateharding.info/2013/03/08/why- ... versation/

I'm not criticising anyone's choices. This piece has just stuck with me and some days I completely disagree and others I agree, and I'd be interested in what others think.

I also think its really important to remember that most of us make choices that are the best for us individually, but may not be perfect feminist choices, and that doesn't make us less feminist.


Thanks for posting this! It really resonated with me. I changed my name and really, really regret it (and my husband has a really hard time understanding that I'm not rejecting *him* when I talk about changing it back, so I definitely plan to share this article with him). What bothers me is that all these institutions make is so very, very easy and inexpensive to change your name when you get married, but now that I'm contemplating changing it back I'm discouraged by the excessive cost and effort it would take.


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 7:59 pm 
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I liked it because it does annoy me when people say "its my choice, which is what feminism is all about, so its above critique." Like I don't critique individual choices (Like I don't go into the shaving threads here and say THIS IS ANTIFEMINIST), but we do live our lives by social scripts. A critique of shaving, for example, is not inherently passing judgement on everyone who shaves as horrible feminists.

A big problem I had recently was in my gender studies class, we had to read academic journals. One article I read was about how heterosexuality can be queer and subversive to queerphobia. Like basically it was written by a cissexist feminist (because she failed to make the point that trans people can be in heterosexual relationships but still have to deal with transphobia, mostly it was stuff like kink and having sex in public is revolutionary) who seems to think that anything a feminist touches is magically feminist. And I thought it was really offensive to appropriate the label "queer". My prof argued with me on that one (she's straight) and I could have pulled out my hair.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 8:40 pm 
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Okay, but I don't know that anyone is saying that there shouldn't be critique or that every choice a woman makes is feminist.

My posts were in response to, primarily, a post saying how sad it is that a certain type of cosmetic surgery is popular. I think that when it comes to choices that women make about their own appearances and bodies, there is a real forked up cognitive dissonance that must go into those kinds of statements. Again, I am not talking about theoretical critiques (well, except where I explicitly addressed Harding); I am talking about one-off statements that write off a huge number of women's decisions about their own bodies as "sad" or misguided or whatever: I don't think they're very helpful.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 8:56 pm 
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I was talking about the article independent of any comment here, which is why I didn't quote anybody.

I don't think its earth shattering to say in a general way, its forked up that women are expected to be thin or wear make up or be hairless. That might right off other people's choices, but most feminists probably do these things and I think we can acknowledge that when we feel the need to be thin, hairless, and perfect, its an unfair expectation and its sexist. Hell I wear make up, and I know its sexist that I feel like I need it, but I do it anyway.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 9:07 pm 
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I didn't post the Kate Harding piece in reaction to anything you said, JoPa, but I really liked your response. Dave the Cat's post made me think about the question of whether there are some things (like a name change) that are so freighted with societal meaning, that you can't separate the choice from its context.

It also reminded me of the "it makes your mosquito bites look like juicy juicy mangoes" scene from Bend it Like Beckham

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Wed May 01, 2013 10:22 pm 
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jordanpattern wrote:
Okay, but I don't know that anyone is saying that there shouldn't be critique or that every choice a woman makes is feminist.
.


Perhaps nobody is saying that here, but that is a pretty common refrain in supposedly feminist circles.


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2013 2:24 am 
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Ariann wrote:
jordanpattern wrote:
Okay, but I don't know that anyone is saying that there shouldn't be critique or that every choice a woman makes is feminist.
.


Perhaps nobody is saying that here, but that is a pretty common refrain in supposedly feminist circles.


I see far too much of the reverse, as well.

'None of your choices are made in a vacuum, so you should recognise that you're not really equipped to make real decisions for yourself, so you should let the real feminists make the real feminist choices for you.'

Largely in regards to BDSM - I see a lot of radfems proclaiming that there is absolutely no way to engage in BDSM without being inherently antifeminist. You know, never mind that not all BDSM is male dom/female sub. Or that the choice to engage in vanilla sex or never to have heterosexual sex or never to have sex at all would also be made under patriarchal pressures and within patriarchal structures.

