Enlightenment - - "nale"?

Rebecca Hill hillx018 at maroon.tc.umn.edu
Sun Nov 13 17:10:44 MST 1994

  Alex made the comment in his post of Fourier and Marxism that perhaps the
enlightenment is "male." This is exactly what the "difference" feminists
Katha Pollit is criticizing are arguing. In the tradition of postmodern
critiques of rationality - or of 1970s cultural feminism -
feminists have argued for recovering the "feminine" and the "irrational." I
don't think it's a politically helpful position to take. First of all, I
think I'm pretty rational most of the time, or at least as rational as the
"next guy," who seems capable of "irrationality" as much as any woman. Or
in other words, to gender the idea of "rational thought" seems like a bad
strategy, since it simply mimics patriarchal stereotypes that already exist
- (women are sexy, therefore irrational....see Camille Paglia on this point
if you want to check out the latest old wine in a new bottle) Po-mo
critiques of the rational/irrational divide are more interesting perhaps.
   But, as far as your first post goes, I wouldn't use Christina
Hoff-Sommers as a source on how to do the history of feminism. Her
categories of "gender" and "equality feminists" are basically tools to
argue against feminists today. She's extremely right wing and her book was
funded, I believe, by the Christian Coalition. She's been a topic of
concern on the Women's Studies list since her book came out.
   There are much more useful sources on the varieties of feminism - Alice
Echols book on radical feminism _Daring to be Bad_ and Nancy Cott's
_Grounding of Modern Feminism_, for debates between Marxists and feminists,
you might be interested in Elsa Jane Dixler's unpub. dissertation
on _The Woman Question_, Meredith Tax, _The Rising of Women_ and anything
by Rosalyn Baxandall.
   Here's a quick run down on my definitions of
these feminisms
1. In my opinion, liberal feminism can be defined as
the movement of middle-class women to "integrate the ruling class" by using
legal reform, instituting equal pay, passing the equal rights ammendment,
etc (all of which are reasonable strategies for an oppressed group)
2.Radical feminism attacks the "patriarchy" and cites the nuclear family
and the system of "compulsory heterosexuality" as the major institutions
which oppress women. - This feminism adapts Marxist theory to come to an
understanding of the "sexual economy. For a clear, (if dated?) articulation
of this see Gayle Rubin, "The Traffic In Women."  At its best, radical
feminism accounts for both the sexual economy and the money economy - and
engages in critiques of both Marx and Freud. At its worst, it forgets
everything but sexuality - you know, the way some Marxists forget
everything but class. However, thinking of the sexual economy is an
excellent way to comprehend the politics of rape, birth/birth
control, sex in general, abortion and domestic violence. In this system
Women are "exploited" sexually, bringing a whole new meaning perhaps, to
terms like "surplus labor" and "exchange value." For example, what could be
more alienating than having to give "ownership" of your child (the product
of your labor) to the man whose name it will carry? What could be more
alienating that not having legal control of your own means of
(re) production?
    3. Marxist feminism tends to more focused on women's
oppression under capitalism and deals with wages etc. The problem I see
with this approach is that it adopts an understanding of the money economy
as the only system of relations that operates in the world.
Thus it gets bogged down in the debate between "oppression and
exploitation" and can't engage a discussion of the ways women are oppressed
by sexual politics. What it does contribute that's extremely useful is
analysis of the money economy's effect on sexual politics and vice/vesa
- politics around welfare mothers and the gender division of labor for
instance. Sorry this was so long!



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