Gender, Race and Class - Belated reply

Victor vrosado at ic.sunysb.edu
Wed Dec 26 12:18:01 MST 2001


on 12/26/01 12:26 PM, sherrynstan at igc.org at sherrynstan at igc.org wrote:

> The complexity of human social relations cannot be contained in rigid
> categories or strictly functional conceptions of gender. Engels's philosophic
> error in reducing the dialectic is one he shares with many post-Marx Marxists;
> it becomes easier to label defeats and obstacles than to hear the subjects of
> revolution.
>
> How can we embody philosophic opposition to sexism and heterosexism? We need a
> philosophic basis that won't limit us, that won't restrict in advance the
> totality of the uprooting of this exploitative society. Rather than updating
> any old system of human relating, perhaps we can imagine something entirely
> new by re-creating the dialectic, and holding to our history-in-the-making.


This last part is ambiguous.  Is the solution to update Marxism and avoid
the critical errors that Engels made or do we move towards postmodern
subjectivity readings? I would hope that the first is what the author is
proposing.

"The complexity of human social relations cannot be contained in rigid
categories or strictly functional conceptions of gender."  Sexism and gender
stratification, just like Racism, must be understood in historically
specific, material terms, although I can refer to general categories of
Race, Gender, Class etc.  So if I say "class" you nod your head and know
more or less what I am referring to... but when we continue our conversation
you have to ask "well what class relations are you talking about?  In which
epoch and where?".  Then, we start comparing, for example, the different
class relations in feudalism and capitalism.  Although both were class
societies, there are fundamental differences in social relations and thus
class.

The same applies for sexuality.  If I say homosexuality, the concept is
general and we know more or less what we are talking about.  But
homosexuality in Greece is fundamentally different from homosexuality in the
60's.  The ideological unconscious in Greek times is based on the
master/slave dialectic (so the elder chieftain asserts his social
status/public power over the naive, innocent, beautiful teenage slave
boy/apprentice);

in modern times, everybody and their mother is a "Free subject", but we all
know what that REALLY means.

The "Sexual revolution" and "Women's liberation" are all interconnected to
this ideological dialectic.  Women become "free" because they have to become
free because capitalism needs more than one wage earner in the household to
survive.  The Sexual revolution has two aspects.  One is that teenagers must
become "free" because they are wage slaves as well, even if this means
abandoning the LAW of the father/family (Jesus, I sound like Freud or
something).  Also, capitalism has entered and conquered all aspects of our
lives, both public and private spheres... all we have left in the 60's and
the 70s is our BODIES.  Let's get high, dude, and have sex.  What a LIE that
is!!!!

We know now that everything is corrupted, commodified by capital, even our
BODIES!!  Bodies are perhaps the most commodified thing out there
(Billboards, internet, etc.)  There is no hiding from capital.. the family
is corrupted, our bodies, our private "individual" lives, our food, nature,
the public sector, art, literature, education, sports, tropical islands etc.
are all exploited by capitalism. The only way of overcoming this is by a
social revolution, i.e.. a radical transformation of social relations.


Careful now... beware.  We all learned from the transition from feudalism to
capitalism that gender regimes, etc. can carry over from one epoch to the
other.  So, capitalism (although in a different way) appropriated for itself
patriarchal mechanisms of oppression.  In other words, capitalism
appropriated ideologies and mechanisms of oppression that did not conflict
with the changes in the social relations that it required.  So ideologies of
usury were thrown into the waste basket of history, but gender, etc..
ideologies were altered but kept.

This means that a revolution in terms of social relations does not lead
necessarily to a revolution in other levels of reality.  So during the
Spanish Civil War women anarchists/socialists/communists were fighting side
by side with men, but there were still vestiges of patriarchy, as women were
expected to cook and wash the men's clothing:

"Even at the front itself, women found it difficult to escape traditional
expectations. Militia-woman Leonor Benito described doing guard-duty at
night equally with men, yet still being expected to do the washing for them"
...
"It seems often to have been the case that even when women were allowed to
fight, they were expected to do a double shift, one with a gun, the other
with a broom. Their removal back to the home front soon re-established the
clear demarcation between what was a man's task and what a woman's."

>From "Women and Images of Women in the Spanish Civil War" by Frances Lannon

http://humanities.uwe.ac.uk/corehistorians/suffrage/document/spaniwar.htm


If you want a revolution it has to be a revolution in ALL LEVELS and it must
be international in character.  The USSR and Cuba fall way short when we
think in terms of revolution as a stratified phenomenon. Another example:
think of the Baroque period in Spain: it was a wonderful linguistic and
aesthetic revolution, but is a reactionary phenomenon in terms of politics
and relations of production.

I think of revolution with a capital R, Revolution is what we are after.

Revolution is the goal, not the mini-skirt revolution or some dictator or
class appropriating revolutionary discourse to seize power.

-Victor





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