Feminism, Now With More Options!!

A couple weeks ago I read John Tierney’s much-talked-about piece on decision fatigue and immediately made a self-diagnoses.

Yes, I too suffer from chronic decision fatigue.

I excitedly called Dave.

“I can’t make any more decisions! I have decision fatigue. It’s a REAL THING.”

For days, Dave and I joked about how decision fatigue is a REAL THING, but the truth is, the piece resonated with me. I do feel constantly bogged down in all the decisions I have to make: for the wedding (red tablecloths or blue), for work (font one or font two), at home (do I cancel my Netflix or my Quickster or both and what am I having for dinner?), and with friends (where do we want to meet and what movie are we seeing?)

The collective weight of all those decisions exhausts me. And while, I’m glad to have the choices, I suppose, sometimes I just wish there weren’t quite so many options.

Which brings me to uh … feminism.

You see, the other day I was reading this post by a woman talking about her issues with the label “husband” and the connotations associated with the word and as I was skimming the comments, one leaped out at me, about how nice it was that we have options.

Because that is what feminism is about now: options! Now women can CHOOSE to work or stay at home. Or to change their name or not. To wear bras or not.

And the truth is, I do, I do appreciate the options. I understand that for years, women had no options and the fact that now we have them is decidedly a GOOD THING.

But sometimes it makes me wonder if all these options are weighing us down.

Because we have to make decision after decision after decision and then we feel we have to defend said decisions — to our parents, to our partners, to our friends, to ourselves. And as we defend our decisions, we relitigate them in our minds. Yes, it was the right decision to stay at home. Yes, it was the right decision to keep my name. Yes, it was the right decision to have only one child.

It’s strange because, actually, traditional definitions explain feminism as a movement to achieve equal rights and opportunities for women. But typically, men don’t actually have all these choices, or they don’t think they do, at any rate. Most men don’t decide whether or not to change their names; they don’t think about it all. Most men assume they will not stay at home with their children. And men never have to decide between a skirt or pants! Instead of having equal opportunities, it sometimes seems like women have more opportunities than men. And also more decisions. And more decision fatigue.

Would we be happier if we had fewer decisions? I don’t think so. To me, the decision fatigue is worth it.

But by recognizing the decision fatigue, I feel more inclined to cut myself and the other wonderful women I know some slack.

9 responses to “Feminism, Now With More Options!!

  1. Pingback: The Most Inane Post of the Week « Clarissa's Blog

  2. I’m all about fewer options when it comes to trivial things like types of ketchup and wedding florists. I love our corner store, not only because it’s a a small local business, but because they sell one type of everything. Oh, and if I want more options? There is a Safeway across the street. 🙂

    My brother and sister-in-law got married in the tiny Ohio town at their college alma mater. It sounded so refreshing to hear about the one florist, one bakery, and (ooh!) two photographers that were in the area. We just got married in Oakland, and I was often overwhelmed by the options. On the plus side, we loved the photographer, florist, etc. we were able to choose, but it still sounds really appealing to have had the choice made for me.

  3. I don’t think we have more opportunities than men, I think we are judged on certain issues more frequently and more harshly than men. Hence a disproportionate amount of time is spent justifying our decisions to others. For me, equal rights are still a very long way off.

  4. Lauren, I agree with you on the fewer options for trivial things. It makes life MUCH easier.

    Janice, I agree that equal rights are a long way off, but I think it works both ways. I feel like most men don’t really feel they have the choice whether or not to work or stay at home with the kids. Yes, women are judged more on that choice, but men who deviate from the norm (i.e., stay at home dads) are judged as well. Maybe opportunities is the wrong word to describe it, but I do think that women seem to have more socially acceptable “options” or “decisions” than men, who I think tend to be a lot more constrained to gender roles than women are nowadays.

