Mies -- Mohanty

tgs at cunyvms1.gc.cuny.edu tgs at cunyvms1.gc.cuny.edu
Sun Nov 13 05:37:59 MST 1994


<You said,>

Anne F., and Rebecca,
I am interested in hearing more of your views on Marixst-Feminism. I am a man that believes that all men are sexist, not by nature, but instead, by social conditioning.

<I reply (Tom)>

<I once wrote an article for the school paper, based upon the work of Stephen
Steinberg (THE ETHNIC MYTH), who  critiques the "culture of poverty" school.
This school, which began actually with a leftist, Latin sociologist--whose
name I just can't remember--said that the culture of poverty,
which is supposed to oral-gratificatory-- has a lingering causative
effect, not just within the individual personality, but through the generations,
and independently to some degree of economics (at the  same time, this theorist
contradicted himself, for he was a partisan of the Cuban revolution  and
saw that the culture of poverty was abolished under Fidel).

A fellow student of mine wrote in the paper, with the thought of defending
the CUNY Italian-American Institute from attacks by the Chancellor--well,
he wrote that "Italians are traditionally not interested in education, and
this is why we need an Italian-American Institute."  As part Italian-American
myself, I took this to be a well-meaning by racist slur
(I also heard this from a professor friend of mine, pretty well
known liberal writer on the race question, who seems to have changed
his views).  After pointing out
the many Italian-Americans who have prospered from education, I put forward
Steinberg's theses.  The title of my article was, "Cultural determinism--
Trained pigeons need only apply."  And that's basically the gist of it.
Human beings are not trained pigeons.  They have brains.  They act primarily
upon economic motivations.  Young people in ghettos today would quickly abandon
the nihilism ,crime, drugs, etc. if faced with an alternative, a revolutionary
socialist party--which, Alex, would  be damn hearty--where you could have local
dances, socials, discussions, where these young people could feel like human
beings again--all the while plotting revolutionary  overthrow.  If that don't
stir your heart, I don't know what will.  But I think the program of the
gangs in Post-Riots L.A. is a sure indication that even gang members are
not heartless automotons, marching to the beat of social conditioning.

Working class men have everything to gain, and only illusions to lose, by
abandoning whatever the sexist messages they have gotten from their parents,
schools, the media, etc.  It is certainly  true--middle class men, just like
middle class women who have "made" it, have much more to lose in their
competititve struggle for careers, when they abandon overt conscious sexist
strategies for one-upmanship.  This is analagous to Dick Fraser's article--I
don't know if it's in the Prometheus memorial to him, or the Marxist series
#5 on revolutionary integration vs. black nationalism--where he says that
Southern racism has its key mass base in the Southern middle class, which
seeks to exclude black professionals from arising, for fear of their own

Certainly there is something called social conditioning, and it tends men
toward sexism, women toward passive acceptance of sexist behavior--sometimes
even conscience support for sexist males, among Republicans.  But, first, men
are human beings, not trained pigeons, and therefore have the choice of
whether they accept or reject their social conditioning.  Second, working
class men have an economic interest tending them toward class unity and
revolution, which militates agains sexism.  So the effects of social
conditioning upon men, and especially working class men, must be seen
as decidecly contradictory, not uniformly successful.

That's my argument.  I hope I haven't discouraged Ann F. or Rebecca from
replying themselves, as you  asked them to.



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