Enlightenment - - "nale"?

Ann Ferguson aferguso at benfranklin.hnet.uci.edu
Mon Nov 14 23:55:18 MST 1994

On Sun, 13 Nov 1994, Rebecca Hill wrote:
>   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.
. . .
>    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!
> .-Rebecca

	I agree with Rebecca that you should forget Sommers' book.  She
coined the term "gender feminist" then lumped everyone she disagreed with
in it, even those who clearly disagree with each other!  She is dangerously
distorting both the academic and the political feminist debate.

	Secondly, Id like to respond  to your categories and bring in
some remarks about academic feminists that others have thrown in.  First
I dont think you should call Gayle Rubin a radical feminist, just as I
dont think of myself as a radical feminist.  We are socialist feminists
who are trying to develop dual and tri-systems theory. Those who think of
themselves as radical feminists believe in a single system, patriarchy,
which involves men's sexual control over women and they see race and
class domination as stemming from that base (e.g. Mary Daly, Shulamith
Firestone, perhaps at this point Andrea Dworkin, Jan Raymond, Kathleen
Barry).  Socialist feminists in turn think of Marxist Feminists as folks
like Margaret Benston, Lisa Vogel, Paddy Quick and Jane Humphreys, who
tend to reduce patriarchy to capitalist domination tricks.  I think it is
a cheap shot to critique radical feminists, as Tom does, for simply being
careerists: how many of the Marxist men on the list are academics?  Are
the women accusing you of being careerist because you are defending a
revolutionary "titillating to your students" theory?

	And, by the way, not all of those arguing about the question of
exploitation with seemingly women's names are really women, if it makes a
difference to anyone on  the list!  (Sorry Dave but I think "Lulu" is
pretty misleading to the folks on the list, and since you mentioned that
you are my student, you have brought me into what looks like deception. I
know you have your reasons but leave me out of them!)

	Best, Ann Ferguson
	aferguso at uci.edu


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