Marxist feminism or petty moralism?

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Sun Nov 6 17:37:02 MST 1994

On Sun, 6 Nov 1994 hfspc002 at wrote:

> On Sun, 6 Nov 1994, Justin Schwartz wrote:
> > There's a difference between being the beneficiary of undeserved
> > advantages which you may not even want, as whites, males, and many (not
> > all) Americans are, are being a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, or an
> > imperialist oppressor. A lot of people on the left run these very distinct
> > things together, as Ben does here, and as a consequence unnecessarily get
> > people's backs up and alienate potential supporters. It's silly to feel
> > either proud or ashamed of characteristics you cannot help having. And
> Obviously we are working from two distinct definitions of "racism,"
> "sexism," "homophobia" here.  To me these terms indicate not simply a
> state of mind that predisposes one to feel superior to members of other
> races, sexes, or sexualities.  If that is the definition of these things,
> then the terms have become literally useless for an analysis of society,
> and are only useful in talking about, say, the KKK.  For me these terms
> also include internalized racism, etc., in which one who does not consider
> him/herself to be a racist unwittingly supports the structure of
> domination and exploitation that is based upon race (or gender or
> sexuality).  From this definition we are all racist, and sexist, and
> heterosexist, because we live in a society which is and until we own up to
> that and take responsibility (rather than guilt or pride) for changing
> those social conditions we are simply perpetuating the exploitation.
> Ben Attias

I don't believe this is a productive way of talking.  It reminds me of
the old Stalinist way of talking on which some views or positions are
"objectively" Trotskyite-Fascist (this was an old Stalinist insult, not a
notion I would endorse) or whatever. It it individualizes in exactly the
wrong way. The main problem we have to deal is, I agree, not Bad
Attitudes, but that includes unconscious Bad Attitudes. The problem is
institutional oppression, and a ritual of accusation, guilt, confession,
and repentance won't change that. We can assume, perhaps not wholly
accurately, but close enough, that everyone on this list struggles actively
for change against racism, etc. Anyway our tacit and perhaps unwilling support
for a racist etc., system--I mean that of the people on this list--isn't
the key to its survival. I hate it when people on the left consume their
energy and divide our weak and divided forces by going through this
meaningless and stupid ritual which changes nothing. Sure, it's easy to
guilt trip white male leftists (and in individual cases they may deserve
it), but that's no substitute for forcing the government to stop
demonizing poor Black teenage women or pulling education and health
benefits for undocumented workers.



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