What happened to choice?

There’s an interesting article on Salon about how feminism isn’t to blame for the fall of domesticity, but there was one aspect to the article that really stood out to me–the idea that not everyone enjoys being domestic. See, I’m one of those people who doesn’t enjoy cooking. I do it as a means to an end, because I need to eat, but while I can get behind the notion that it’s better to eat foods made from scratch, I’d much rather throw a pizza in the oven and watch TV than spending an hour or more preparing a single dish.

This is something that tends to bug me about certain social movements. There’s often a tendency to hold up one option as being objectively good, an ideal that everyone should aspire to, and those who don’t adhere to it tend to get demonized. Food tends to attract this type of thinking in particular, from femivores to veg*ns to breast-feeding advocates–I’ve seen members of that last group describe baby formula as being ‘crap in a can’. While I can’t argue with some of the health benefits of nursing, this thinking ignores that sometimes people decide it’s not the best way to go for their family, for reasons ranging from convenience (for working moms, pumping at work can be a minefield) to health problems on the part of either mother or child, to simply not wanting to. Shortly after finding out I was pregnant I found I was already feeling defensive about a choice I hadn’t even made, let alone started acting on, because of the possibility that personal circumstances would force me into the second group. At 8 weeks I was worried about having to defend the ‘choice’ (that I wasn’t even sure I had) to formula feed, because of how horribly I’ve seen some people refer to formula and those who use it. To some people, if you’re not nursing you’re failing as a mother.

It’s always a problem when people frame personal choices as being objectively better than the choices others make. To the people holding these views, they are better, because those choices best uphold their values. But to others who have somewhat different priorities, they’re not. To come back to nursing, I was concerned that my ‘choices’ might be using formula or going off my anti-depressants–while some would probably say I should do the latter, if it came down to it there’s no question I would pick formula, for the sake of both myself and my child. The health benefits, to me, aren’t worth the negatives of having to go off the medication that has helped me function somewhat normally for the last 5 years–I don’t consider quitting my medication to be an option. And that’s what bugs me about some of the more adamant sections of some social movements. Everything is a trade-off, and something that is better in one respect might not be worth the trade-offs needed elsewhere, and what is an acceptable price for one person isn’t for another. Some people are really good at forgetting that.


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