Schwartz on Feminism

(Marianne Hill) mhill at
Thu Nov 10 17:12:05 MST 1994

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 ... )

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.


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