A feminist politics which stressing free choice rather than equality and liberation is gaining strength, particularly in countries which have traditionally considered preservation of civil-liberties their a national characteristic. Using this philosophy, a woman wins by giving herself and other women permission to do whatever they choose in following – or ignoring – their own sensibilities. The gender and structural questions with which traditional feminism struggled are not in the forefront. Rather women should have maximum autonomy.
The cause is not, for example, that a woman has the right to look and dress according to her own standards rather than according to the expectations of a male-dominated society; rather it is that she has the free choice – of whether to wear makeup or not, expose her body or not, have a child or not. If a women freely chooses to maintain a fashionably thin body, or to have breast-enhancing surgery, or if she chooses not to have a career because a woman's role is child-raising, then this is her choice and her right to be upheld. The social costs of young girls suffering from anorexia nervosa, the health implications of the fact that the rate of growth of cosmetic surgery is displacing every other branch of medicine, and the disproportionate incidence of domestic violence against dependent wives and children, are not primary issues for liberal feminists.
The increasing strength of the liberal, or "pro-choice" movement in feminism is particularly evident in the defence of abortion, and it is understandable that this dilemma should be so acutely felt in the USA. There have been two rationales: one recognizing the sovereignty of a woman over her own body, and the other defending abortion as a woman's civil right to economic and political equality, which unwanted pregnancies and forced motherhood infringe upon. The alliance of these two rationales represents a genuine overlap of interest between women's liberty and liberation, since the right to control one's body is the most fundamental liberty and the most liberating of rights.
A shallow "politics of choice" has crept into gender politics, threatening to pry apart the integrity of the feminist analysis of society and turn it upside-down; to convert it from a liberation movement into one that caters to a libertine sensibility pursuing simply the cause of liberty, or the ability to do as one wishes. Through sexual liberals like Madonna it challenges the perceived "prudery" of traditional feminists. This feminist philosophy of free choice oddly enough has more in common with the laissez-faire, free market economics of the right than any civil libertarian or sexual liberal would care to admit; nor would any traditional feminist need reminding that white male "liberty" has usually been the antithesis of women's "liberation".
In the postmodern age, liberty is liberation. The new opportunities for women, won through the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, can now be used to advantage in expressions of increased individual choice.