Liberal feminists stop debate by crying “choice” when radical feminists unpack the context and impacts of choices — especially choices that reinforce male supremacy. This usually happens in conversations about prostitution, pornography, or other industries and activities that objectify women or encourage women to objectify ourselves, like, say, stripping.

A radical feminist sees stripping as something that upholds male supremacy as the woman involved is expected to present herself as a sexualized object for the male gaze. Those gazing, objectifying men don’t care about that woman as a person. They’re not thinking about her as a complete human being — their focus is simply examining and appraising her body for their sexual gratification.

In keeping with the feminist belief that feminism is the fight to liberate all women, a radical feminist would recognize that an individual woman’s “choice” to strip is deeply connected to the broadly-held view that women’s bodies — all women’s bodies — exist for men and for male approval.

Going further, a radical feminist would also look at the context for this choice. In the case of stripping, that would include considering how, in patriarchy, females are socialized from birth to objectify ourselves. She’d look at the constant drip-drip-drip of subtle and overt messages we absorb throughout our lives that teach us to strive to be pretty and sexually desirable to men.

She’d also look at the ways patriarchy restricts the range of economic opportunities available to women, how trafficking helps supply men with female bodies to ogle, and how objectification is connected to male violence against women. After all that analysis, she’d conclude that, if not for patriarchy, women would have a broader range of well-paying occupations from which to choose, and, in all likelihood, fewer women would strip.

Not surprisingly, a liberal feminist’s take on stripping looks very different, in that it begins and ends with one point: because an individual woman chose to strip, stripping is, by default, a feminist choice that should be honoured as empowering and not “shamed” (third wave speak for “analyzed”). That’s it: choice. Full stop.

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On "choice" feminism (on @feministcurrent)