So I guess I'm a hair twitchy at seeing choices labelled as antifeminist but it is definitely nice to see the perspective that being a feminist doesn't require constantly being the platonic ideal of a feminist.


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2013 5:40 am 
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jordanpattern wrote:
Okay, but I don't know that anyone is saying that there shouldn't be critique or that every choice a woman makes is feminist.

My posts were in response to, primarily, a post saying how sad it is that a certain type of cosmetic surgery is popular. I think that when it comes to choices that women make about their own appearances and bodies, there is a real forked up cognitive dissonance that must go into those kinds of statements. Again, I am not talking about theoretical critiques (well, except where I explicitly addressed Harding); I am talking about one-off statements that write off a huge number of women's decisions about their own bodies as "sad" or misguided or whatever: I don't think they're very helpful.


I do think it is sad that there a huge number of women who are having unnecessary surgery which is expensive and can often have serious health costs to fit in with a body fashion trend which tells them what they should look like as women and generally has nothing to do with actual health or wellbeing. While the number of men having cosmetic surgery is rising, it doesn't even come close to the number of women who are, which tells you something about the sexist views pushing it.

From another Hadley Freeman article:
http://www.guardian.co.uk/commentisfree/2013/mar/05/milf-diet-put-you-off-lunch wrote:
But while the choosing may be feminist, that does not mean the choice is. Feminism as a movement is about establishing equality for women, socially, economically and politically. Brazilian waxes, in which a woman endures physical pain to obtain the genitals of a prepubescent, don't really fit in there.


ETA: I don't think using phrases such as "forked up cognitive dissonance" to describe other posters' worldviews when you know very little about them is very helpful either.

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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2013 6:58 am 
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The quote above assumes that people can only wax in order to have the "genitals of a prepubescent" which is absurd. I am not having sex with anyone at the moment and I don't intend on having sex for a while but I still shave my pubic hair because I feel more comfortable that way. NOBODY can see it besides myself, I don't even care what it looks like but I do want to feel more comfortable. I've gone through phases where it doesn't bother me (probably when I have been cooler - due to weather not some sort of "cool factor") and I don't shave regardless of who can see my vag.

Also, define unnecessary. Like I said above I want a breast reduction and yes I will admit I would be happier with how my breasts would look after but I also suffer from extreme back pain, which physio has had no effect on, discomfort and plenty of other negative side effects. You might deem that unnecessary but who are you to tell me what is right for me? As a feminist I would never tell someone that I know what is better for their body than they do. My sister just had an elective tonsillectomy. It wasn't "necessary" but the number of throat infections she was getting was affecting her job as a singer and her life. But society/patriarchy doesn't care about tonsils so she is allowed to make her own decision while I can't because someone might judge my decision as anti-feminist? fork that.


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 Post subject: Re: Who challenges your feminism in your life?
PostPosted: Thu May 02, 2013 7:18 am 
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I'd just like to point out that at no point have I used the word 'anti-feminist' in any context in this thread. I have never said that any of these choices are anti-feminist, nor do I even think that. I actually think using the phrase 'anti-feminist' to describe someone's choice is incredibly loaded and really not helpful. I have not told anyone 'what is right for them' or what they should do either. I have not said anything about plastic surgery which is for health reasons rather than just to look a certain way which society has defined women should look like.

However, I don't think that having surgery for purely cosmetic reasons is in any way a feminist choice. Someone's right to choose cosmetic surgery if they want it may be a feminist thing, but that doesn't make choosing to have the surgery a feminist choice. It also doesn't make someone not a feminist if they make a choice which isn't in and of itself a feminist one.

The negative health implications of removing your pubic hair are pretty significant too: http://www.kevinmd.com/blog/2011/04/war-pubic-hair.html

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