Women today are bombarded by the words “agency” and “choice” all day long. We are to be strengthened by our progress and inspired enough by it to progress even further. Empowerment has become the new pastime.
Such that in response to “what did you do today?” I would not be surprised to learn that my female friend “went to work, read some news, gained some power, went grocery shopping, and ate dinner while basking in agency.”
This is not to belittle our achievements, trust me, I am glad that women have come so far; however, progress requires reflection, and it seems that our “movement” could use a healthy dose of it.
Frankly, it gets exhausting reading piece after piece about how “women can do everything men do” and “women should do whatever they want.” Since when do we want anyone doing whatever they want? Oh right, we don’t — that is what laws are for. I have been raised to respect the obstacles that women have overcome, and that I too can overcome them, but that those women engaged in deep thought about what was true and good and that our freedom as women was gained because it was right, not because it seemed to fulfill our urges at the time.
So sure, we can do what men can do — if of course you buy that men and women do “certain” things — but does that mean that I want to do everything that men do? I can certainly choose to urinate standing up but I happily leave my stereotypical male counterparts to choose this odd practice.
Even still I agree that we should continue to strive for boundless agency and unlimited choice. However, unlike my recent interlocutors in what seems to be the modern on-line version of Plato’s Symposium, I have a few definitional changes:
“Agency” does not always mean action. It can, and should mean knowing when and how to act. Careful consideration of how powerful our agency is, demands that we do, and not do.
“Choice” does not refer to any choice, but rather, choosing what is right and good for you, even when our more carnal faculties tell us otherwise.
“Power” is exercised through knowledge — knowledge of one’s emotional, psychological, physical and sexual health. Making the same stupid mistakes that men have supposedly made for centuries by ignoring the very real and important impact that thoughtless sexual activity renders, is not empowerment.
If a woman has put thought into her actions, can she do what she wants? Yes, but let us not be fooled — the years and tears of strong women before us was not so we could go out and have rampant and meaningless sex. This was and is a fight for the ability to make choices, not for the choices themselves.
Though, having the choice of a big gulp does not necessitate drinking one. We should foster a society where making good choices is exercising agency, not succumbing to a lack of it.
Further, our mothers before us fought to give us choice, but desired for us to make good ones. Ones that respect our value and search for value in return. Ones that place us not only on par with our male counterparts, but ahead of them — meaning doing things they wouldn’t do because we are better for it.