Gay liberation, capitalism, socialism

Yoshie Furuhashi furuhashi.1 at SPAMosu.edu
Sat Dec 2 22:11:43 MST 2000


Phil:

>However, I would find it very surprising if homosexual women and men earned
>less than their female and male straight counterparts, because homosexuals
>do not play any kind of role in workforce segmentation in the way women and
>oppressed ethnic groups/national minorities do.

Women who do the same work as men on average get paid much less,
promoted less, etc. than men.  In the same way, I think gay & lesbian
workers -- if they are out -- fare less well than straight workers of
the same strata, occupations, etc.  Aside from the general problem of
homophobia & heterosexism, fear of job losses, marginalization,
workplace harassment, etc. is probably the main reason why many
people stay in the closet.

Also, to be gay & lesbian in a country where "gay marriage," "civil
union," "domestic partnership," or whatever you call it is not
legally recognized reduces an overall compensation package & social
insurance entitlement a great deal.  Perhaps this problem may not
exist in NZ, but it certainly is a problem in the USA.

>It's also quite clear that marketing people across the board, who *have
>researched incomes*, regard 'the gay community' as having substantial
>spending power - 'the pink dollar'.

Yes, just in the same way that marketing people discovered the
spending power of Asian-American professionals.  In both cases,
marketers are focusing only on out & well-off gay men (and to a much
lesser extent lesbians) and well-off Asian-Americans.  That does not
mean that poor & closeted gay men & lesbians are targets of
"pink-dollar" marketing; nor does it mean that illegal aliens & new
immigrants from Asia & Asian-American workers who aren't
professionals have consumer clout.

>I think this was true *in the past*.  Gay oppression was related to the
>need for the heterosexual nuclear family as the core institution for
>capitalism, in particular for the reproduction of labour-power, the care of
>the old, sick etc, and a source of a sector of the workforce (women) who
>could be brought in and out of the jobs market as the needs of capital
>dictated.
>
>But I think that has changed a lot.  Capital these days gets by with a
>whole range of domestic set-ups.  A very sizeable section of society does
>not live in heterosexual husband-wife-two kids set ups.  Capital simply
>requires *some domestic situation* in which labour-power is reproduced and
>in which domestic labour more generally is performed.  These days two
>lesbians can just as easily reproduce the next generation of workers.  So a
>lot of the bourgeoisie - and remember today's bourgeoisie are children of
>the 60s, not Prohibition era products - has come to accept a range of
>different domestic situations.

Yes, but capital can't afford to let _all_ women forsake compulsory
heterosexuality & motherhood as institutions.  Homosexuality has
become to a certain extent accepted -- but only as a _minority_
preference & identity.  We have not reached the point where same-sex
desire is considered to be a universal -- as opposed to particular --
desire that can be experienced by anyone.  On this score, we may have
regressed since Alfred Kinsey who at least recognized same-sex desire
& activity as a possibility for everyone & who didn't see
"homosexuals" as a special "category of individuals."  (See, for
instance,
<http://home.earthlink.net/~jenniferterry/publications/obblurb.html>).

I agree, however, that the nuclear family (husband, wife, &
biological children) was merely a blip in history.

>  >The origin of the categories "homosexual" & "heterosexual" -- hence
>>the oppressions based upon these categories -- is indeed strikingly
>>modern.  Jonathan Ned Katz, etc. theorize that these sexual
>>categories are byproducts of the shift from the sexual ethic geared
>>toward procreation (according to which all non-procreative sexual
>>acts were "sodomy") of the early modern period (when production was
>>still dominated by agriculture) in deeply Christian societies to the
>  >sexual ethic that tends to separate pleasure from procreation
>  >(beginning in the Victorian period of urbanized industrial
>>capitalism, eventually further elaborated in the imperative of mass
>>production & _mass consumption_).
>
>Well, people like Jeffrey Weeks argued that homosexuals are a product of
>industrial capitalism, not in the sense that only in this society do people
>perform specific acts (the acts have existed throughout human history), but
>in the sense that only with industrial capitalism do people exist as
>individuals who can live certain lifestyles.  Recently, this kind of
>approach has been extended to 'the invention of heterosexuality', showing
>that it was only 100 or 150 years ago (can't remember exactly) that the
>word heterosexual started to be used and people defined by this term as
>well.

Yes.  I hope that in a socialist future (if we get to abolish
capitalism) we won't be bound by the categories of heterosexuality,
homosexuality, & bisexuality.

You also replied to Mine (?):
>  >Of course, in the Islamic rules of
>>Pakistan, homosexuality is still banned. It is treated as a perverse
>>sexual choice. In the social attitudes of people, however, homosexuality
>>may well be tolerated to serve some practical needs. In third world
>>countries where gender relations are undergoing a process of
>>modernization and capitalism is gradually undermining traditional gender
>>norms (due to neo-liberal restructuring), people prefer to tolerate
>>homosexuality as a defense mechanism against heterosexuality that they
>>automatically associate with too much "liberalization of women" and
>>western norms of sexual relations. In that case, homosexuality serves to
>  >head off demands for heterosexual liberation.
>
>I think this is a very interesting take on what is happening in the Third
>World.  You may well be right.  This indicates the importance of Marxists
>being *concrete* and making *specific analyses* rather than just sticking
>down a template which assumes that gay opression = gay oppression = gay
>oppression everywhere under capitalism at all times.

I think that poor & less modern nations still live by an older regime
of patriarchy (which has been somewhat modernized to fit capitalism)
instead of the regime of sexism & heterosexism.  Pre-modern &
pre-capitalist Japan, too, was patriarchal _without_ being homophobic
& heterosexist.

In the older regime of patriarchy, unlike the modern regime of sexism
& heterosexism, social activities tend to be structured along
homosocial lines (men socializing with men, women socializing with
women, sometimes gender segregation enforced by laws), instead of
heterosocial lines (men & women socializing together).  Under the
homosocial patriarchal regime, same-sex desires & activities between
men (if not between women) are often tolerated & _sometimes
celebrated as in the case of pre-modern Japan_.  Such same-sex
desires & activities under the patriarchal regime, however, are _not_
the same as modern homosexual _identities_ (recall Michel Foucault,
Jeffrey Weeks, John D'Emilio, Jonathan Ned Katz, etc.).  Socrates had
sex with young men, but it would be _anachronistic_ to call him
homosexual; it would be anachronistic to call Shakespeare gay too,
despite his sonnets.  Sexual identities we know  -- homosexual,
heterosexual, & bisexual -- are modern inventions born of urbanized
industrial capitalist societies.  While today's Islamic countries are
capitalist, their cultures & social formations are not the same as
rich early industrializers', so it may be inappropriate to call
same-sex activities in Pakistan "homosexuality," though I believe
that in parts of Pakistan there probably are men & women who are
self-consciously homosexual.  Uneven & combined development indeed!

Yoshie





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