Ethical relativism is one of my favorite topics in relation to feminism, for the simple reason that one cannot be an ethical relativist and believe in worldwide human or women’s rights. The idea that human beings–all human beings–have certain inalienable rights means that these rights stretch across the globe, across cultures, across religions. However, within feminism, there is another debate that falls into the trap of ethical relativism. As mentioned in my last post, this is the idea that feminism requires that we support the “choices” of other women, whatever those choices may be. Flat out nonsense, I say.
Feminism has fought for the rights of women to make their own choices. This is an important part of feminism, and one that I support wholeheartedly. This means that a woman should have the right to choose not to be married. She should have the right to choose if or when she becomes a mother. That she should have the right to choose what kind of career she wants. The problem occurs when people jump from “the right to make a choice” directly to “the right to be free of any judgement for said choice”. That’s where ethical relativism and the doctrine of feminist choice jump the tracks for me.
Not all choices made in this world are good choices. Not all choices in this world are valid choices. And it sure as hell isn’t true that all choices in this world free the chooser from being judged for the choices she makes. When feminists–especially those who call themselves “sex positive”–begin speaking about “it’s a choice” and “you can’t judge”, it usually relates to sex work or BDSM. That was covered in my last post, so I won’t go into it in detail again now. The problem here is that these same liberal feminists are more than willing to judge the choices made by others, if said others don’t fall in line with their own political beliefs.
Let’s consider other choices made by women. The choice of political belief and involvement. The choice to voice political opinions in the public arena. The choice to fight for political convictions. This means that feminists fought for the right of women to be on the political front lines. Unfortunately, too many women use this right to choose to join anti-women political parties or espouse right-wing values as political pundits. Ann Coulter is making her choices. Sarah Palin is making her choices. Michele Bachmann is making her choices. Feminism fought for and won the right for these women to make their choices, even though those choices are hurting other women. Does that mean we can’t judge them? Hell, no! That applies to other choices made by women, too.
If they hurt women, women and their choices are open to judgment and condemnation. Liberal feminists who claim that “choice” means “no judgment” are wallowing in hypocrisy the moment they criticize women like Coulter, Palin, or Bachmann. Feminists fought for lots of things. We have fought for the right of women to make their own choices. We did not fight for the right of women to make choices that hurt other women without repercussion. At least, I didn’t.