Are men oppressed? NO!
jcraven at SPAMclark.edu
Wed Dec 22 16:55:39 MST 1999
There is an upcoming show on Fox Network being billed as an audition to
marry a millionaire. Supposedly 50 women have signed on to "audition" to
become a wife of a millionaire with a real wedding ceremony to take place at
the end of the show when the "winner" is picked. Supposedly these women will
commodify themselves--and allow themselves to be commodified--in all the
usual ways that are found in typical "beauty" contests: swimsuit parade,
talent demonstration, personal philosophy etc etc. Supposedly these women
know nothing about the man except that he is a "millionaire". Now there are
several interesting aspects to all of this: 1) Here is the ultra-right-wing
Fox Network, opposed to gay marriages, supposedly "pro-family" and
"pro-marriage" demeaning and commodifying the "institution" of
marriage--demeaning in their own professed right-wing terms not necessarily
in terms of those non right-wing; 2) promoting some of the same sleaze etc
(like "Dating Game type questions that you know will focus on sex for
titilation) that they purport to decry;
But there are other interesting aspects here to. As for the women who choose
to commodify and demean themselves, most feminists would accuse them of
"false consciousness" yet participants in their own dehumanization and
oppression. Why not the same for males? Yes there are males who are
oppressors of women, yet who are also oppressed by their bosses and the
system in some of the same ways that they oppress women in their own lives.
Secondly oppression is a multi-facted beast that takes many forms and
levels; there are also women who oppress other women as bosses over workers
or academics over students, there are women in positions of power over many
males (although the women typically have less power than the males at the
same structural levels) and so on.
So I guess what I object to, and this is not a response to Louis or Nestor
only a tag-on on to their own missives, is this simple-minded notion of
power, oppression and even simple-minded feminism. Indeed, if it were so
simple that women are oppressed and males are the oppressors, then set up a
good sperm bank and kill all the males. But things are not so simple. I
still believe, and have been given no counter-evidence of substance, that
the fundamental basis of oppression (however one quantifies and qualifies
oppression) is class and then within class, further forms and levels of
oppression occur along the lines of gender, race, ethnicity, language,
religion etc. Does anyone want to make the case that the likes of a Judith
Butler--a white middle-class academic or "professional"--or Butler herself,
is more oppressed than the average Ghettoized African-American Male or
Reservation Indian male? Really? Of course the average Ghettoized poor or
working class African-American female is far more oppressed than the average
poor or working class African American male, and the same for the average
Reservation Indian female versus the average Reservation Indian male, but
really, since people are using the term "oppression", I presume they have
some concept of quantities and qualities of oppression, and however they
wish to define "oppression", the realities and forms of oppression suffered
by poor non-white males are far far beyond (in quantity or degree and in
quality) that typically suffered by say some of the middle-class white and
even non-white academic feminists writing on the net about feminism; and if
gender were the fundamental and overriding basis of oppression such that the
categorical "males are not oppressed and women are" could be made, the real
world cases would not likely prevail as they so clearly do.
I remember many years ago when "Ms" did a special on upwardly-mobile women
and their feature was a woman General who, it turned out from the interview
with her, was horribly right-wing and a hard-core militarist. Great!
"Feminism" or "Woman's Liberation" is having an equal opportunity to become
a tool or even a boss of the system of imperalism. Or perhaps having an
"equal opportunity" to become a concentration camp guard? That is where the
insulated petit-bourgeois mentalities and "feminism" of some of the
academics and Butler types lead. On class levels, yes, no doubt, the average
white woman is far more oppressed than the average white male and when we
add race and other factors into the equation, it gets more muddled--e.g.
average white middle class woman versus average African-American middle
class male? (I don't know).
And the simple-minded, petit-bourgeois a-class feminism reminds me of the
same on the environmental level: simple-minded or petit-bourgeois
environmentalism. I am reminded of a passage from James Pool's "Hitler and
His Secret Partners":
His [Hitler's] pilot, Hans Baur, remembered himn watching fims from India
sent by a maharaja. Hitler could calmly look at scenes of the bloody bodies
of people who had been attacked by tigers. But during scenes of animals
being hunted and killed he would sometimes cover his eyes with his hands
like a child and ask to be told when it was over. He hated blood sports and
sometimes would cry at the sight of a wounded animal."
Like the "free woman" and self-professed "environmentalist" I met in Seattle
(and so many other places) who had so much feeling for whales but no emotion
at all about the Makah, far closer to extinction than whales, an no emotion
about the imperative of defending what is left of Treaty rights to defend
what is left of whole Peoples on the verge of extermination, I find in some
of the self-professed feminists some of the same class-based and parochial
arrogance and myopia. Bottom line, all sorts of people who do their own
forms of oppression, like males dominating females, are also oppressed; and
indeed one of the instruments of oppression used to dominate the males is to
allow them the fiction that when they dominate and oppress women, this gives
them some kind of measure of power to alleviate their own oppression from
other dimensions of the logic and dynamics of capitalism. Just as thw women
lined up to "marry the millionaire" particpate in/facilitate their own
oppression and that of their sisters, so the poor and working class males
participate in/facilitate their own oppression through oppression of women
and their own false consciousness IMHO.
I have never met a white academic middle-class feminist who, if allowed to
switch positions with that of a typical Reservation Indian male or Ghetto
African-American male or migrant Hispanic farmworker would not run back to
the the typical degrees and forms of oppression faced by the academic, white
(or not the more "unfavorable" non-white), middle-class, feminist woman.
That's just my opinion and experience. Let the "flames--I mean
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From: Louis Proyect [mailto:lnp3 at panix.com]
Sent: Wednesday, December 22, 1999 2:42 PM
To: marxism at lists.panix.com
Subject: RE: Are men oppressed? NO!
>There is such a basic truth in what Rachel says...
>I am reminded of an old saying: 'We all live under the conditions
>of imperialist and capitalist exploitation, but the consequences
>of this sad state of thigs are quite different on a peasant in
>Ethiopia and on a shareholder in New York'.
>If the latter is 'dehumanised', the former simply is starved.
>Néstor Miguel Gorojovsky
>gorojovsky at inea.com.ar
"As Karl Marx said, those who live in a palace do not think about the same
things, nor in the same way, as those who live in a hut. This struggle to
defend the trees and the forest is above all a struggle against
imperialism. Imperialism is the pyromaniac setting fire to our forests and
(The final paragraph of Thomas Sankara's Feb. 5, 1986 speech "Save Our
Trees, Our Environment, Our Lives, which is on the "Words of Struggle"
section of the Marxism list website)
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