The bisexuality of morals (redux)

Louis R Godena louisgodena at ids.net
Fri Oct 4 22:32:13 MDT 1996


Adam didn't like my post on the common gender of values:

>I have the utmost difficulty in even understanding what this sort
>of thing actually means.

I on the other hand thought that Ms Haug was remarkably clear,  perhaps a
lot clearer than anyone has a right to be on such a profound subject.

>Of course, there are "pervasive discrepencies in the norms ascribed
>to men and women" , most obviously if a man sleeps with lots of
>women, he is admirred as a "stud" but if a woman sleeps with a lot
>of men she is castigated as a "slut", etc.

A rather prosaic example,  but,  no,  this is not what is meant by a
"pervasive discrepency" in gender differentiation under capitalism.    Yours
is a vulgarization of imagined popular stereotypes.    What Ms Haug and
others are confirming are institutional definitions of both men and women as
moral beings,  their "morality" contingent upon their respective roles in
various stages of capitalist development;  "for men,"  she points out,  "it
centers on property,  for women on the body."    As an example,  she cites
the phrase "to *initiate* a person," which typically means "that men are
inducted into the mysteries of business,  whereas women are introduced to
the praxis of sex".   What,  she then asks,  "are the implications of this
bisexuality of morals?"

>But to move from a description, or even an analysis, of what are
>essentially parts of the ideological superstructure, to an
>explanation of why and how such things developed seems odd to say
>the least.

This observation is empircally unsound;  regardless of how it's read,  it
simply makes no sense.

But,  continue:

>First I read :
>
>"[T]he power of the state is not the expression of a masculine morality
> which has been erected into a universal ethical code"
>
>and I start thinking, good, a feminist who understands the state is
>not a "male" state, ie run by men in men's interests
>
>and then I read :
>
>"[It is derived] from the iridescent tones,  the shifting meanings and
>combination of values, in short the bisexual nature of morality,"
>
>So let me get this straight : the power of the state is derived from
>"iridescent tones,  the shifting meanings and combination of values" !?

>That's funny, I thought it was derived from a monopoly of the ability
>to organise "armed bodies of men" !

The "ability to 'organize armed bodies of men' does not exist platonically;
it is the culmination of the metastasizing social forces developed under
capitalism.    Yours is a crudely literal reading of Lenin.   It is rudely
violative of the principles of Leninism,  however,  as is your argument
below.

>"Or, finally,  we accept that they should commit murder in obedience to higher
>principles while believing that we are the defenders of life--this idea,
>too,  is an effect of a bisexual morality."
>
>Well, no it isn't.
>
>Ideas which support Imperialist wars are propagated and to some extent accepted
>because those wars are persued in the interests of Imperialism ie a particular
>relationship between Capital and the State.
>
>Workers, men and women, come to the conclusion that violence is necessary
>to achieve socialism because in their own experience they know that the
>class which creates poverty, violence and oppression will use whatever
>violent means necessary to maintain its system.

There is something far more profound that moves men and women to risk death
in order to bring into being any new system,  be it socialism or something
less well defined.    People today,  for example,  are pretty well convinced
that the present system will indeed use "whatever violent means necessary"
to sustain itself.    This is hardly sufficient to create an army for
socialism.    It is the belief,  drawn from an underlying core set of values
emerging from the struggle between classes,  that impels the movement
forward to socialism.

>Either way, it is the underlying reality creates a particular set of ideas.

Precisely.

>And while there is a throwaway line about :
>
>"between the bisexuality of morality,  with its distinctions and
>coinflations, and the problems of class,  politics and war."
>
>there is no idea that the common struggle of men and women is what generates
>an alternative morality ie ideas of resistance, solidarity, and a feeling of
>collective working class power. So instead of class struggle, whether over
>abortion rights or wages or health care, we get the formation of ""proletarian
>feminine collectives" in the workplace and neighborhoods.".

"Proletarian feminine collectives",  as I understand DeDoria's use of the
phrase,  seems to me a perfectly legitimate solution to a pervasive sense of
isolation among women in certain industries (textiles or food processing) or
in certain types of communities (e.g., public housing with a high rate of
female-headed households).

>And, what does "we could do worse than to continue the work of humanizing
>the structures of our society in order to reflect the true commonality of
>gender" actually mean ?

>Does it simply mean "we need social change in order to overcome women's
>oppression, because we're all human beings" ?

I'll settle for that on my own headstone.


Louis (G)



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