I want to argue, using the readings for this week, that the whole reason this controversy even arose is due to a troubled relationship between postfeminism and choice - under which the mechanisms of meritocracy disguise continuing inequality and cultural misogyny.
While I disagree with McRobbie that current iterations of postfeminism construct "the new female subject" as "despite her freedom, called upon to be silent, to withhold critique, to count as a modern sophisticated girl, or indeed this withholding of critique is a condition of her freedom" (after all, we are currently seeing a swing back in which media personalities and everyday women alike are more willing to call themselves feminists and to engage in at least some form of feminist discourse), I do think McRobbie understands the relationship between postfeminism and choice. Within postfeminism, she claims, choice is:
a modality of constraint. The individual is compelled to be the kind of subject who can make the right choices. By these means new lines and demarcations are drawn between those subjects who are judged responsive to the regime of personal responsibility, and those who fail miserably (261).So if choice itself becomes a way to restrict and police the behaviors of women, what recourse do feminists like Watson have? After all, Watson's initial response to the controversy about her semi-nakedness was to appeal to choice, to the fundamental feminist desire to allow women to maintain the choice over how or when to display their bodies. She told Reuters: "Feminism is about giving women choice. Feminism is not a stick with which to beat other women with. It's about freedom. It's about liberation. It's about equality." However, Watson's argument that choice and the freedom of choice inherent within feminist ideals authorizes her photos misunderstands the way that choice functions in postfeminist society. Let me be clear, I think Watson has the right to show whatever part of her body she wants to the media and to claim to be a representative of feminism. Like her, I don't see the two actions as mutually exclusive. However, to appeal to choice as a feminist ideal is to misunderstand the way that choice functions as an arm of patriarchal power. Watson has been judged to have made the wrong choice in her Vanity Fair photoshoot, and instead of understanding the cultural backlash as essentially misogynistic, Watson has argued she has the right to choose -- no one seems to be upset that she was allowed a choice, they're merely claiming that she made the 'wrong' one, and this is the cultural enacting of the "regime of personal responsibility" that McRobbie highlights.
In a world where choice itself is fraught with both self-determining power and the ability to severely restrict and punish, how does one form an inclusive and liberating feminist politics -- feminism that doesn't hinge on whether an individual has made the right choice (allowing punishment under the guise of meritocracy) but which actively seeks to break down the cultural policing that makes choice a dangerous game?