On rare occasions as a child I would go into the spacies bar in Cathedral Square. It was beside an alleyway. It was nestled in the shadow of the enormous Christchurch Press Building where my father worked. His office was full of maps. He would take notes in his wide slanted handwriting on coverless pads of A5 newsprint made from what was left over of the basement print run. His writing was like hieroglyphics. Mysterious and unreadable. Bullet points with punctuation - full stops and question marks - so intent they broke through several sheets. We got given these pads too. The good ones creaked when you bent them and had their own fresh yellow smell. We wrote and drew and made flimsy paper aeroplanes with them.
My brother and I might go in to the spacies arcade to buy hot chips or to play an illicit game of something on a screen that twitched and beeped. The whole place was dangerous. Dark and full of intermittent lightning. I remember with delight first hearing there choice turned into an adjective. Or at least if I didn't, before choice was ubiquitous, I always knew it was the spacies boys who'd be smoking cigarettes and saying it. I loved getting it. That "choice" was the best choice, that they'd taken that rather pompous English twist of language, like a choice cut of meat - in fact back then was that the only time it was used like that? - and making it theirs. Choice, eh? Cho-o-o-ice. We paradied it but they'd beaten us to it. It was already self-deprecating and cool in ways we longed to but couldn't get close to.
I'm thinking about the word choice and how it's used now, particularly in some of the online feminist discussions I'm part of or observing. While I do of course think choice is choice I'm sensing a sea change. A cult of choice. A worshipping of choice above all other choice things. I keep returning to something I heard Dr Claire Slatter say a few years ago. I rephrase her here from memory, with little of her eloquence. She said the dialogue about human rights had been overtaken with dialogue about consumer rights. In trying to understand my unease about the way choice is being bandied about, this seems relevant. It seems the same bogeyman that has co-opted the notion of rights may have co-opted the notion of choice. That he's taken some of the verve and brilliance of collective resistance and swung it round to serve individualism.
I'm nervous about questioning choice. I'm pro-choice in all my most private and public moments. But I'm more nervous about something else. I'm nervous we're all going to end up spending a lot of time defending the human right to - a wide range of shoes at competitive prices. That our vision of true liberation will be when no one is stigmatised for the shoes they wear. That our most joyous moments of resistance will come in collective action to support a individual's right to choose their shoes.
(C) Copyright 2012, Mrs Loolupants, All Rights Reserved.