Individualized Femininity and Feminist Politics of Choice
Women’s right to exercise choice has been one of feminism’s central political claims. Where second wave feminism focused on the constraints women faced in making free choices, choice feminism more recently reorients feminist politics with a call for recognition of the choices women are actually making. From this perspective the role of feminism is to validate women’s choices without passing judgement. This article analyses this shift in orientation by locating women’s choices within a late modern gender order in which the ideal of choice has increasingly been associated with a new form of femininity characterized as self-determining, individuated and ‘empowered’. Instead of offering an effective analysis of the changing social conditions within which the relationship between feminism, femininity and individual choice has become increasingly complicated, choice feminism directs criticism at feminist perspectives characterized as overly prescriptive. This critique fails to appreciate how feminist ideals have been recuperated in the service of late capitalism and neoliberal forms of governance. By failing to engage critically with processes currently impacting on the social organization of gender choice feminism aids in the constitution of an individuated neoliberal feminist subject which performs cultural work vital to the reproduction of neoliberal governmentality.