Gender, Race and Class - Belated reply/Reply

ermadog at ermadog at
Thu Dec 27 01:31:24 MST 2001

On Wed, 26 Dec 2001 JOEFREEMEN at wrote:
> Look, Joan spoke of upper body strength of men, biological necessity as child
> bearing being in the "home" versus "running the streets" - hunting and away
> from the home in increments of time, which equals "where were you when the
> kids were crying."

This isn't the logic of my remarks at all. First, let me state that I
share your impatience with what you call "sector politics", which I have
been accustomed to calling "identity politics." I found myself agreeing
with everything you said in your previous post on this question. Where you
talk of "defeat", however, I would usually throw in a few remarks about
parochialism. I rarely discuss the gender role question, and have no
intention of going beyond the generalities I've already mapped out in my
discussion with Stan - wild horses can't drag me back into that
subjectivist swamp.

However, the Woman Question is irretrievably bound up with the question of
class; because it is through the institution of the patriarchal family
that the purity of the female womb is ensured, thus guaranteeing that the
patrimony will be passed on to the appropriate fruit of the appropriate
loins. This is how class is reproduced. Gender role only enters into this
discussion because it is the ideology of heterosexuality which buttresses
the institution of the family. This is why I keep emphasising to Stan that
it is not a matter of sexuality as such; it is a matter of control of
female fertility. While this is a biological process, it is not the strict
biologic determinant postulated by so many.

Class is a social force which has gained material existence, in a Marxist
sense, (because once brought into existence, it tends to take on a life
of its own) and therefore is the ultimate determinor of human behaviour in
the matter of family and gender role, as in so many aspects of human life.
Reproduction is *not* a biologic determinant, at least in a vulgar
materialist sense, precisely because it is fraught with uncertainty -
uncertainty which is one source of the many tensions between the genders.

My discussion on the upper body strength of men was intended to illuminate
the question of how class came into existence in the first place. A
division of labour established on the basis of this slight advantage
became of crucial importance when iron tools gave men the material basis
for the establishment of class. Let me give an example from the caste
societies of the aboriginal people of the Pacific Northwest.

The biomass of the temporal rainforest produces a highly acid forest floor
that does not provide much vegetation suitable for human consumption.
Therefore, the root and berry gathering activity of women does not provide
a diet sufficient to sustain human life. The men derive the bulk of the
community's living from the sea. In this activity, the superior upper body
strength of the men provide a clear advantage. In addition, it is the men
who wield the heavy stone adzes used to hollow out the huge, sea-going
canoes. This is done in family groups; and the canoe and canoe building
skills are passed on by men to men within the extended family grouping
(through the female line, as these are matrilineal societies). By
contrast, the longhouse is a community effort, housing a number of
families, and is tied to the locality. The patrimony, the canoe, is
relatively smaller, and does not provide the material basis for the
establishment of class. The caste system here is not as sophisticated and
rigid as those found on the Indian subcontinent in a later period, nor in
the Celtic tribes.

The other traditinally male activity, does not seem to have been
institutionalized, either, at this stage. Armed incursions do take place,
but mostly for the purpose of slave raids. The farther North one goes, the
more war-like the people, with the Haida being the most notorious in this

Of course, all the above should have been put in the past tense. This
whole way of life has vanished.

Joe's previous remarks constituted a closing argument, not a polemic. I
see a need to go over the basics, and will continue on as long as there is
interest. Those who aren't interested should simply delete posts in this

Joan Cameron

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