contradiction (was: facts in the minds...)

sherrynstan at igc.org sherrynstan at igc.org
Thu Dec 20 05:06:22 MST 2001


<<Well, that is the classic heterosexual ideology - the two become one flesh
and all that - but it doesn't really happen, does it? The two still remain
separate individuals, with often contradictory goals.>>

I'm not sure what this means, since it is definitely not what I meant being responded to.  In fact, I was specifically including homophobia in my thinking when I was attempting to find some way to express gender oppression that jumps the fence of biology.

Here's a snip of that thought that I sent offlist to Charles in response to a kind of essay he has done on the matter:

"I feel like even this attempt to relocate gender on a materialist foundation is inadequate, WHEN that foundation is "reproduction."  Marx and Engels not only failed to follow up, Engels advanced his argument in FPPS with a host of sexist assumptions, and Marx himself in a query once said the characterstic he most admired in women was weakness.  They advocated for legal equality between men and women, which was a progressive demand, but their interpretation of gender was hopelessly sexist, and even bordered on liberal.  I think we have to be willing to admit this without any qualifiers, face it, and go outside the categories of marxism (valuable as they are) to get at the essence of gender oppression.  [Can we in fact assume that Marx, et al, have had the last word in epistemology?]  Reproduction ties the whole question to biology, and this simply will not do.  I really believe marxists must come to terms with the concrete reality of gender oppression and quit trying to subsum!
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e it into the current epistemological framework of marxism.  There most definitely is an ireeconcilable antagonism between men and women, but it is not biological any more than productive class is.  That's why I say its not an anatagonism between those with cunts and those with cocks, but between something closer to "the masculine class" and "the feminine class".  Nancy C. M. Hartsock has some interesting things to say about developing an epistemology of reproduction out of an historical meterialist framework, just as Marx moved the point of view from exchange relations to productive relations to re-define epistemology.  But even Hartsock's thesis leaves me somehow unfulfilled, as it were.  Because "reproduction" is still biological.  And I think the po-mo's, for all their faults, have done so much more than us on gender, that we need to take into account what some of them say about sex--it is NOT a natural act.  That is, biological determinism is looking at, say, sexual activ!
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ity by studying sexual anatomy, and it is like trying to understand music by studying the structure of the ear.  Women's experience of oppression, in all its guises, and the (related, I think) oppression of LGBT folk, can not be reduced to reproduction, and I'm not at all sure we shouldn't look elsewhere for its roots.  Gender oppression has a peculiar power, as we know.  Every time I confront inequality in the South, and you are familiar with this phenomenon, I am confronting race, but when we confront race, one of the most powerful and unspoken perpetuators of racism is the white male's sexual terror related to the black man.  If we understood how this dynamic works, I really believe, we could make a quantum leap forward in de-legitimizing racist institutions.  I know marxists are supposed to seek the material foundations (not through vulgar mechanical marxism, as you point out), but I'm not sure we'll ever identify them, because they may be located in something so pre-liter!
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ate.  We can only guess.  So feminists, even the non-marxist varieties, as psychologists and anthropologists and even cultural critics, are terribly important to us, all of us, as marxists, and as men.  In my own life, right now, this question of what "masculinity" has done to me personally, and what it has cost me, is a paramount concern, so that accounts for this preoccupation and restlessness about the whole question, and not the "woman question" so glibly contained WITHIN marxist orthodoxies."


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