Wednesday, September 1, 2010

I Choose You: A Post-Feminist Perspective on Submission

I choose you.

Considering that powerful women barter for choice in most areas of their lives, the idea that such a woman would set out to choose a man isn't a far stretch.  Why allow fate to determine our relationships?  If we can choose the best candidate to grow our organization, what prevents us from finding the best man? 

Beware. This is a trap. Like the man who took the genie's three wishes and made himself a genie found: greediness for power will enslave you in turn. Choosing a man is an exercise in submission to self.

If you were lucky enough to brilliantly negotiate Erickson's developmental stage of intimacy v. isolation in your twenties and find a mate early on, growing together or mutually constructing interdependence was a natural progression. You grew into adulthood with ideas of self that were inevitably shared with the ideas of self of another. Subjugating your own will to that of another occurred seamlessly, likely without notice.

However, if you didn't, and you spent your early adulthood developing independent ideas of self, it is a surprising revelation to find that choosing interdependence requires a rather conscious act of submission to make room for the other. The irony comes when an extra-powerful woman decides to be extra-intentional about the man she chooses. If a woman decides to embrace the challenge of pursuit, activating her feminist ideas of equality, does she actually violate those same ideas of female power?

Trap 1: The greater the challenge of the task, the greater the subjugation to make the match happen.

We must first assume that such a woman is choosing the man wisely.  An overzealous approach to doing whatever it takes tends to hide the more obvious red flag that this may simply not be the right one for you. On the other hand, choosing a man later in life infers the tolerance and acceptance of the inherent baggage that all of us carry at this point: widowhood, divorce, or hyper-independence.

Intimacy was so much easier when we were in adolescence. We were all at the same starting point, baggage-free, with ubiquitous availability of options. But we are mid-stride now, and the second, and perhaps the more significant, challenge is finding congruence in timing.

Trap 2: The woman decides to hunt; exercise her skill in making things happen; and finds the right man, wrong time. If anyone has encountered "wrong time" politics, it comes with frequent sacrifices of self, significant periods of waiting, and a skewed distribution of feelings; choreographed as a push-pull dance. It is an enormous exercise in the delay of gratification. I'm sure that most women accustomed to the immediate results of power find this last experience especially excrutiating.

Through the test of timing, how purposeful will her choice continue to be? How submissive to her choice will she become? Is exercising her full right to choose, and thereby keep power, an appropriate application of feminism? If so, how do you categorize her subsequent choice to subjugate herself to this choice? Is this a legitimate exercise of feminism or is it moving beyond?

I propose that the intentional exercise of choice, regardless of the nature of the choice, is the full manifestation of the intent of feminism. That the choice involves the submission to a male is truly irrelevant, moving beyond traditional feminisim. The premise of feminists as perpetual opponents of men mistakenly establishes men as the central tenet of female power. If men do not grant a woman her power, men cannot inherently take it. The critical question is whether or not women maintain their right to choose. Thus, though choosing a man may lead to the intentional submission of self, choosing a man does not violate the tenets of modern feminists and may be considered a post-feminist perspective on the relationship of men and women.

So, what separates this idea from pre-feminist powerless submission? Feminism.  Its era, contribution, and the equalizing right to female choice created to permit a newly liberating platform of power.

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