  5. Hi Ruchi,

    I’ve been saying this (“women seem to have more socially acceptable “options” or “decisions” than men, who I think tend to be a lot more constrained to gender roles than women are nowadays”) for such a long time. Unfortunately, many people think that you are not a feminist if you say this, I am but I also think that men might feel like they have gotten the short end of the deal. Ideally, all people should be able to chose from the same options without judgement…

    But the reality is that in 80% of the world people are impoverished and ‘choice’ to work doesn’t even enter their mind! This is totally a privilege, which maybe women in our society have more than men.

    I guess the question is not so much right to work, but right to work in any field and not be held back.

    This also relates to another idea which is housing affordablilty. In Australia housing is not affordable. Particularly if you are a single income family. You are competing against other families with double incomes. This is an unfortunate and unforeseen consequence of feminism. Now any ‘extra’ money brought into the house by having two workers, goes straight to the mortgage. But you really don’t have much choice about it…so you both work to afford an apartment/house which 50 years ago would have been affordable on one income….hmmm…

  6. Alex, you are right. For most people, there is no choice to work. You work because you have to. Choosing not to work is definitely a privilege which women tend to have more than men.

    As for the right to work in any field and not be held back, I think that’s where women still have not achieved equal rights.

    But as to the cost of housing … I’m not sure that that can be blamed (and I know you didn’t really mean it as blame per se) on feminism. While I don’t know the particularities of the housing market in Australia, I would guess that the rise in housing costs has nothing to do with feminism. In fact, because the feminist revolution in the 1960s in many countries resulted in a drop in the birth rate, which would mean a drop in the demand for housing, I would hazard a suggestion that without the feminist revolution, housing might be even more expensive now.

    In the US, part of the issue with housing costs has also been that houses have gotten larger with all these fancy amenities (your house is not a real house if it doesn’t have granite counter tops.) And of course, there was the housing bubble. But none of this has much to do with feminism that I can tell.

  7. This is a fantastic post and a very thought provoking discussion.

    A few years back PBS did a sort of reality series called Frontier House (http://www.pbs.org/wnet/frontierhouse/) where they got 3 families to live in the wilds of Montana for 6 months, with only the resources that would have been available in the 1880’s. I, of course, got totally hooked.

    I thought one of the most interesting parts was the interviews they did with all of the participants a few months after it was over and they’d all had time to digest the experience. Pretty much all of them talked about how returning to their modern lives they felt almost overwhelmed with the constant over abundance of choices.

    I’m sort of torn about it… on the one hand, as a person who lives a rather unconventional life, I’m REALLY glad that I live in a time and place that has allowed me to make the life decisions that I have made. On the other hand, I think our society constantly bombards us with choices, most of which are meaningless, irrelevant, or not actually real choices – like when we have a supermarket aisle full of seemingly endless products, but all are really just the same junk manufactured by the same three companies – or when we only get to choose between pre-screened candidates for an election, or whatever else it might be.

    In my darker moments I wonder if the plethora of false choices only exists to keep us running hither and yon, and distract us from the big meaningful decisions that we could be making if we were paying more attention.

  8. I think Alex touched on this a bit . . . it seems to me that those of us who are lucky enough to have so many choices are the ones paralyzed by them. Seems obvious when I say it like that, but the people — men and women — with fewer options for whatever reason are just able to do what they have to do to make things work.

    Now. I don’t think the latter is a preferable position. Simpler, yes. Preferable, no.

  9. EcoCat,
    I think you hit the nail on the head. I’ve made plenty of unconventional choices and I’m happy to have them. And honestly, even in terms of some of the smaller choices (chipotle hummus or lemon hummus) I enjoy having them. But still, it’s hard not to feel bombarded by decisions and choices all the time. I’m not sure if there is a middle ground, or what the answer is. Perhaps it’s just to go easy on yourself and allow yourself a good cry for no reason now and again. 😉

    Kimberly, no I agree. I’ve heard that suicide happens more frequently in democracies than in communist countries in part because all the freedoms of democracies can be overwhelming. And I understand how in some ways, not having to choose, is just easier. But I still wouldn’t prefer it.

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