Male Supremacy, Sexism, & the Workers' Movement, was Re: Older

Carrol Cox cbcox at
Wed Nov 8 07:59:42 MST 2000

John Edmundson wrote:

>  between older men and younger women are "potentially" oppressive.

That seems a careful statement -- they certainly are potentially oppressive and I
don't see why anyone would dispute the position so stated. No one that I know of says
they are *always* oppressive. (For the record, Jan is 17 years younger than I, and we
have been married for 31 years.)

> Such relationships are obviously nothing like the case of Nicolle Smith however.

I have always considered the citing of odd examples as strong evidence of an inability
to understand the importance of the "woman question." I can't respect an argument that
pulls in Nicolle Smith (or any other particular person -- e.g., Albright or Thatcher
or ...)

>  But neither .  . .nor the women whom Healy pursued were in anything like the
>situation people like my mother in law or the women described in Lou's post were. To
>suggest that there is a useful parallel here is absurd.

I don't know anything about the legitimacy of the parallel, but denying the parallel
tells us nothing about the Healy case. Being put in jail overnight is not quite
parallel to a death sentence -- but may be an outrage nevertheless. A single
relationship between the leader of a party and some young woman in would not be
objectionable. A series of such relations probably is -- and even it it isn't, feeling
a need to defend it seems to me to constitute insensitivity to the gravity of the
question of the position of women in the workers' movement.

> Of course women are still exploited in New Zealand. Women consistently earn less
>than men - on average - for example. But things have changed here which must surely
>lead us to reassess the theories we have relied on in the past to explain women's

The operative consideration is the status of women within the workers' movement.
Defensiveness on the part of men on the list is strong evidence that we have a serious
problem here. Listing important women as relevant is really offensive.

> the Prime Minister is a woman, ....[clip]
> Politically, these are the top jobs in the country. Economically, quite a few of
>them are also dominated by women.

This is nonsense. It is about as relevant as a discussion of the flavors of ice cream

> To this we can add the minister of health, the associate ministers of health, the
>deputy leader of the government's junior coalition partner, the co- leader of the
>government's key non-government ally in parliament. We have by far the largest
>proportion of women in parliament that we have ever had. One of the most conservative
>provincial electorates in the country elected a transsexual woman first as mayor,
>then as member of parliament. I'm not trying to pretend that women have gained
>absolute equality, despite some leading women politicians and feminists having hinted
>at this. What I am saying is that the theory of patriarchy as a key element of
>capitalism is seriously in need of review. Capitalism in New Zealand has no problem
>giving any and all of the top jobs to women. This is not like when Thatcher was
>around and we could say, "Well she's an aberation, one woman in
> power doesn't change anything." What is more, there is no sign of a reactionary
>backlash against the success of women in these jobs. Is this a characteristic of

This is really obnoxious. We are considering a group who make up over half of the
working class -- and probably the politically most important part, and someone offers
us a list of all the important women among the enemy.

> Yoshie's suggestion of a need to address issues like the age of consent is an
>excellent one.

Let's forget older men and age of consent. That was the point of departure for this
discussion, but now we are discussing the very possibility of a workers' movement with
any chance of success, and we can't base that discussion on endless fuss over this or
that particular question.

> Questions around sexuality, like age of consent, prostitution etc need to be studied
>anew if we are to have an informed position on the nature of gender in capitalism in
>the 21st century, rather than carrying over the outdated theories of the 20th. Things
>have changed. In New Zealand, we don't have places where sodomy is illegal, where sex
>is illegal until age 21, as I understand still applies in some US states. So these
>things need to be looked at again by Marxists, rather than adopted by them from the
>feminist movement. In the third world, a low age of consent is seen as a sign of
>oppressive religious power, witness Lou P's Afghan example. In the Southern US,
>conservative religion does exactly the opposite, both by enforcing a high age of
>consent and proscribing the permissable forms of sexual expression.

All irrelevant.

> To return to the point I made at the start of this post, we can't begin to
>understand these issues if we lump together the experience of all women, whether in
>advanced capitalist countries or in villages still primarily governed by
>pre-capitalist religious practice.

Well then, drop this filibuster and begin to explore the question of women and the
workers' movement . It sounds to me as though you are an objective defender of the
preeminence of men in the workers' movement.


> Cheers,
> John E

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