Schwartz on Feminism

Justin Schwartz jschwart at
Fri Nov 11 06:46:17 MST 1994


Our differences on the point are so small, if existent, as not to be worth
discussing. In the point you challenge I just wanted to point out that
sexism need not (a) take the form of individuals thinking or saying "Don't
you worry your pretty little head about it," wolf-whistling, assuming a
right to grope, etc., but also, and more insidiously, takes the form of
70c per male dollar earned, tracking into female (less prestigious)
careers, glass ceilings, etc., and (b) that the latter cannot be explained
solely by bad attitudes in the heads of men (and women), conscious or not.
I don't think you disagree.

I wonder how many men, even on this list, are in silent sympathy with Tom.
I do not understand; I lack the basic empathy to grasp, how men on the
left can find women's equality, much less liberation, so threatening. And
to think I started out this thread agreeing with him on something! I think
it was that you can't presume men are individually sexist because of their
gender. I still think that's true.


On Thu, 10 Nov 1994 mhill at wrote:

> To J. Schwartz:  Thanks for standing up for Rebecca.  I think we may have
> some disagreement as to what is "institutional".  The family, for example,
> is an institution; and it is not necessary for the customs etc that
> determine how an institution functions to be explicitly written into law or
> otherwise made overt--after all, societies have existed for millenia with
> only a minimum of reliance on any form of writing.  Much of recent work on
> institutions has noticed that there are some shared assumptions etc that
> are necessary for the market to function smoothly (e.g. one question being
> examined:  what is implicitly assumed in a market agreement that is not
> explicitly written into a contract).  Institutions then include the
> tacit and covert in a very basic fashion that must be exposed and
> analyzed.  There are not any employment laws left that I know of that allow
> racism--but if employers favor whites in their personal lives there are
> reasons to think they will favor whites at their places of work (especially
> when there is uncertainty as to how well the various applicants will do
> in a position--which is almost always in more "responsible" positions).
> Similarly for sexism.  A lot of what keeps sexism going these days are
> attitudes based on a rationalization of privilege (and many practices that
> are in theory illegal--denial of equal opportunity ... )
> Marianne
> mhill at
> On Thu, 10 Nov 1994 10:43:53 -050,
>   Justin Schwartz writes:
> >...... That said, I will say again that the worst sexism and racism is
> >institutional, not tacit or overt; it's the structures of privilege
> >themselves that have to smashed. But that's no excuse for being a MCP.
> >you so "steamed up" you cannot even read! Speaking for myself I have no
> >hostility whatsoever to women as a group, although I'm as guilty as the
> >next committed feminist man of taking advantages of XY chromosome
> >privileges, which in some way cannot be helped, but of taking them for
> >granted, which can be.
> >
> >I think this exchange has been very revealing of the problems for
> >socialist feminism. Somewhat disheartening, too.
> >
> >--Justin


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